When people they say they have amazing fathers, I know what they’re talking about. I smile. At the same time, though, I’m thinking, ‘But I have the best one.’ This is a contestable assertion in its subjectivity, but you know, I know. When my sister was six years old and had to learn to read time for a school assignment, my dad drew a series of circles on unlined paper, on sheets and sheets of it, using my mother’s silver bangle. Then, he meticulously made clock faces in these circles, marking out a variety of time reading puzzles, five past seven, quarter to three, noon, two twenty nine. And till my sister’s face was not screwed up in concentration, tears threatening to stream out of her button eyes, he would soldier on, asking her to not stop asking questions. Dinner invitations and the beginnings of movies were missed, but his kids had to have his time, it was no other way.
When I was going through my ‘god is dead’, ‘men are buggers’, ‘I’m only going to wear shorts every day of my life’ phases, he was indulgent; his views never too far from the conversation, but never didactic enough to oppress. He religiously texted me in German when I was learning it, a language he hadn’t used in over thirty years, so that I had the practice I needed. My mother has squirmed hearing me debate all manner of things with friends of the family over cocktails and dinner, while my father looks on, a half smile playing on his lips, enjoying my contentions.
He’s the best bluffer I know at cards, losing money easily, his cool effortlessly. He taught me the theory of a car for three days before actually teaching me to drive, because no daughter of his was going to clutch-ride, flag down fellows to change tyres or not know how to gently rock the back of the car so every drop of petrol made its way into the tank.
He waves both his hands in greeting and farewell when we speak over FaceTime and uses all manner of emoticons on Whatsapp. He only acknowledges the existence of my boyfriends after I’ve broken up with them – ‘Oh yeah, how is that guy?’ He interrupts me when he thinks I have my facts wrong, he tells me where countries are before I consult a map, adding information on capitals and minor notes on their history for good measure.
Two days from now, when I call him to wish him a happy Diwali, he’ll give me a mini-lecture on the festival before reciprocating. He’ll laugh when I’ll say he reminds me of Mr. Portokalos from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. And when he does, I’ll miss him even more than I do everyday.