this one’s for you, daddy

The view from my room today evening was like this. A few minutes ago, distracted, I had hung up rather impatiently on Teja. I called him back and said, “I had a room with a wall near my window. I wanted to change it. Now I have a pool, a canal and a river outside my window. And fields. And lots of palm trees. And elephants even.”

Whenever something like this happens, I think of one breakfast I had with Daddy, a few days before he died. He had been admitted for some tests, and the evening before we had been told that it was bad. I stayed in the hospital room that night and listened to him breathe.

It was nothing new. I often did that when I went back home, listened to my parents’ breathing, sleeping in the same room as them.

The next morning, in the hospital room Daddy said, “The breakfast here is terrible. Let’s go out and eat.”

We walked to the gate to the small Udipi restaurant just outside. I wanted toast butter. The waiter said they didn’t have it, there was no electricity. I nodded my head and looked at the menu for something else to order. My father said to the waiter, “Why can’t you get her toast butter? Just toast it on gas.” The waiter agreed. My father said to me, “You must insist on getting what you want. You can get it most of the time.”

That day came after many years of a slight distance between my father and me. It’s not that he was angry with me, but so many of the life choices I had made were beyond his comprehension or approval, so he had just withdrawn himself from me, though available when I needed him.

Somehow that breakfast, when the two of us were alone, without the rest of the family, always seems to me his way of telling me that he forgave me, that he wanted the best for me. It made what came later a little easier to bear.

Today standing in the balcony of my hotel room, I felt happy that I had insisted on my room being changed, instead of staying in the one that I had been given, as I was inclined to do. Later, I walked to the market and ate in a restaurant and listened to a rock band, ‘Almost Famous’, instead of ordering room service.

I also bought an aubergine bag at the airport today, while waiting for my flight. And I got a phone call which was a signal on the verge of going green for my new children’s film script.

It’s not always like today. I more often than not stand ready to give up things, rather than claim them. My “Mother India” syndrome, Dhanno calls it.

But maybe one day, Daddy, I will learn not to be ‘Mother India’. Before I am too old. Before it’s too late.

Edited to add: Of course, while I could hear that breath, I did not really care if  my father was upset with me or if we had a fight. I just went about doing my own thing, secure in the sound of that breath.

36 comments

  1. Beautiful post Banno.. thanks for sharing your little outing with your dad. I totally agree to asking for stuff instead of just giving up. It is coincidence that I was preaching the same thing to the spouse a couple of hours back, not that I am spotless. I claimed my GMAT fee for tax exemption under professional development, and the company granted. I had appeared for the exam in May last yr, and the husband made fun of me when I asked him if it could be claimed. It is not much, just USD 250, the tax exemption would roughly be around 3K, but I have been beaming since morning😀

  2. I had this quote at the back of mind for the rest of the events of your post, have only just dug it out. its by one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman,

    “He had noticed that events were cowards: they didn’t occur singly, but instead they would run in packs and leap out at him all at once.”

  3. Yup, the white dupatta and huddling over the sewing machine never got us anywhere. Yes the Boy Wonder will strut in one evening all Maa May BA me Pass Hogaya, but that is just cue music to clear off as the Real Story will now begin. As I keep on telling people channel less of Nirupa Roy and ask yourself What Would Lalita Pawar Do? (as clearly that lady had all the fun).

  4. Your father is my father, Banno.
    My father has also become quieter these last few years, but his smile is gentler too. I believe it is a gift to us, a silent go-ahead. ‘I don’t understand what inspires you guys, I’m not the best person to advise you, but go ahead, I’m with you.’
    From that confidence, we teach ourselves to ask for a room with a view. Of elephants! Love, Natasha

  5. I dont know how i missed reading this earlier.

    Lovely post, your way of writing as gentle and reassuring as the breakfast with your father.

    And, thrilled to hear about the next film in the pipeline – your little fan in my house will be delighted.

    • Thanks, Sur. You know, I have been thinking of Sanah and how she would react to my new film. After all, she is one of my most loyal fans.🙂

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