My dear Baba,
Most often, I start off my writings with the dictionary definition of a particular word, a word that’s the main theme of that particular piece I’m writing. So, today I would like to start off this letter by providing the Oxford Dictionary definition of the word “Gratitude”: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
By now you must have understood that the purpose of writing this letter is to show my gratitude to you, though that’s practically impossible. But you know your daughter tries to perform every experiment. So, this is a Thanksgiving experiment for you.
When I was a child (I know I’m still the same child), I had a recurring nightmare where you were loving my siblings more than me. You were feeding them food by yourself and making me eat on my own. You were loving them for their each and every activity and scolding me for everything. The most haunting part was you telling me that you were not my Baba and I was an adopted one, which was why you loved the other siblings more than me. But now that I’ve grown up, I know that the Oxford Dictionary defines a nightmare as a very unpleasant and frightening dream or prospect and you always said nightmares were from Shaitan and we need not pay heed to them. I proudly conclude, therefore, that I’m totally not an adopted child.
I grew up thinking I wasn’t loved, and that I was being punished for something I didn’t do. Now that I am older, I laugh and almost cry at the way I treated you. You wanted the best for me. You wanted me to make something of myself and you just tried to keep me out of trouble. You used to tell me, “When you’re older, you will understand”. I am starting to see that now. You have raised me the best way that you possibly could, even if I didn’t like it at times. You were hard on me, like, really hard. I never understood it as a kid and thought I would resent you for it, but I feel the exact opposite now. I am thankful for your strict ways for many reasons; you have made me the person I am today.
Most importantly, because of your strict ways, I appreciate things that others take for granted. Many young adults take their parents and their family for granted. They resent their parents for things they have or haven’t done and do not try to meet their expectations. I am thankful to have a father like you, who taught me to stay humble and kind and to love with all my heart, and most importantly, to be thankful for what I have been given and for what I have worked hard to get.
As a lover of classic literature, I have tried to read some works of Anne Bradstreet, who was one of the most prominent early English poets of North America. She wrote a poem, ‘To Her Father with Some Verses’, in honour of her father. The poem is in the voice of a grateful daughter, who knows she is unable to repay the debt she owes to her father but is trying to do the little she can to show her gratitude – by writing a small poem.
I can never be Anne Bradstreet or any Anne (There are many classical poetesses with the first name Anne) but I feel that Anne Bradstreet wrote this poem on behalf of every grateful daughter, including Sobia. I wouldn’t have written this long letter and would have just preferred to send that poem to you, but you know, I have to be dramatic every time.
So, Baba, this poem isn’t written by me, but it’s definitely for you.
“Most truly honoured, and as truly dear,
If worth in me or ought I do appear,
Who can of right better demand the same
Than may your worthy self from whom it came?
The principal might yield a greater sum,
Yet handled ill, amounts but to this crumb;
My stock’s so small I know not how to pay,
My bond remains in force unto this day;
Yet for part payment take this simple mite,
Where nothing’s to be had, kings lose their right.
Such is my debt I may not say forgive,
But as I can, I’ll pay it while I live;
Such is my bond, none can discharge but I,
Yet paying is not paid until I die.”
You were always there in my plenty of ‘firsts.’ Your name was my first spoken word, you planned my first vacation, you signed my first marksheet, you helped me celebrate my every first moment. In my entire 20-something life, you had to be and you were always there with me. In all of life’s situations, in all the house drama, in all my decisions, you were, you are, my go-to person. You narrated to me mythological stories and recited prayers from religious scriptures. The 3-year-old me was enamoured by the idea of spirituality and God, thanks to your wise words. Thanks for punishing me and my siblings hard every time we skipped our prayers. Thanks for dropping me off to school and letting go of my tightly-held hand. Your smile and cheerful words taught the 5-year-old teary-eyed me to walk ahead towards new beginnings, without wavering.
For always giving me a little pocket money, yet teaching me the importance of using it wisely, thank you. Financial management and generosity were two subjects the 15-year-old me learnt well from you. Thanks for setting the clocks in the house at least fast minutes early from the “sheher been” (A Radio Kashmir broadcast). The disorganised 16-year-old me learnt her lesson in punctuality in this way.
I can never thank you enough, even if I do wonders. But I can promise to be there for you as long as I’m alive. I can promise to be a good daughter, to be a good woman, now and hereafter.
I wish I could carve this line all over the earth for you: “My stock’s so small I know not how to pay.”
Happy Father’s Day, Baba.
I love you.
Sobia (Thanks for this name, too; it sounds so much like Anne)
The writer is a bachelor’s student at Aligarh Muslim University. [email protected]