"How are you? Everything okay? Under control?”
It was a first from my dad… okay, it’s a first for me to be pregnant and ready to pop and all of that, and I notice the dynamic around me slowly change with every passing month, but still… this degree of articulated concern from the father is something I haven’t been used to. And I have been through enough to deserve it.
For the longest time, I was always ‘one of the boys’ as far as my dad was concerned. We went to the same salon for a haircut when I was little, watched matinees together, played rummy, I was his errand girl for ciggies till my mother put a blanket ban on it, he inducted me into watching test cricket… exploring obscure places on the map, and quizzing. What we also shared was a passion for cooking, in which we collaborated quite often, to produce delicacies ‘off the rack’
Of course he also took me shopping, but it was always, “One, two three… pick up something soon, while I have a smoke at the door. Five minutes?”
Later, as I dated suitable and unsuitable boys, he had just a peripheral interest in what they were all about, and rarely went beyond a handshake or a grunt in his communication. To him, they were mere distractions, something that his "limited attention span Gemini daugher" would soon lose interest in, and until I announced I was marrying the man, he was never of any consequence.
It’s true that he never thought I needed to be ‘escorted’ for an early morning class that I had to take a 5.30 am train for (and the railway station was a good twenty minute walk from the house), or even fetch me post a late night excursion. As my mother whined about how times were bad and one had to take special care of daughters, my dad puffed away, “She is a tough one,” he would say. “I wouldn’t worry about her..”
I guess I was, and amply demonstrated it at age fourteen on a trip to Delhi, when a country bumpkin tried to paw me in one of the Teen Murti Bhavan museums… I picked up a stool to hit him with before dad arrived and tried to calm me down. He realized then that I was a woman.
Now, as I waddle into my last stage of pregnancy, dad can’t help but notice how vulnerable I am, physically at least… and I can sense that there is a lot he wants to say and ask, but all he manages, on the phone or in person is, “How are you?”
I guess it’s a big deal for him being a grand dad and all of that. More importantly, he realizes that finally, we will be even. We will soon both be parents, and that’s a bit surreal to deal with.