[An old high-school friend, a newly-married wife and a retired military officer’s daughter writes a letter to her hero, her Dad. To civilians, military life might seem fascinating: fighting at the front, leaving their families behind, putting their lives on the line, raising children with patriotic values, moving from base to base- it’s always glorified in the media. This letter is not about how the writer has forgotten what an amazing father she had, but about the fact that she has realised that he was not an ideal one. This letter is about accepting that even parents are people who have their own issues and one can learn to love them despite that.]
Writing to you today after ages. Since the Kargil war maybe?
Let me start by saying, you’re the best father I could’ve ever asked for.
Or is it just something I keep telling myself? The idea that your parents are the best is what we military kids tell ourselves so that we don’t have to face up to how we grew up in an abusive household.
For the longest time I thought that all the fighting in our house was completely normal. I think deep down I knew that it wasn’t normal but I was so ashamed of it that I made a happy bubble around me and pretended that everything was fine. I refused to discuss it even with my closest friends. There were times when I wondered would it be better if you and Mom chose to separate? The first time I had this thought, I felt so guilty, but then as the fights got worse and worse I realised that it might not be such a bad thing.
But these are the ramblings of a young, naive, foolish girl. Someone who thought the world existed in black and white and for whom solutions were absolute. Now I realise that the reason we had these fights at home were not because you and Mom were incompatible. I will go as far as to say that you and Mom could’ve been the best of friends. It was only because of interference from your parents, Dadu and Dadi, that my brother and I didn’t have a happy childhood.
I can’t put the blame on them fair and square and I guess I’m pulling my punches. They only interfered in your marriage because you let them. You never stood up for Mom. I’m not asking you to go against your parents, but you should have found a middle ground and made a firm decision about people not interfering in our domestic affairs. Mom was your responsibility Dad. You brought her into your house and it was your duty to make sure that no one troubled your wife. Today, now that I’m a married woman, I think I have very high expectations of my husband because I saw what you did to Mom. In a way, this has made me so much stronger, knowing that I’m the only one who will have to fight for myself.
I have so many complaints against your parents (I refuse to acknowledge them as my grandparents now) They were horrible to Mom. Dadu always created a ruckus during any important event in my life. Be it my engagement or my marriage or my graduation, I don’t think I remember any function where he did not cause a scene in front of the entire family, insulting Mom and humiliating me. I just wish you would remember that you have responsibilities beyond being a son. You have duties as a husband as a father and these should matter to you if not more, at least as much as taking care of your parents did.
Somehow Dad, I was very disappointed when you said you wouldn’t come for my marriage reception because Dadu and Dadi said they wouldn’t go. I’ve seen fathers who were so happy at their daughters’ weddings and my father let me down because of his father. You still chose to defend him saying that he was getting old now but Dad hasn’t he always been like that? Can you really not see it?
But I guess as children we live in a happy bubble and can’t knock our parents off that pedestal. How can I complain about you, you’re a soldier, you served your nation, you’ve done so much for your family, you’ve always taken care of us. Isn’t this what I always do? Idolise you more than you ever deserved?
Dad I’m going to end this letter now, without any rancour. I’m trying forgive you for not standing up for my mother. I’m working on expressing myself and communicating better.
I’ll try to remember the good times. I love you.