As a student, while my two sisters were super intelligent and found their place in the top position in the class I was pretty mediocre. I was happy with my 60 per cent and spent a considerable time outdoors. Sporty, competitive and tomboyish I would be a part of every athletic event and sports team in whichever school we went to. Judo, volleyball, basketball, horseriding, athletics; I was pretty much in all of them. Every evening, I would leave the house to play and return after a couple of hours to find them in the same position. I could never understand how these two remained glued to their seat. Gosh! It seemed as if time had stopped while I was away.
Needless to say, Mom would worry about me and I was told nearly a million times by her about how bleak my future would be. “You’re in the twelfth class. Get serious. You’ll not get admission in any college with all this khel-kood.” her volume would rise each time she saw me entering the house all sweaty, clothes all dirty and hair flying all over my face.
The profundity of the board exams hit me when they were a couple of months away. I opened my books one evening to look at the syllabus. It was huge. I wouldn’t be able to do it. The panic attack started and the horrible feeling of hopelessness washed over me. Oh God! I knew nothing. In the corner of my tiny study room, I put both my hands to my face and started weeping. Outside the door, Dad heard my sobs. He walked in and hugged me. “Dad, I will fail the boards. I know nothing.” I was howling by now. “Shhhhh! Calm down beta. I know you. You’ll do it.” he kept repeating.
I got all the support I could from him. After office, he would come to the study, open my books, organise notes, give me micro tests on every sub-topic, engage in discussions and answer the last ten years papers of all the subjects. Eventually, the chapters started making sense and I regained my confidence. I would study deep into the night and Dad stayed awake with me. He would go to the kitchen and every night make some culinary delicacy the faujis are known for making – Caramel Custard, Bread Pudding, Fruit Custard, Egg-Toast, sandwiches and the Ultimate Keema-Macaroni in White Sauce Bake. We would have a midnight feast to the peppy lyrics of Bobby Mc Ferrin’s “Don’t worry, Be happy” playing in the background. It was Dad’s favourite song and sometimes he and I both would break into a silly dance of our own.
When my name came on the admission list in Jesus and Mary College for Economics Honours, I saw his face light up. Honestly, I couldn’t have done it without him. His unflinching support and belief in me kept me going strong thereafter, winning accolades and awards in whatever I did after that. In 2007, I received the Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini award for my contributions, services and achievements in the field of Education. I’m so glad he was there to see me walk up the stage to receive it.
I rummage through my cupboard for his favourite shirt that lies in a corner of my cupboard. The faint smell of his that the shirt held has now faded away. It’s been four long years since Dad left us and what remains are just a handful of his personal belongings and a plethora of memories. As the world celebrates Father’s Day today, I reminisce about the man who was my hero, mentor and my best friend – Dad, Papa, Popsy. This morning, I baked the Keema Macaroni in White Sauce that he made so well and has many memories woven into it. I can hear Bobby Mc Ferrin playing in the other room. Dad may not be alive but he is present in my heart every moment. Today I’m not going to be sad but will celebrate and dance to the wonderful song we heard at our house so many times. “Don’t worry! Be happy!” is what he would have liked us all to be anyways.