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Come December and I think of my Dad. No, it’s not his birthday – it is a very sweet memory of a father doing little things for his kids.
I grew up mostly in the northern part of the country and those of you who are familiar with that area would know that winter is extreme in these parts. For some years we were in Shimla and winter there came in early (around October) and left late (around March). Life was difficult in winter in the hills. As picturesque as it may seem, managing the logistics in this season is a herculean task.
The night of 30th of December 1990 saw 7 to 8 feet snowfall in the hill city. When we woke up, our door did not open as it was blocked by snow, there was no electricity and telephone lines had gone off as had water (When water freezes the pipes burst). The only saviour was the gas cylinder that we had to use frugally to make it last for any kind of source of heat.
My mother had no option but ration the use of the cylinder. The whole day was spent in ‘razai’ but mom was clear – beds had to be made and the razai laid out neatly every morning – to be used again. The process would leave the beds cold L -VERY cold. We could not heat up water for hot water bottles as the cylinder had to last.
My dad came to our rescue – he would sit in each kids razai for 10 minutes – we were four of us. When his body warmth would make the seat cozy, we would quickly jump in and he would move to the next bed. At that point of time it was fun and sometimes we would fight as each would want his place ready first. Slowly we grew up and moved out. Our beds stayed there, unused…seeing a razai only when one of us visited our parents’ house for a few days. Gradually, the razais were given away as the frequency of our visits reduced with our kids growing up and getting caught in the ‘routine’.
Then, one winter, my daughter called out “Mama, my hair still has shampoo. Can you come quickly to rinse it? I am feeling cold.” She was 10 that time. I was busy in the kitchen with a bread at the brink of getting over toasted and omelette in the pan. The voice in my head said “Only if she could cut her hair…I do not have the time to maintain.” The same night my son came and said, “The bed is very cold…I don’t want to get into it.” As my husband went with him to tuck him in and I pottered about to close the kitchen, my mind raced back to the winter of 1990. Every day, my dad had patiently spent 40 minutes, cozying up our beds…without any ado!
I wanted to hug him immediately. When I called, mom told me he was fast asleep and it is better not to wake him up as these days he can barely get to sleep. “Insomnia in old age is common”, she said. “Nothing to worry”. He called me an hour later (He was done with his sleep) and when I reminded him of how he used to ‘make our beds’, he just said “Oh, you remember it? Who else would have done it? I am your father…it was part of my role job description.”
Since that winter, my husband and I make sure we ‘make the’ kids’ bed. A small gesture that had a huge impact…a lesson in parenting learnt from my dad in a December. A lesson about togetherness and warmth of a family…a ‘Khuljaye Bachpan’ moment for me.
Our kids’ childhood should be enjoyable not only for them but also for us. If we do small things instead of buying big presents, we leave them with memories to cherish. Instead of giving them a childhood tied by parents’ constraints of time and effort, we need to give them a cozy childhood full of warmth, affection and good parenting examples to learn from.