“Still Awake?”

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The table clock at my bed side showed 3 and its dark outside the window. My eyes were swollen, both due to crying and feeling sleepy. The ceiling above was different that night, and after eighteen years a change of place was bothering me. I stared at my phone for a few minutes and a tear drop rolled down my cheek. I never had to call papa in all these years when I used to miss him, because I knew that he would be back by evening and I can go running to him and hug him. But from now on I would have to dial his number on my phone and just his voice would be my share of happiness for the day for the next four years of college. I dialed his number and his photo flashing on my phone that I had saved when he bought me the new phone before I was leaving for Bhopal brought a faint smile on my face. I suddenly realised that its quite late and he must be sleeping after a tiresome day…… And hung up immediately! I thought the memories in my store would be more than enough for this night to go.

They say men don’t cry, but fathers do. It was all a new experience for me watching the hostel environment and the whole day I was excited to move into a new place. But as soon as I realised that this life would snatch away the most important part of me….that is maa-papa, I broke into tears. I cried like a baby, hugging papa, not worrying about the people around me and mocking. He tried to console me that he would just be a call away, or few hours of train journey away, but I knew that he was actually trying to console himself. His eyes flickered and I realised my tears were making things more difficult for him. That day when he looked at me from a distance going into the hostel, he kept standing there till he could see the last bit of me vanishing.The first time I traveled alone in train from Bhopal to Mumbai, I could see him waiting outside the station to receive me. He smiled,” Oh! you are a big girl now!”, then held my hand to cross the road. How much I grow up, how far I go, I would still be the 5 year old for him, whom he used to narrate stories while feeding, built up stories on being late from office, carried in his arms once I was tired, did everything ……silently! Days before my summer vacations started, a carton of mangoes would be waiting for me at home. No one would be allowed to have even a single piece of them….well protected by papa and opened only when I reached home, although mangoes are his favourite too. A week before the holidays ended he would have already started to be sad on missing me after they get over. He would enter my room often just to ask a question,”How many days to go?”, and leave nodding. Words cannot express every emotion right?He says very little but can go distances for me.He taught me what patience is, what togetherness is, what love is! Holding hands for life might just be a phrase for a few out there, but he made me realise that words can be reality for a few. Being a small kid, less did I know the gravity of the situation when maa was not well. Papa was just the perfect mom in town…both for me and maa back then! My friends at school laughed at the untidy braids, but I knew papa had given his best shot in the morning. Maggi,and bread-omlette was all that he could cook, and each day my lunchbox would contain some of his experiments with those. Under-cooked maggi, and burnt toasts they were, but even now when I go home, I insist on having those back! Each morning when he used to drop me to school, the five minutes’ ride on his scooter in haste…and discussing school in that short period of time,”Papa yesterday I fought with her”,”You know I am participating in a story telling competition next week!”, “I am worried about my result papa”……… I miss those talks, those rides and his company now. He had enough work load of his own, still my stupid tensions were his priority to look into. The news of his promotion faded when I told him that I had topped in class. For him I was always the priority. Even when I would grow up and long to become someone’s queen, I know I would always be his princess!Being a small kid I used to wonder how come my piggy bank was always full even when I used to spend everything on ice creams and chocolates, years later I realised when my bank account automatically had enough money each time I thought I am running short of money. Papa always understood what I wanted, and even before asking for things, they would be already waiting for me. When I wanted an expensive smart phone, Papa said.”What would I do with a new phone, instead you should have one as you are going to college ”. When I went shopping, Things appeared very cheap for him, but when it was his turn, buying anything appeared to be a wastage of money for him. I ordered Chinese in the restaurant and he ate it without uttering a word, even when he hated Chinese. And all this was done without expecting a thing in return from me. I used to get irritated when he could not use all those apps, or fumbled with the new devices. But he has devoted years just to make me what I am today, starting from the A B C D which I took days to remember or the chemistry assignments which he used to help me with. No matter how I be to him, he is always the same person for me. The whole world may turn upside down, people may change around me, constants in life too may depart but one person I will always find by my side is him.

I looked over my shoulder at the table clock again……it was 3:10 now. I had seen my whole life in these few minutes. Just then my phone rang, and I could hear the voice ……”Still awake beta?”

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