To the girl who turns twelve today:
I remember not being able to react exactly twelve years ago, this day. I remember going through the motions, obeying everyone blindly, till it was time to go home.
It had taken a few months to sink in. Maybe that was when I had started off late, for with you it has always been a race against time: what if I run out of time before I get to see you grow up?
I was not there when you stood up, on your feet, the first time. I was at work. There was no Kodak moment for me.
But I did not miss your first day to pre-school, for that was something I could control.
I did come home late. Of course I came home late. Of course I missed putting you to sleep and pulling the blanket, softly, Nirupa Roy-style.
But on occasions when I could get away early, I did that. I sang lullabies with the finesse of a bathroom singer, but I did that.
My thoughts are cluttered tonight.
Memories keep coming back.
Memories of spending nights, awake, alone, sitting next to you as you slept.
Memories of neither of us being able to stop laughing over ‘a parliament of owls’.
Memories of your astonishment at the first word you knew but I did not: gibbous.
Memories of impressing you with mental arithmetic skills: why was (is, as well) impressing you so important?
Memories of smelling your hair as we watched Doraemon together.
This is something a lot of fathers have told me: what is it about daughters’ hair irrespective of their ages?
Memories of both of us being utterly confused when we found out that Omelette (from Matilda) was used in Ice Age (or was it Ice Age 2?).
Memories of trying to teach you the nuances of cricket, my disappointment at your not being interested at all, and then being shocked by your announcement that Glenn Maxwell was always your favourite cricketer, since childhood, and you were always a big fan.
But this post is not about Glenn Maxwell. Trust me, it is not.
This is about us. I hate quoting myself, but I am probably not the father you want. I will not even be the most-loved man in your life, for in a few years’ time there will be a man you will love more than you have ever loved me.
But you will remain, forever, the most-loved girl in my life.
You will also remain the most tolerant girl in my life, for you have lived my idiosyncrasies, my acts of selfishness, my complete randomness, my terrible puns, my reluctance to communicate to strangers and click selfies, and more.
Note: The Mother has tolerated me as well, but she always knew what she was getting into, and I never knew her as a girl. She also had a reasonably awesome father, which is not something you can boast of.
But let us not digress. I tend to deviate a lot these days. Age, you see. I am getting old, too old to even text or check my WhatsApp. I try to stick to calls and emails these days.
See, I am going off track; yet again.
Let me simply sign off with this, today, on your twelfth. By the time I land in my, your, our city, it will already be your birthday.
We will meet again, provided no one, nothing comes in between.
And when I do, I know I will go weak in my knees, and that familiar lump will form in my throat. I will stand, flashing the stupidest of smiles, unable to conjure a conversation.
We do not meet regularly. But when we do, it is the same every time.
I cannot see that changing, even when both of us are past my current age.
I know this post made no sense. But then, neither do I. I never have.
PS: That ‘best friend’ offer is still on. Just pick up the phone.