MORE than two decades ago, a tall beautiful twelve year old girl waved her “dandiya’ stick at me and smiled. I looked at her, my grown-up daughter and there I was standing outside the doors of the maternity ward. “A girl, sir,” the nurse said and disappeared back into the confines of the unknown room.
“A girl,” I said and my heart beat faster in ecstasy. “My dream girl, My daughter.” I drove my old scooter through the still busy streets of Bombay and found an old Irani restaurant, crowded though midnight had come and gone.
I sat at an empty table and sipped a cup of tea trying to share my happiness with all around. “One day,” I said, “she’ll be eighteen and we’ll come back over here and we’ll share a cup of tea together.” “Don’t let her head slip,” snapped my wife as I tried to hold my new –born in my arms. “You’ll make her cry now,” said my mother-in-law as she tried to take my own from my hands. I clutched the little bundle and looked down at the tightly-closed eyes. There was not a whimper, there was just a suggestion of a smile, her eyes closed a little tighter and I held on tight.
“When you are eighteen,” I said silently to her, “we’ll be great friends together.” She knew my touch, she neither cried nor moved, but I had spoken to her little head, I gave her back to her mother. She would grow up for me. “Varuna,” said my wife. “A lovely name,” I thought and watched the priest bless her with the same.
“She’s mine,” I thought, “and one day we’ll sit together and talk, like two adults.” A dream, a fantasy, a far-away scene that was so close to my heart. The school down the road seemed like a concentration camp. The two hours she was in there spelt a deep agony for me as I stood outside.
“She’s growing,” I said, “and soon she’ll be a big girl. We’ll be friends, more than a father and daughter.” My dream was slowly taking shape. The tall, beautiful girl waved her ‘dandiya’ stick at me and smiled. “How did the years go by,” I wondered. “And why so fast?” I watched as she gracefully did the dance. Her steps were light and her movements graceful. I thought of the little scream as she came into the world. I thought of her little self in my arms. My mind wandered back to her first days in school and I smiled back at her.
“She’s grown,” I thought, “and will soon sit across the table and talk to me, a grown-up woman.” I watched her step into the light, her eyes bright and shining, my daughter tall and beautiful, “Dreams can wait,” I said slowly to myself, “Grow up slowly, my little twelve-year-old. Dreams can wait..!”