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My dad was the typical 90s generation middle class dad. The salary was meager at the time, cost of living was just escalating and dads all over were trying to make the ends meet. Though they had less time to spend with kids, I mean, many kids of our generation had an opinion that our dads never played with us or took us to movies or spent time with us, which was true because many middle class dads were brought up by farmers and they tried to buy houses and build families in the city out of just nothing and that took most of their time. Urbanization being at peaks that time, drained all the energy from dads.
My dad was the same, typical one. Doing night shifts, saving money, keeping us happy and sacrificing many things that we failed to see. While I was in my 7th standard, my dad’s salary was a 25k. Three kids, home loan and 25k, now I see that it must have been crazy stressful.
7th class for me had marked an important year for me for the fact that I had just started reading Harry Potter. My friend had lent the first book to me. I read the four books till my tenth standard and I was high on Harry Potter obsession. The first three books were easily provided to me by my friend, but the fourth book was lent to me by my brother’s friend. By the time the fifth book was due for release, Harry Potter obsession was at crazy hyper levels in my circle of friends. The cost of the books as well as the pages were increasing exponentially, too. All these reasons made the book scarcely available. When the book was about to be released, everyone who had previously read Harry Potter could not buy it for the very high cost. However, there was this one guy in our class whose father promised him to buy the book on the first day immediately after its release. What a lucky guy! Thought me. I was so obsessed with Harry Potter that though I was not a close friend of this guy, I wanted to ask him to lend me the book. I built up my courage and one fine day, went over to him in the library and said, “Hi, I heard that you were going to buy Harry Potter. Could you lend it to me after you are done?” He looked at me and after a slight pause told me that the book had a 6 month wait. 6 month wait? Still, trying further I asked him, “So, could you please lend it to me after 6 months?” for which he replied, “I am not sure.” The hesitation was clear and I got my cue and went away. The book released and it was the talk of the class. The guy who got the book was giving away little anecdotes from the book which was making things worse for me.
Day by day, my desperation went on increasing. A month later, my brother comes to me to tell me that the book was being sold in our school for 500 bucks. 500 bucks? It was too high to even attempt asking my dad. My naughty brother increased my discomfort further by talking about it every day. Three days later he came up to me to tell me that it was the last day of the sale. I braced myself and decided to give it a shot. I went up to my dad with my brother towing behind me and told him hesitatingly, “Dad, Harry Potter fifth book is in school. For 500 bucks, can you buy it for me?”
“Harry Potter book? What that silly magician story? We had similar chota chethan movies. Full copy from that. That’s all silly,” was his only reply. Disappointed to the core, I left the matter. Later in the night, dad comes to me to tell me that he would give the money and I could buy. I was happy, happier than I could ever remember.
The next day morning, he was dropping me, my sister, and my brother at school on the rickety old scooter that he had and he said to me, “So, the 5 books are for 500? Exactly 500? Shall I give the money to you now?” Ouch, was my immediate thought, he thought that 5 books were for 500, not one book. What would his reaction be if he knows that the 500 bucks were for just one book?
Fearing his response, I told him, “Dad, only one book, the fifth book is for 500, not five books.”
Immediately he stopped the scooter to one side of the road, got down and looked at me glaringly. “One book for 500? Do you know what you are saying? Do you think I am one of those rich dads with money trees at home? I can’t buy you one book for 500. Forget the matter.”
I hung my head and as tears were trying to spill from my eyes, I controlled my emotions till I was left in the school and I could run to the washroom to cry my heart out. The fifth book was almost in my hands, when suddenly it was snatched back, and that feeling was terrible to bear. Hurt, disappointed and angry I spent the day at school gloomily.
I went back home at 6 when special classes for tenth ended and went in the auto to home. I went directly to our kids’ room and slumped on our bed. I hear the door opening and my dad coming in. I don’t react. He sat down on the bed and asked me to sit up. I sat up and in his hands was the gleaming Harry Potter fifth book. Finally!! So surprised was I, that I just kept looking at the book. There were no words exchanged but, that was hardly necessary. He bought me the book!
Today, looking back I realize how hard it must have been for him to buy that book for me with his overburdened salary. But, that’s what dads do, right? Dads go that extra mile, that extra run and that extra bend just to see us smile.
He used to wear the same ten shirts every year, he used to wear the same Bata footwear for 2 years, but he never failed to bring us that late Saturday night biryani every week. He never failed to celebrate our birthdays while his birthdays lay forgotten for years. An unsung hero, he was, always toiling in the background, worrying about us, teaching us principles. He is like a huge fruit tree that bears fruit but never gets to eat it. I now realize how it must be for him to miss our special moment’s cause of work. It was not a happy choice that he took to work for extra hours, but it was a necessity that made us make some happy choices.
Thank you dad, for just about everything, for being the background to this beautiful scenery of life that we shared with you. Thank you! Happy Father's day!
P.S : My dad was the writer who inspired me to start writing! He remains the writer who inspires me to keep writing!