My Dad is my superhero. He not only gave his daughters the freedom of choice in their lives, but also supported them in their choices.
The year was 2008. The month was August. I was in the USA with my husband, on his work assignment. One morning, my husband opened the online newspaper and chanced upon the news about severe floods in Bihar. He asked me whether I had heard from my parents recently. I had not. I had not been able to call them for the last few days.
And then he broke the news to me, about the severe flood around my hometown in Bihar. I ran to the screen and frantically started searching through the open page for the names of the flood-hit areas. There it was. That was where my father was posted as the chief medical officer.
We anxiously started dialing the numbers. No response. We tried multiple times but were utterly unsuccessful in our attempts. Ultimately, we called my sister and she described the bleak scenario in the village block that my father was posted in.
I heard it all with pride and pain.
Pride in the inconceivable degree of love and dedication in my father towards his village people – so much so that he stayed behind in that flooded village to help people fight the hardships rather than taking off to a safer place.
Pain in the avoidable suffering that my parents were going through on the 2nd storey of the half immersed hospital building in that flooded village. My father’s resolve to be there for his village people, his altruism in serving by treating patients and distributing medicines among the village poor, wading through the waist deep flood water, endangering his own safety is something I had only read in story books. Such is my dad, my real life superhero.
When I think of my dear Babai ( that’s how I affectionately address my Father), his generosity, his genuineness, his soothing smile instantly adds cheer to an otherwise gloomy day… like magic. And I walk down memory lane, my little fingers tucked in his protective hand. I don’t remember seeing my father upset or complaining over his super hectic day or his multiple liabilities as the sole bread winner of a large family. I only remember that ever-present sincere soothing smile that spreads cheer and absorbs all pain.
He is an excellent physician for whom serving the village poor in the remote villages of Bihar has always weighed more than fame or a flourishing career in a big city. He has been there for the people of his village – night and day, rain and sun, their companion through poverty and disease, eradicating the worst of their fears.
I have witnessed him run to save the life of some anonymous teenage daughter-in law who had taken recourse to poison, unable to bear with the unending demands of her ‘new family’.
I have seen him assist the village poor with free medical aid and financial help. I have seen him monitor patients in critical conditions, patients in labour pain, farmers who have been victims to snake bites, round the clock, till they are safe and out of danger.
His care and commitment tells me that he is a father figure to his patients. An affectionate and sensitive father to three girls, I have seen my dad champion the rights of women in the village – access to education, a decent age of marriage as opposed to early teenage marriage prevalent among the economically deprived.
He works incessantly with his band of loyal soldiers to spread awareness in the remotest villages about the importance of hygiene, disease prevention and so on. He tells us, “do good to others but don’t keep records of your good deeds. Help selflessly just because someone needs your help and let that be enough.” Such
is my dad, the real life superhero.
We are three siblings. All girls. But I have never ever heard my dad lament, “I wish I had a son.” He always says, “I am so fortunate to have daughters.” The village didn’t have good schools. It was my mother’s dream to gift us with good education in good formal schools. My father was very supportive and with co-operation and assistance from my maternal uncles and aunts, my mother’s dream came true. I was admitted into a very good school in south Bihar (present day Jharkhand) and stayed with my maternal uncle till my first board exams.
I have seen many dads and moms impose their aspirations on their children. But that has never been the tragedy with us. We have always been granted the free will on whatever we have wanted to pursue. I can’t thank my parents enough for that. After my graduation, people in the village started to anxiously enquire about my dad’s marriage plans for me. 21 was a mature age for a lady to still be single, after all. Plus we were three sisters, yet to be married. I had once overheard my father answer a concerned well wisher in this manner, “She has her whole life ahead of her. I want her to live her dreams. May be , even go for higher education, if she wants to .”
With a pat on my back from my father, I went on to pursue post graduation. Appearing in the UPSC exams had been my cherished dream. So, a year after completing my post graduation, I placed the big question in front of my parents. I was around 24. Despite being aware of the dismal success rates in the UPSC exams, my father unhesitatingly gave an affirmative nod.
I went to New Delhi – the Mecca for civil services aspirants. I worked very hard for two years but could not clear the exams. My failure in the exams cost me a crushed dream and my father a considerable amount of investment with zero returns. Tuition fees for IAS coaching classes are high and so is the cost of living in the capital city.
That train journey from New Delhi back to Katihar has been the most difficult journey for me, till date. I was returning empty-handed, with dejection, shame, and guilt. I was battling with these feelings and was ashamed to face my pillar, my dad – whom I had totally and terribly failed. And, there he was at the railway station, wearing that soothing smile. No anger or visible disappointment on his face. I ran to him, apologetic tears in my eyes. He hugged me and said, “Don’t worry, it will be all right.”
Such is my dad, my real life superhero.
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