An open letter to my dad on Fathers’ Day, telling him things I’ve never before put into words…
When was the last time I wrote a letter to you? I think it was when I was 7, and had learnt letter-writing in English class. Remember that phase? I used to write handwritten letters to everybody-from classmates in school to family members to friends who lived down the street, to my grandparents and all our relatives. And instead of stopping me, you diligently put stamps and posted them for me. Thanks, Dad. Maybe that was the start of my future career as a writer.
When we lost Mom, I was all of 10. Yes, I miss her presence in our lives even today, but thank you for raising us the way you did. You never remarried, and while the little girl that I was may not have understood it, the woman I am now understands the magnitude of your sacrifice. The fact that you love mom so deeply even today makes me believe in love and marriage.
You’ve been the best ‘mom’ in the world, Dad. I know I’ve been a rebellious and difficult teen, and even though I may not have been an ideal kid, I did try. I wanted you to be proud of me and approve of my choices. Little did I know that I didn’t really have to try. That you were proud of me even when I was making choices you may not have agreed with them. You were, after all, the person who gave me the courage to be the woman that I am today. I’m a strong, independent girl who is chasing her dreams in the big, bad city of Mumbai, and I get that strength from you, Dad. And yes, thanks for passing on all your incredible intellect and knowledge. Do you know that I still feel intimidated around you sometimes? What are you not good at? You write poetry, play the guitar, pen down songs, sing, speak French, make movies, act, read novels, watch movies PLUS handle the madness that your children bring to your life-all at the same time. How? It feels a little weird to admit this, but I guess you’re one of those rare breeds of Dads who is active on Twitter and it was YOU who had actually urged me to join it (But seriously, stop DMing me, Dad!).
I remember how you introduced me to world cinema at a really young age. I bet that not too many kids can claim to have watched Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colours trilogy. I remember discussing the movie with you and I remember disagreeing with you. But thank you for respecting my opinion, Dad. By treating the spoilt, 16-year-old brat with red hair that I was at that time, with respect, you taught me to respect myself and others.
You gave me Luis Buñuel, Pedro Almodóvar, Akira Kurosawa, Satyajit Ray and Rituparno Ghosh. Without you, I wouldn’t have known the joy that is Pink Floyd. You exposed me to the world of Rabindrasangeet as well as the Beatles. And for that, I will always be thankful to you.
Growing up in the film fraternity had its advantages. Like, I remember you coming home one day and saying, “You’re coming with me to the sets tomorrow. You have a two-scene role.” I was 12. I was so excited, I couldn’t sleep all night. That was my first appearance on television. I remember deciding that very instant that I wanted to be an actress. I remember standing in front of the mirror with a bottle of talcum powder, practising my Oscar acceptance speech. That dream changed into film direction by the time I graduated from school. I know that I got things a little easy, being your daughter. Not many people could have assisted a director like Rituparno Ghosh (or, Ritu Kaku, as I called him) at 18. But I also remember you instructing everyone to treat me like a nobody at work. Thank you for those tough lessons too, Dad. It’s what made me hungry to learn. My dreams changed once again when I started reading your scripts. I’ll never forget the smell of a freshly printed, bound movie script. The thrill of creating something beautiful with words still feels the same to me today, as it did, all those years ago.
I’ve been living away from you and our home for 5 years now, Dad, and we hardly get to see each other, apart from my two annual visits home. But Dad, when I see you outside the airport, patiently waiting to pick me up, I still feel like a little girl. It reminds me of all the times you used to pick me up after school. The half hug that you give me every time is awkward, and I know that you struggle with expressing your love, but I want you to know that I know you love me. I know this because of the innumerable little memories I have of you from my childhood. Like the time when you helped me ride my first bicycle-I asked you to keep holding on because I was scared of falling, but one day, you let go and I didn’t realise it till I had cycled a few metres away. I looked back and saw your smiling face. You were proud, weren’t you, Dad? Thank you for letting go, at just the right time. I know you love me because I remember how you used to make smiley faces with ketchup on my sandwich because I was a fussy eater. I also remember how you bought me a big pony puzzle set as a reward for memorising the 5 times table. FIVE! The easiest table in the history of tables! These gestures say a lot more than any words you could have said to me.
Dad, I have stolen cigarettes from your carton and change from your desk; I have even watched Malèna from your DVD library, and, oh yes, read Lolita from your bookcase too. All this, while still in my teens. Just wanted to solve the mystery of the disappearing object, after a decade. Thanks for never forcing me to study something or take up a profession of your choice, like so many of my friends’ parents have. Thanks for being supportive and always letting me chase my dreams.
I love you not only because I am bound to you by blood, but because you set such a high standard for a man’s love in my life. I will never love a man who does not treat me with the same respect and kindness that you showered mom and us with. I can only love a man who is well-read, well-travelled and appreciates good cinema because you taught me to value intelligence. You have known about all the men I have dated and you were there when I’ve had my heart broken. It was you who I turned to for a shoulder to cry on and as a never-ending source of advice. You are my mom, my dad and my friend, all rolled into one!
Before today, I’ve never actually said the words out loud to you, Dad. But on this Fathers’ Day, I want to tell you that I love you the most in the whole, wide world. Happy Fathers’ Day, Dad. You rock this tiny world of mine.
Your daughter who refuses to ever grow up.
(Note: This post of mine was originally published in Yowoto on 12th June 2014 as a special Father’s Day feature story)