When I was 10 years old, my family and I visited Sachdeva uncle’s place. He had a fancy double storey home in central Kanpur, thanks to his CA profile. Everything adorning his house was quite exquisite which the timid Srivastava sisters looked at with awe.
As my parents got engrossed chatting with Sachdevas, their 8-year-old boy invited us two to his room upstairs. We looked at our parents who nodded. Holding hands, we climbed up the stairs and entered his fantasy room. We had just begun to gaze at his toys when he pointed to his new belonging – a digital piano from Casio. The way it was placed neatly on a table showed us how expensive and unique that gadget was then. My eyes touched its black body whilst its shiny white keys unlocked my heart. It was love at first sight. I looked at Sonam standing behind me and knew she has fallen for it too. He asked us to play it but we gently declined. Our parents had taught us well.
While returning home on our prestigious Priya scooter, all Sonam and I could talk about was the Casio. We didn’t want it to be ours, we knew our limits. Ours was a middle-class family that had a set budget, but desires could cross borders. We went to our bed that night with content.
The very next evening a man rang our doorbell. He came to deliver something. It was wrapped in a newspaper which I thought was a mosquito repellent. No sooner had my mother unwrapped it that I realized what it was. It was a socket charger for a Casio and then he handed us the dream product itself. He added a line – Sanjay Sir ne bheja hai (Sanjay sir has sent this). That’s Papa!
Dad made our desires a reality. He could read how badly we wanted a Casio, even when not once did we mention it. God only knows how many happy-sad tunes Sonam and I played on that Casio. We played with it and treated it as our supreme gift. It’s not the only time my father got us a gift, but this incident is engraved in my heart. That day I felt proud as I could own something that Sachdeva uncle’s son could. As a kid, it meant a lot to me.
Last month my dad retired from work. He had served the Income Tax Department for 32 years. My dad aspired to be an IFS officer (Indian Foreign Services) but settled to serve the IRS (Indian Revenue Services). I have always seen Papa go to work. Right from the time he commuted on his Priya scooter to Maruti Zen, to a pooled Government Ambassador, to the time he got his separate neeli batti car as an Assistant Commissioner of Income Tax (ACIT).
It took time for me to realize the importance of his job in our lives. The look on people’s face when they learnt that my Dad was working in the Income Tax Department was precious. As I grew I learnt more about the aura and perks of being a Government officer. The term ‘sarkaari naukari’ made more sense. It made me more proud that my dad had such an esteemed job.
My father is a reserved person. Things he loves is reading (a lot), catching up on news and sports, listening to Lata and Rafi, eating, sleeping and spending time with his family. These traits are a legacy passed down to him by my grandmother. His normal days used to comprise coming home after work, sit reading a Clive Cussler or Robin Cook, while my mother filled him with the day’s proceedings and us two sisters sat in the next room, studying preferably.
Papa took his responsibilities rather seriously. He has been a great provider and I don’t remember a time where money was a hassle. He never made us realise how hard he worked to provide us with what we needed, but he always made sure to mention how necessary it is to attain education. He pushed me every time I wanted to let go of the academic ladder. Even after learning about my relationship with a man of a different belief, he never made me quit my studies to get married, an advice given by some relatives. In his words, “Saumya may take a wrong decision in life but by taking her away from education, I will make a worse decision. Tomorrow the man she wants to spend her life with may not turn out to be gold, then her education will give her that hold she needs to stand in this world again.” He knew me before I discovered myself.
As a child, I felt my father was too rude. I felt all he did was to check me. ‘Study harder Saumya’, ‘Little effort now will earn great rewards for future’, ‘No one will support you if you can’t support yourself’ were some of his favourite lines. It took me time to understand and then act on each of those golden phrases. My mother nurtured me, but my father groomed me. He prepared me for the future, a bright future. I believe I am a very strong person and I can profoundly say that behind every strong daughter, there is a stronger father. He believed in me and so this post comes from a person who used to struggle for basic passing marks in English language. My English teacher said I lacked expressing power. If only she could read me now.
Now that my father has retired, I wonder how different his life will be. I was glad I was in Kanpur to witness the heroic day my dad last went to work. He went as a routine and came as a humble person too, just with lots of garlands and bouquets. Even on that day, I never sensed pride in him, when all his family felt was immense gratitude and pride of course. Wish I can give Papa at least 10% of what he has given us. I have started realizing the worst fear of being an adult – your parents start getting old. Hard to accept, harder to overlook.
I guess all I can give him at this hour is my time. Seeing him bond with Mysha (my daughter) makes me feel extremely content. Grandkids do bring out a side in individuals that their own kids did not. Papa has lived his ‘providing’ term so fine, we can’t even come close. Now it’s our turn, how and what needs to be done, only time will decide. I did not know how to be a mother, yet somehow I managed and sustained. Now it’s time to be a better daughter. How? That’s a question most kids need to figure out. God will give us strength.