My daughter Minnie (who is now ten) and I are great friends. We treat each other as equals and she, not I, is the first among the two equals.
While being rather subdued with her mother who is an impatient and strict disciplinarian, with me Minnie is quite assertive, does not suffer fools, lets her mind be known, is often in charge on matters she thinks important.
We are in Laos then and Minnie is eight, studying at the Vientiane International School. She needs a set of crayons for some project work and asks me, before leaving for school one morning, to get her a set. I promise her that she will have her set that very evening.
Now, by the time I reach office, because my mind is preoccupied with an important deadline, I get it mixed up and instead of asking my driver to buy a set of crayons, I ask him to get a set of sketch pens.
That evening, after I get back from office, Minnie gives me the regular welcome-home-glad-to-see-you-Dad hug and then enquires if I have got her the crayons.
“Crayons? .. umm … err .. well .. I though you needed sketch pens. So I got you some nice sketch pens” I say. I have a feeling that I have got it mixed up.
Now a sketch pen is a sketch pen and a crayon is a crayon. Those of you who have dabbled in colours know well that depending on the nature of the work and need, crayons and sketch pens can be as different as chalk and cheese, and one cannot substitute the other.
“O.M.G sketch pens? But I asked you to get me crayons and not sketch pens Baba*!” exclaims Minnie.
“Oh I am sorry …” I begin to mutter when Minnie fixes me with a stern look and in a frustrated and reprimanding tone says, like a school teacher did in the days bygone did to a errant pupil,
“Baba! You don’t pay attention; you don’t listen properly; you don’t follow instructions and you mess things up! I needed crayons for my work and now I have to do with sketch pens!”
Well that certainly is a rather poor report card from a daughter and my performance as Dad is seriously wanting, I gather. I crumple, and look miserable. Before I can say something, Minnie stomps out of the room. Indeed I should have paid more attention and certainly I have messed it up, I begin to mull over.
And then, probably recalling the miserable look on my face and feeling sorry, Minnie comes back, pauses, looks at me and gives me a tight hug. “It is okay Babi*, I will manage with the sketch pens” she says into my ears, wrapping my head in her little arms.
“And you know what? You are still the best Dad in the whole world and I love you the most” she adds.
“Not sure if I am the best Dad in the whole world Shona (dear), but I certainly am the luckiest Dad in the whole world. I love you the most” I say.
I get Minnie her crayons the next day.
My eight year old daughter taught me that evening that while we can be the most stringent of our loved ones, we can also be the most forgiving of them. Well isn’t that the very nature of Love?
*Bengali kids generally call their fathers Baba or Abba. With me, Minnie uses a more personalized and endearing version – Babi. But when she is upset with me, she invariably reverts to the more formal Baba. Moreover, Minnie and I generally converse in Bengali, but when either of us wants to communicate something serious or is unhappy with the other, we shift to more formal English.