...…and I Cried, Yes I Cried!
I knew this was going to happen. I dreaded it for years. I had seen similar situations and always wondered why people cry on such occasions – but had no rational explanation ever forthcoming. But do emotions ever have rationality? My fear became more acute when the family decided that we should have a film-like presentation from photographs of her entire life. I am known to handle film-making through Power-Director and Windows Movie Maker well so naturally the choice fell on me. The family looked at me and I couldn't refuse. I told my son you make the broad outline and then I will do the rest. He activated the software and prepared the framework. I was sure I was going to cry so I told him “Now you leave the room. Close the door behind and leave me alone. Do not call for me under any circumstances”. It was 15th December 2011 – three days before 18th December – the day my daughter was going to get married.
I sat down on the desk and collected all my daughter’s pictures of her journey with us throughout her life and started arranging them. Yes I was holding back. But yes I was also struggling and I knew that. I strongly felt that a father who is going to marry his daughter in three days should not have taken up this job. But the heart also said – if not you, who? Just as I arranged her pictures after short listing them on the software, I was fighting hard not to let the emotions take charge. But the break-point came when music was to be added to the film. There was no other choice but the song from by Mukesh from Bambai ka Babu “Chal ri sajni ab kya soche”. It had to be there. It was the most appropriate. But when the verse came “Babul pastaye haathon ko mal ke, kahe diya pardes tukde ko dil ke” started playing – I could hold it no longer. I cried and I cried like mad!
Yes I was losing the piece of my heart. She is to be married. My rational mind knew – it was my duty. I knew it was my dharma. I knew it happens with all fathers….But the heart was now in complete defiance. It was in no mood to listen. The picture of the helpless father standing in the corner wringing his hands and cursing his helplessness as sung in hat song, when he sees his darling daughter (piece of his heart) going away from him forever, just came again and again on my mental screen. And yes I cried! I cried inconsolably.
And then it was 17th December – Saturday night. The stage was set. The entire family had collected. A large screen was erected in the garden and all waited. My daughter knew what is going to happen to her father. So she just came and sat between her parents. She caught hold of my hand and tried to calm things down. But she too probably knew this was not going to work. I knew there were elders. I knew there were children. I knew there were close friends who had stood by me in my life. I knew there were sisters and brothers. I knew there were sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law and I also knew that unwritten brutal rule – men are not supposed to cry in front of everybody. But did my heart know of the rule? I held back, I fought it – but as soon as the film got over I crashed.
It was unbearable. This bundle of joy of mine – whom I had hugged and held in my hands when she was just minutes old, was going away. This angel of mine whom I had left her at the school gate on her first day at school turning back again and again as if telling me “Baba I don’t want to go, don’t leave me”. Millions of emotional snapshots! Her results in school, her running up to me and hugging me for no apparent reason what-so-ever, her tantrums, her obstinacy, her anger, her hugs, her warmth, her love everything in minutest details was whirring away on the mental screen. And here she was next to me for two decades or more and was now going away.
Consolations were many. She is in the same city. She has found a boy who is mature, well settled and worthy of her in all ways were. Both of them are having excellent jobs. Both of them love each other. Both of them have a great secure future. I knew that all. Consolations were many – but who wanted to be consoled that evening? I wanted to cry – yes I wanted to cry. Consolations are for the brain, not the heart!
Her marriage on 18th December 2011 – Sunday was a dignified and impressive function as per our family values and rituals. Surprising for me even when I saw her off, I was calm. I was stoic. I don’t know why – but I was naturally smiling.
But the biggest challenge came the next day morning. That is the time when I came out of my bedroom and her room is just opposite my bedroom. Every day in the morning her room door would be closed and I knew she would be sleeping behind the closed door. The sight of the closed door was so comforting. But today it was open. The bed was vacant. It was a stunningly silent room with a creaseless bed-sheet, the properly placed pillow and the neat and clean room – unlived. I couldn’t face the vacancy. I simply walked away – I had to. This room was her abode for more than a decade now. Every day, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year she used to be there always. I had seen that closed door and was comforted that she is there. The door closed and she sleeping behind in her room. That used to be my first view every day morning for years. Today I knew she wasn’t there. I knew she was gone. I just rushed out, absolutely numb, completely unemotional. My heart had simply refused to think for it knew if it would think it would be shattering.
All guests were to be seen-off. I had to oversee arrangements of making them reach airports and railway stations in time. Once all this was done I walked into her room. I had to. I knew my strength would come from here. Just then the soft toy of Merlion that she had so fondly got for herself from one of our family vacations from Singapore fell down from the shelf. It made The Swiss Cowbells that we had purchased together from Switzerland clang and her famous laughter started running out from each wall each brick each drop of paint from each piece of furniture from each soft toy that she had so assiduously collected and amassed. I - the father was completely overwhelmed. I just crashed in the chair. My head down, may face completely wet – yes I was crying, yes I was!
The sages say – time heals. Today she is at her home in the other part of the city, talks twice everyday on phone. The family invariably dines once a week usually on Saturdays together. She is very happy. I am happy too at her happiness. But I know, I am dismembered – the family is no more complete. She is now a part of her family. I don’t cry anymore but yes even now when I am typing this my eyes are wet.
Being father of a daughter is the toughest duty to perform in the world. Blessed but toughest! They go away. They have to go away. But when they go, they make you cry, really cry!