Monday, June 18, 2007

Superman's Daughter

I miss my daddy. We live in the same house in the same city. I see him every day, we share a meal together but I miss him terribly. Like I mentioned before I hate growing up.

Achchan is Malayalam for father. My father never let us call him anything but that. For the longest time, my achchan was my hero, my Superman. Still is. He’ll probably scoff if he read this but its true. Maybe its because I’ve never ever experienced the crash that happens to children when they realize that their dad isn’t the perfect man. My daddy still holds strong to that one childhood fantasy. He has never let me down in any way. At the grand old age of 26, I’m still sent back to my room to “wear something that covers you up” and still told to eat my vegetables. Last month I bumped my head on the corner of the table while bending down to fetch something (I’m a klutz.). When I came back home that evening, he has taped Styrofoam to all the potential hazard areas in my room. He is a fine man and a brave one. In a way, he’s ruined all men for me. He is my yardstick for men and every single guy I have dated has fallen miserably short.

But of course all stories begin in childhood. At 5’8, he was the tallest man, I’d seen through my adoring eyes. I refused to believe that my uncle was taller by at least 6 inches even though I could see it plainly. I actually remember a time when I was sitting on my dad’s belly in a red frilly dress while a child and tugging at his beard. In retrospect, that red dress was tossed before I turned three so this memory happened while I was about two. I don’t know if that even possible but I know I remember it.

He used to work with an airline and to my child eyes that was the only way to be. He has a scar that looks a little bit like an airplane over one eyebrow and eyebrows that looked like jets, where else could he work? I remember him taking me to the beach so I wouldn’t be afraid of the water anymore. During my boogeyman phase, he would wearily wake up every night when nature called me so I wouldn’t be afraid of the dark. He taught me the joys of reading and music. He would bring me cough syrup every hour of the night when I had a horrible cough and dutifully forgot birthdays, There was one time when I was 6, when after a particularly sound drubbing from my mom, I was crying in a corner, my daddy tucked me into bed and rubbed my back till my fell asleep forsaking his dinner for my sorrow. He gave my first champagne and later gave me a cold shower and put me to bed when I was tiddly as an owl. He taught me my first physics lesson and bought my my first bike. Of course his word was law. If my dad said, that the White House was fuchsia with yellow dots, then it was. No questions. Such was my belief system.

Of course all the memories aren’t rosy, especially through the eyes of a child. We aren’t the most demonstrative family and he wasn’t the most affectionate or physical father. He rarely smiled or talked. He was always traveling or working. He was never there at PTA’s. There were more no’s than yes’s. was woken up at 6 am even on weekends. Television was limited. Curfews were stricter than everyone else’s. Expectations were high. Clothes were limited. He was just never around. I could never get over that. I was a rebellious child and I wanted my way or I’d move heaven and earth until I got it. My mom often bore the brunt of my fury.

Of course I disappointed him. Still do. In a million ways. The choice I made always bothered him. For him, I was always the little girl who was to be protected. Maybe he was right. But the complete exuberance of youth usually disregards parents. Thousands of times I was told to hold my tongue. Several times I was pleaded with to be a little more obedient. He patiently and sadly withstood the turbulent relationship I had with my mom while I was growing up. But he never stopped me from doing anything. Apart from the usual curfews and clothing limitations, absolutely nothing was off limits. Even when I decided to move around for a while, a truly drastic situation for south Indian girl's parents, he didn’t even stop me. My mom screamed and raged and brought the house down. All my father said: If she needs to do this, she needs to.” But his face told a different story. I have never seen so much sadness in one face. That lasted a couple of years.

I wonder if he ever knows how much he taught me without realizing it. Of the virtue of being non-judgmental, of forgiveness, of silence, of unconditional love, of the sheer power of hard work. He started out in the world with not a penny and worked his way to the top. But he’s had ups and downs as well. He joined as a technician and worked his way into Engineering. My dad has a severe phobia of public speech. Five times he walked out of the interview although having topped the written bit. The fifth time is when he mustered enough courage to even answer the questions put to him. I wonder if he’s ever realized that whenever his heart broke a little, mine broke a lot more. Although we’d argue incessantly, I made sure he never knew how much it hurt me. He never knew that an off hand word of praise would put me over the moon for a week. I made sure he didn’t.

Now that we’re all grown up, he lets us live our lives. We’re supposed to make our own decisions. But I’m not sure I can handle it. I’m not sure if I want t either. I want to be told what to do again; I want the assurance of knowing that I cannot be wrong. I’d do anything in the whole world, literally anything to be a kid again and go back in time to do this all over. Hurt him a little less, spend more time with him, and perhaps acquire a few more boogeyman that he can scare off for me.

Most of all, I want the courage that comes with being a child. To tell my achchan I love him to bits, that he is my sanity anchor and that I’m sorry for all the million times I broke his ailing heart, To hope that I’m not much of a disappointment. Not too much of one.

Of course I can never say that out loud. We are an emotionally suppressed community and ours isn’t a demonstrative family. I don’t think he even knows I write a blog. But I’m gonna hope and pray that he stumbles upon this someday and reads it. Of course knowing him, he’ll never mention it to me. But I really hope he reads this someday. I’m Superman’s daughter and its only fair that he knows it.