ON LEAVING MY DAUGHTER
This incident happened in 1992. We were located in Delhi at that time and my elder daughter had qualified to be admitted into the engineering college at Hyderabad. She had put in painstaking efforts to achieve this and we, as a family, felt extremely happy and elated. The results came in the middle of March and she was to join the college in June.
After the initial sense of euphoria wore off it became slowly and painfully aware to all of us that she had to be away from us quite soon. To me that was the inevitable beginning of the end; by which I mean the first step in the dispersal of the close family of ours. I took solace in the fact that this was the way of the world and I should not let my personal and selfish interests curtail the career and ambitions of my daughter. I kept reminding myself of a song by Paul Anka, which my daughters and I had made it into some kind of an anthem of our house. The song is called ‘Papa’ and one line in that goes, ‘your children grow through you; their growing needs you too.’
Throughout this period of waiting and preparing for the eventual departure of my daughter, she was her normal exuberant self. At times, even when melancholy descended on the atmosphere at home, it was she who kept the spirits up by her ebullient behavior and positive attitude. There was not even a trace of apprehension or fear in her. To all intents and purposes she appeared extremely keen to join the college and become an engineer.
The days passed insidiously and soon enough the day of the little one leaving us dawned. I was to escort her from Delhi to Hyderabad where she was to be staying with a friend's family till the time the hostel of the college opened. Departure from the house and later parting at the airport was an emotional roller coaster for my wife and my younger daughter. The elder daughter, who was the one going to the college, appeared totally unfazed and cool about this whole process. Never once did her eyes well up nor did she ever show any signs of sadness. I felt quite proud of her and thought that her mother and I had brought her up in a proper way and that some genes of my ancestors’ known, or rather notorious, for their hard- line attitude towards life had percolated down to her.
Soon we boarded the aircraft. Even though her sister broke down at the airport she seemed unaffected. We landed in Hyderabad and I had made some arrangements for our overnight stay in an officer's mess. The next day was spent in buying certain essential items for her use at the hostel. It was towards 4 PM that we decided to go to the place where my daughter was to stay for a few days waiting for the hostel to open. And by the time we reached there, met my friend it was already becoming dusk. I was booked on an evening flight back to Delhi and therefore I had to say bye-bye to my daughter.
She stood up, hugged me tight and told me not to worry and that everything will right etc. etc. I too told her that she will be taken care of by my friend and his family and they will ensure that she is properly ensconced in her hostel. After kissing her I bid goodbye to my friend and his family and started walking towards my waiting military vehicle. It was then that I had a muted scream, “Dadaaa!” Turning around I saw my daughter running towards me. I stopped and took a few steps towards her. She ran towards me and clung on to me for dear life; and she was crying. All those tears that she, perhaps, held back over the past two months gushed out of her in a torrent. It took all my composure and logic to hold myself from taking this little one along with me back to Delhi. It took me a fair amount of time to console her and calm her down so that she could become a normal self, or at least somewhere near it.
I got into my vehicle and instructed the driver to take me to the airport. It was already dark and the neon signs along the road were all lit up. Gazing casually at them I found that they were all blurred. I was wondering as to why the advertising people do not put up legible signboards rather than smudging and obfuscating them. But soon I realized that all the signboards were appearing the same. I do not know what happened but involuntarily my hands went to my eyes. To my surprise, I became aware that my eyes were full of tears. Realization hit me like a ton of bricks that the signboards were not faulty but they were appearing to be so to me because of the tears in my eyes.
And it was then that I knew what the pain of separation from one's daughter is all about! A pain that refuses to go away even now when both my daughters are living with their spouses and children.