Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Father Had A Daughter

I don't usually post to mark events, but today, on Fathers' Day, I am moved to reach for the solace of the written word, for my father, who passed away about a decade ago.

I am not thinking of him particularly because of the day. Actually, I don't consciously think of my father, really. I think parents form a background to one's experience so they are never really absent or blatantly present. I feel my father's being in me in seemingly disjointed images: his kind, brown, smiling eyes when he looked at me (I am told I was his favorite being); his palm encircling my wrist to calm me down after a traumatic exam; his silent, helpless laughter as he read Richard Armor and Jyotindra Dave; the indescribably timeless, sweet, comforting sound of his violin; the earnestness of his tone as he explained the anomalous expansion of water to me. There are many others, of course.

When he passed away, one of my best friends told me never to hope to recover from it: that would never happen. I'd have to, instead, acquire survival skills, and learn to live without him, as though his absence was like a psychic amputation of sorts. This manner of dealing with my father's absence has helped me weave him into my experience of being alive without having to feel survivor's guilt. I have, since, shared beautiful sunsets with my father, laughed a bit more in his name, savored his favorite dishes with new appreciation, wondered at the endless universe beyond the stars he first helped me name, even learned to be grateful for the richness of solitude he so loved.

I join the world today, as it celebrates Fathers, past, present, even future! The gifts they give us are as undefinable and undeniable as the myriad avatars they take as they guide us through difficult cross-roads. Sometimes, we have to conquer them to answer Sphinx's riddle and understand our nature; sometimes, we blame their autocratic stereotype and use them as symbols to rebel against; sometimes, we accuse them for being too distant with us, for not compromising with their idealistic expectations of us. But despite it all, our very sense of self emerges around their presence and absence, and we forever belong to them in equally undefinable, undeniable ways.

I dedicate this to the joyful, ageless twinkle in my father's eye as he looks down on his infant daughter in a worn out black-and-white photograph, as she clutches his forefinger above her temple and stares confindently, directly at the world.

My father had a daughter;
Today, like all days, she is grateful to him for taking upon with her, the mystery of things, as if we were the gods' spies.