Authors:Madhu Kalyan,Gunjan Vyas
Art : Dina Ahmed
Title : IMPERFECT DAD
A father’s influence in his daughter’s life shapes her self-esteem, self-image, confidence and opinions of men. “How Dad approaches life will serve as an example for his daughter to build off of in her own life, even if she chooses a different view of the world”What matters in the father-daughter relationship is that Dad seeks to live a life of integrity and honesty, avoiding hypocrisy and admitting his own shortcomings, so that she has a realistic and positive example of how to deal with the world
I wonder what a perfect father daughter relationship is.
My name is Moksha and I live with my father, Das in a small town named Tabla located in Andhra Pradesh. He is a carpenter. My mother died when I was five in floods and from then, my father has taken care of me.
My father is a physically disabled man – he can’t hear or talk but his sense of affection is perfect because he never let me feel the absence of my mother in my life.
We communicate using hand and facial gestures. There were times when I didn’t understand what he was trying to say and for that sole reason, he learnt how to write. Writing became a means of communication for the two of us from then and he started sending me to school soon after. He used to cycle for half hour daily to drop me to school and I can never forget the loving gestures with which he used to tell me : “Study well, be good, eat your lunch.”
Father used to work very hard from morning till late evening but he never compromised with his parental duties. Now when I think about it, I always thought he wasn’t a competent father because of his lack of two vital senses but from the way he loved me, I now realise I couldn’t have had a father more perfect.
“ The happy faces.
He lifts his young daughter
Into the air.
To her it seems so high.
Up in the clouds
She squeals her delight,
Her yellow sundress waving.
He feels a pang inside my chest,
Constricting until it becomes painful.
I was a keen student – I got the best grades in class even through all the trouble I had to face. My father, though physically disabled, was always the biggest inspiration to me. Whenever I was sad about how other students could consult their literate fathers when they got stuck in a Math problem, father would tell me(through hand gestures): “I don’t know Math that well but it’s a good thing that now it will be your brain that’ll be put to test and not mine.”
He would say the same thing to me whenever I was unable to move forward in a Math problem and it would always make me laugh.
When I turned nineteen, we moved to the city for my further studies. Father worked as a carpenter in a small shop now and had to work lesser than before. We also had more money to spend on our comfort as I had earned a scholarship from the university for my excellent performance in the competitive examination.
We all were very happy of course but troubles began when college started.
In my college, most of the students were from big, rich families. They didn’t talk to us: the scholarship kids because they thought we were beneath them even when we were the ones who had secured our seats via academic excellence alone. The hypocrisy! I made a few friends but they weren’t as close as the ones I had in my village. We were like a family there.
During my first parent teacher meeting, I was very excited about showing my father our college – the developed infrastructure, the English speaking teachers and what not! But the moment we entered the hall where the meeting had to take place, I became nervous. Now the fact that he did not have the ability to speak came crashing down on me – he had come here to ‘talk’ to my teachers.
We sat quietly in the last row and waited for our turn.
My teacher beamed as soon as she saw me.
“She’s a brilliant student!” she exclaimed as she clasped my father’s hand in a handshake. Then she started to sing about how good I was and how proud my father should be. It was a good thing that all he had to do was smile and nod his head.
I breathed a sigh of relief when she concluded the meeting, got up and shook hands with him and pleasantly bid us farewell. I was thanking god profusely for saving me the embarrassment of introducing my dumb and deaf father to my teacher in front of the rest of my class just then, as if on cue, Kamala appeared in front of us.
Kamala was the class diva – beautiful, charismatic, rich. She was intelligent too and probably the only student in our class who belonged to an affluent family AND had also won a scholarship. She was perfect in so many ways but for reasons unknown to me, she’d held a grudge against me since day 1. She’d downright ignored me when I had tried to introduce myself to her on the first day. After that she had insulted me for my oiled hair and old suits on countless occasions and even gone as far as calling me a beggar’s daughter once. That was the last time she called me.
We’d had a big verbal fight and in the end we had decided to stay away from each other. Needless to say, my being ahead of her in class in this term hadn’t gone down too well with her as she did what I’m about to write now.
Kamala stood in front of us, hands on hips and a triumphant smile on face. She laughed pleasantly and said, “Oh hi, Moksha! Is this your father?”
I could hear the condescending tone in her honey flavoured words – this old, skinny man dressed in old dhoti is your father? I’m not surprised.
I answered her just as sweetly, “Yes, Kamala, he is.”
“I wanted to meet him for such a long time,” she said as she regarded the two of us with contempt. “I’m Kamala, her classmate.”
My father, who was unaware of her contemptuous tone(thanks to his lack of hearing ability), smiled back at her. I felt suffocated – why can’t she leave us alone?
When he said nothing in response, she didn’t give up. I saw her bring up her hand as if to shake his hand, but she quickly put it down – spoiled bitch didn’t want to touch my father.
“What is your name, sir?”
Before my father could mouth his name, I jumped in.
“His name is Das. Mr. Das Prabhu,” I glared at her.
She smirked at me, “I asked that question to your father, Moksha.” She spoke my name with such distaste, I felt tears coming to my eyes. I couldn’t understand why she always had to make me feel like I was an incompetent piece of absolutely nothing.
“What do you do, sir?” she asked him but before I could say anything she turned to me, “Not you. Your father.”
My father looked at her for a while and then at me – for a brief moment I thought he hadn’t understood what Kamala had said and wanted me to explain but he smiled and shook his head. At that time I hadn’t understood the gesture but now I do, he was telling me to stop feeling so sad. He couldn’t hear things so his main sense was sight. He looked at things and observed them very carefully. With time he had got used to how I acted when I was happy, sad, angry and so on and he had seen the unshed tears of anger and shame in my eyes. He was telling me to stop feeling so low because of this proud girl.
He was telling me to be proud of who I was.
He started imitating the action of chopping wood in front of her and she observed him with wide eyes. Her surprised expression soon melted into that of cruel understanding when she realised what was happening.
“Your father is dumb, Moksha?”
“Mute,” I corrected sharply.
“Oh,” she said. “A dumb…I mean a mute carpenter, right?”
I felt humiliated. I took my father’s hand in mine and shoved past her but she stopped me by pulling my arm.
“What’s the problem, Moksha? Why do you look so angry?” she sneered and just then I realised that we were not alone – all the people in the hall were staring at us. I couldn’t fight back my tears anymore and so they flowed freely.
“Why don’t you speak?” she prodded on and I couldn’t hold back my frustration.
“Yes, my father is mute and deaf! Are you happy to hear it? Now let us go,” I shoved her out of my way and didn’t stop once till we were home – safe and away from everyone.
Father put a comforting hand on my shoulder and I pushed it away.
“It’s because you are deaf and mute that I had to go through all this!” I screamed. “Just thinking what will happen to me from tomorrow gives me shivers – as if being a carpenter’s daughter was not enough!”
He looked at me with pained eyes but didn’t say a word – no hand gestures, no written words and no mouthing. He went back to his shop to work.
I felt so bad then – my father gave me everything and I? I yelled at him for being deaf and mute – as if it was his fault he didn’t have these senses.
He returned at night and we had dinner – I didn’t say anything and nor did he. The next morning when I woke up, I saw a note near my bed which read:
Going for work early today. I had my breakfast so don’t worry.
I’m sorry about what happened yesterday, I will not attend any PTM from now on if I cause you embarrassment. But please don’t cry again like that. There are some things we just cannot change. I myself don’t like being a disabled man but if it is God’s will that I stay this way so be it. Don’t cry and embrace whatever God has given you. I am proud of you.
He was still proud of me. I couldn’t help but cry when I read that loving note but fear of what was about to happen that day was still fresh in my stomach – Kamala.
I slapped that thought away and followed what my father had written – embrace what God has given you. With that thought in mind, I dressed and went to college but well, my torture began as soon as I stepped inside my class. My best friend in class, Koel decided to not sit with me. When I asked her why she wasn’t sitting with me she simply said, “I want to concentrate in class.” The whole day, she avoided me. When all the classes were over, Kamala came to me – “Oh the daughter of a deaf, dumb carpenter. How are you doing?”
She pulled my hair out of my ponytail – I had deliberately washed it that day so she couldn’t find another reason to insult me.
“No oil today. Copying someone, little bitch?” she gripped my hair tightly and yanked it so that I fell face first on floor.
“Stop it!” I cried but my screams were muffled when two big, burly boys came behind me and one of them reached down and pulled me up by my neck while the other used my dupatta as a gag. I coughed and looked at other students of my class pleadingly but none of them had enough courage – or empathy – to help me.
“Now that we have that cloth in place, act like your father would when he would be beaten,” she laughed and made noises imitating those of mute people. “He’d act like an animal, won’t he?”
I wanted to kill her then and there but those boys wouldn’t leave me. One of them had secured my hands behind my back in his strong fists and the other tightened the gag whenever I tried to move.
All my classmates were nothing but dumb spectators – none of them made a single, damned move!
Kamala walked towards me and slapped my face hard.
“Know your place, bitch! Don’t try to become a queen – you’re nothing more than an idiot’s daughter! I’m leaving you today but if you show me that dumb face of yours again, you know these guys are capable of more than just holding a girl,” her eyes gleamed darkly and I realised the stream of unending tears flowing down my cheeks. Then she disappeared out of the class along with the two guys and I fell to my knees, sobbing. Everyone started to dissipate now and I could hear the murmurs of ‘poor girl’, ‘Kamala crossed her limits’, ‘her dad is dumb?’ etc but the one that hurt me the most was, “Had I known her dad was a dumb carpenter, I wouldn’t have talked to her. How does that affect my reputation now?”
The person who said that was Vikram, the one I thought was the best guy in the world – more appropriately, my crush. That statement from his mouth made me cry tears of such pain that it is hard to explain through words. When I got home, I did what I never thought I would do, the most cowardly act in my eyes – I cut my wrist.
I don’t know what was going on in my mind then but I didn’t want to live anymore – I’ve had my share of suffering and I just wanted a release – I wanted my freedom. I now laugh at the twisted view on ‘freedom’ I had then.
My wrist bled away all the emotional pain that had been tormenting my heart for the past few days by transforming it into purely physical pain – the stinging sensation, the feeling of blood flowing out of that neat wound, the sudden fading of vision and then unconsciousness overcame me. I didn’t want to wake up from that sleep again but before falling into oblivion, I heard the sound of the opening of our front door…father had come back from work.
Now as I write this little account of my life, my father is lying on the hospital bed near my chair. It has been three days since I cut myself and doctors told me that I had made a deep and vertical cut which resulted in major blood loss as vertical cuts are very difficult to stitch. They were successful in closing the wound but blood loss had already occurred and apparently no nearby blood banks had blood group AB+ and guess who came to my rescue…my father.
After all that I did, he gives me blood from his weak body so I could come back to this world – conscious and alive. He hasn’t been conscious for three days now and I’m still waiting for him to wake up – I won’t lose hope. Now that I’ve embraced what I am, I want him to see the new me and be proud. I want him to write me short notes and make those sweet hand gestures which motivate me to go on. I want to say sorry…
No one is perfect in this world and the one that accepts his weaknesses with grace and courage is a true hero.
I won’t lose hope because I know my dad is a hero