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Do you remember the time when I first said the word ‘babaiya’ and your eyes lit up like the sun? Even I don’t.
Remember the time when I couldn’t sleep at night because of high fever and you sat beside me, murmuring fairy tales to soothe my nerves even while you made no sense in your sleepy state? Even I don’t.
Remember you wanted me to be a trained classical singer like you but I hated to sing. But you simply wouldn’t give up and sit with the harmonium every day while I kept sulking? Even I don’t.
Remember when older girls in school were bullying me with additional homework, you went and spoke to them quietly but firmly and told them that people who scare those weaker to them are themselves scared deep down? Even I don’t.
Remember once when I didn’t listen to you and took my bicycle on the main road and a car missed hitting me by a fraction, you didn’t scold me, you just had tears in your eyes and that hurt me more than your anger ever could and I never did it again? Even I don’t.
Remember when I came first in school, you stood so tall when my name was called, you clapped the loudest and your cheers made me the happiest little girl going to get my prize from the Principal? Even I don’t.
Remember the first time I dated, or had booze, or bunked classes? Each and every time you were my confidante and adviser because I knew you were my best friend who’d give me the sanest advice? Even I don’t.
Remember how you used to tell me that I can be literally anything I wanted to be and unlike many parents, you really meant it? So, you encouraged me to study and pursue a career in whatever field I wanted to? Even I don’t.
Remember, how neighbours and well-meaning relatives used to bother you about my marriageable age and how I’m growing up to be a tomboy and you’d just smile and tell them, you were so proud of me? Even I don’t.
Remember the time when I told you, I wanted to marry the man I was dating, you met him and instead of being all threatening, you talked to him as an equal? You told him how much you loved me and how that’s the one thing you won’t compromise on, the love that you expected him to shower on me? Even I don’t.
Remember all the times we fought about small things and then you’d come to my room with my favourite chocolate, wipe away my tears, and hug me. We’d always make up despite of the difference in our opinion? Even I don’t.
Remember the time when I sat on your shoulders while maa and you strolled at a local fair and I cried and cried until you bought me an egg roll? I do remember.
Remember the last time I saw you, you were inside a matador van, your body covered in wreaths and flowers? Someone asked me to go touch your feet and I did it without realizing I would never see you again? I do remember.
Remember all those times when I rushed outside at the sound of airplanes and waved at those because ma told me you went to Vellore (for your treatment) in an airplane and if I waved at planes, you could see me? I do remember.
Remember, every time when I felt hurt or whenever the world somehow failed me, I spoke to you in my mind? I do remember.
Remember, the times when I was filled with helpless anger because you were not there for me? I do remember.
My darling baba, I’m sorry for avoiding this day, so far. I thought it will only bring me pain.
But today, decades after you left us, I want to thank you for being my dad.
I want to wish you a Happy Father’s Day.
Because, deep in my heart I know even those instances when I don’t remember you being with me, I had always IMAGINED you there.
And today my heart says that indeed, you WERE there.
Just that my pain and anger didn’t let me see you.
I know that whatever I am today is because of maa’s hard work but I feel it is also because of your blessings that never, ever left me.
Maybe those times, when I felt it was too difficult to even stand up, you held me without my knowledge.
Thank you, baba, for being my father even if just for a little while.
Because in my heart of hearts I know, you were there forever and you always will be.
Babaiya, I love you and I don’t know much about after life, but I do wish I get to meet you someday.