Sharanya Misra

A little girl, all of 7, sat by her window looking out. Where is Daddy, she thought impatiently. He had promised her a gift this evening. She rushed to the door as her father’s car pulled up. Gift Gift Gift! He laughed as he placed a large brown envelope into her tiny hands. Open it. The girl peeped into the packet, puzzled. It was a small book. Chicken Licken. Yellow, hard bound. Her first ever book. She had loved it.

It has been 22 years since. But the warm glow in my heart even today is just the same every time I think of that moment. That day, when my Dad placed that brown packet in my hand, he didn’t just give me a book, he gave me my soul, my whole being. He gave me a world I couldn’t fathom existed! A world that began in his library at home.

The red cloth-bound Heidi, with his name and a date from his time at college, written in his hand on the first yellowed page. Oh, what pleasure my baby mind derived from it, as I ran up the hills of Switzerland with Heidi. My Experiments with Truth, Ramayan, Mahabharat, Pride & Prejudice, Sherlock Holmes…I would pick a book, finish it off and run back to him for another, never to be disappointed. His library was an unending source of fuel for my imagination.

As I grew up, he would let me go to the bookstore every other weekend, so I could purchase the next The Secret Seven or The Famous Five. Every vacation would entail stocking up on Tinkles for the journey. I had inherited his love of building a collection, and he knew it. Never was I questioned when I said I wanted to buy a book and not borrow it. No matter how expensive, I was never ever denied a book. Knowledge has no price, he would say. And slowly Agatha Christie, Enid Blyton, abridged versions of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer & Robinson Crusoe, Dracula and The Princess Diaries began appearing alongside Ramchandra Guha, Pablo Neruda and Amartya Sen in his collection.

I would often come back home from college to find my room clean, all my books neatly arranged in the corner, and a new one propped on my pillow for me to read – sometimes it would be a Reader’s Digest, sometimes a book bought specially for me, like Letters From a Father to his Daughter by Jawaharlal Nehru. I would have just finished one book when another would silently and magically appear.

And then one day, something changed. My wedding was just a few weeks away and I had to pack what I wanted to take along with me. And that’s when it struck me. It was time to split the collection. I stood looking at the shelves, asking myself which was mine and which was my Dad’s. With shivering hands, I tried picking a few, but I knew I couldn’t do it. This was no longer a library. It was a world of shared memories that we had built over the years, together, as Father and Daughter. It was a piece of my heart entwined with his, and I knew then, I didn’t want to take anything away. I knew, that each time I would come visit my parents thereafter, the thing I most wanted to see was my Dad sitting at his table penning his thoughts, as always, surrounded by a legacy that he began and then passed on to us, his children. As I silently made up my mind, my Dad walked in to examine the books and said, Ayn Rand! Is this yours? Have you read it? I nodded a yes to see admiration in his eyes, his daughter had outgrown Enid Blyton and he seemed to have realised it. Do read it Dad, it’s a great book, I said, with a catch in my throat.

Looking back, I can’t help but wonder how my life would have shaped up if I hadn’t discovered that magical land 22 years ago. Those who know me personally, would know that my love for the written word goes beyond the superficial. It’s a world within this world that I am most comfortable in. It’s a part of me, my true self, the part that embraces me, makes me forget all my worries and that understands who I am, like none other. It’s a part I cannot imagine my life without. And most importantly, it’s a part of my Father that I have inherited, a part that has made me whole.

Watching my Dad write all my life, it was but natural that I have eventually taken to writing as well. But it is incredible knowing that this passion that I call my own today, was carefully planted and lovingly nurtured by him for years! And now, each time I pen down my thoughts, I know, that the words that flow through are as much from his soul as they are from mine!

Happy Father’s Day, dear Daddy!

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