Daddy - Short Story

by Anurag Sharma

Mom is struggling with the kitchen sink; the tap has started leaking again. Irrespective of the size of the house or the status of the homeowner, everyone faces these problems in this country. I am sure that the tap broke earlier too, but we had never noticed it. When dad was here, mom never had to worry about anything, inside or outside of the house. In fact, back then, we didn't even know that these things do break.

Times were different then. Dad would read a newspaper after his morning exercises and shower, both before mom and I even woke up. He used to drive me to school, and we would talk about a lot of different things. He used to pick me up from school in the afternoon and leave me at home with mom before going back to work.

I didn't know what he did for living. Did he work for a steel mill, or in a hospital? I didn't know anything about his profession at all. And I didn't care. We could call him home whenever we wanted, except when he was travelling for work, which was often. He used to go to faraway places in foreign countries and I used to miss him for weeks together. His tours were always unplanned. He could leave all of a sudden and come back any moment without advance information. We would only know about the places he went after he returned home to us.

When I was five years old, I was sitting on the window seat playing with my dolls when I remembered my dad, who was in Europe. I thought that dad was lord Buddha of our home. Quiet and knowledgeable. While I thought about dad being the incarnation of Buddha, something rather magical happened – he entered the house. I jumped with joy when he picked me up. I smiled and said, "Dad, you are Buddha! The only difference is that Buddha is too wise. You can never be so wise as him."

"Very good" Dad said before kissing me on forehead. Within moments, he started taking out all the gifts he bought for me and mom from his trip. Mom was smiling yet she didn't look happy. There was something strange in our home which was difficult for me to fathom. Probably, mom didn't like dad's job. She wanted dad to have a job without travel, just like other men in the neighborhood.

Dad's room was always locked from inside whenever he attended a work related call. It was an exciting experience to visit his room any other time. His room was mysterious. The cabinets and drawers in his room were always locked. Sometimes I used to enter his room quietly as a seasoned detective and he would pick me up and set me down on his lap, abandoning his work.

Once, when he was away on a tour, I missed him so much that I kept crying for long time. I didn't want dad to know about my crying but mom told him about it when he came back.  "I too miss you both a lot when I am away" he said smilingly, "but whenever I think of you, I feel so good that I start smiling automatically ..."

“Memory should make us happy, not sad.”

“Yes dad!”

His statement about memory is the key principle of my life now. Whenever I think of him, I start feeling good instantaneously.

Once, when I went to his room, he was looking at something inside a big cardboard box. As I got closer when I saw something glimmering inside the box. I asked him to show what was inside and the box was full of coins, scores of coins. Some gold, others silver. There were medals too. Everything was beautifully shrink wrapped or packed in transparent cases, just like opulent jewelry. I played with those coins, medals, note bills, postage stamps and ribbons for almost an hour till mom called us for dinner. Dad felt so cool for the first time that day.

While we had dinner, dad received a call. Leaving food behind, he locked himself into his mysterious room. When he came back, I was about to go to my bedroom after finishing my dinner. Dad lifted me in his lap and took me to my bed. He told me that he was going abroad next day and kissed me goodnight. Lying in my bed, I heard mom sobbing. Before I could understand a thing, I was asleep that night.

Mom is still fighting a battle with the sink. She is not saying anything, but tears are flowing from her eyes. Looking at her, I also started sobbing. I know that none of us is crying about the sink. Our eyes are wet for the person who never let a tap leak in this house, and never let a tear roll down our faces in his presence. As long as he was here, this house was our dearest home.

Dad, you are Buddha, as wise as him. You certainly know how much we miss you. Our eyes are wet, but we are not sad. I feel good when I remember you, exactly as you told me that day. Remember the club house, you made for me? I planted a rose there in your memory. I know that you can't come out of your picture. I also know that you are sending your love for us from inside the frame, through your divine smile. With mom's permission, I took out your ribbons and the medals from the coin box and put them in the curio cabinet. There is a new medal which you got posthumously.

I am proud of you dad!

[Translation from Hindi by author]