Wisdom//

Letter to Appa on Father’s Day

A daughter writes down her feelings as the family grieves a loved one and new roles are charted.

Dear Appa,

This week, we are observing Amma’s first shraddham—her first death anniversary. It is a year already, isn’t it, since we—you, Anna, I, her siblings and the scores of people she loved, lost her all of a sudden.

‘Time flies, can’t believe it is year,’ said a neighbour I bumped into in the lift the other day. And yet, as you, among all of us, most intimately know, Time has barely walked this last year. Hell, some days, it has even refused to crawl.

Appa, last Father’s Day, when I left you behind at the airport, forlorn, lonely, lost, and left to find your own rhythm after 51 years of inseparability, I quietly worried for you. You would not only have to deal with the loss of the love of your life, but the loss of your way of living as well. Yours and Amma’s lives were so much in sync, your routines were intertwined, your habits interdependent, and as you have often mentioned since—she formed the fulcrum of your existence. Keeping her happy gave you purpose.

It was she who invited people into both your lives, and it was she who kept them there. Would you retreat into a shell now? I worried. It was she who managed the home. A house-proud homemaker, she ensured the home stayed spotless. Would you be able to start keeping home at this age?  I worried. Strong and feisty as she was, the kitchen was her domain, and she had cooked every day still. How would you manage? I worried. Staying at home alone at night wasn’t something Anna and I wanted for you. Wouldn’t the trudge to Anna’s home each night—close as it was—unsettle you? I worried.

It hasn’t been easy to watch you piece together your life, Appa. When you break down, missing Amma, we can only watch helplessly, Anna and I. When you speak about why she left so soon, we can only give you our ears. When you work to discover your footing as a homemaker, we can only guide you. But, just as you, so many years ago, let us out in the world, to find our way, we had no choice but do the same for you.

It has been a year daddy, and watching you up close, this year, has been one of the greatest instructions of my adult life. Our parents teach us, overtly and through their actions, and while there is so much I admire about you and hope to acquire from you—simplicity, softness, kindness, hard work, resilience—it is truly how you have morphed, and adapted to this new life that makes me proud.

At an age when you should be ensconced in your comfort zone, looking back on a life well lived, you have pushed yourself outside it every single day. You have undertaken volunteering, something you had never done before. You have learnt to manage moody maids and their demands—something you have never had to deal with. You have learnt to reach out to friends and family, fighting your introversion, and ensuring that the bonds that Amma had nurtured for decades, have thrived.

You have built new traditions around family, and wrapped your gentle arms around us drawing us into a tightly knit circle. And you have become, at your age, a homemaker and chef extraordinaire—so on top of your game, you could run classes for young men struggling with household chores at half your age.  

Along the way, you have become, a vocal proponent of healthy living—showing us, through your own kitchen experiments, and your own life—that a wholesome healthy lifestyle is not only desirable, it is viable and possible. You have become a role model, a dietician, a health counsellor for everybody from age eight to 85, in your circle and ours, helping so many of us become leaner and fitter—through what we all only call as ‘Appa’s Diet’. You have goaded us to choose better each day, finding your purpose in making us all healthier.

And while you believe that we don’t really listen, the truth is we have not only listened, we have also seen, and we have learnt. We might not obey your dietary restrictions, but we have imbibed from you how to cope with life’s googlies without a whimper. We might not read your forwards on health, Daddy, but we have grasped how to adapt with resilience in the face of a storm, and while we might not yet be willing to learn how to reverse heart disease, Daddy, you have taught us how to not just survive tragedy, but how to, hopefully thrive.

Happy Father’s Day, Appa.

With love

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