Letters from a father to a daughter


letters from father to daughter

 

I am writing this letter to you with a long face. I dropped you at a daycare centre only an hour ago. As a three month old, you did not even notice me leaving. One of the teachers was holding you on her lap and was reading to you. A little seven month old boy was very happy that you joined the daycare.  As soon as I brought you in, he started smiling non-stop and made many a noise to attract your attention.  For the record, all you did in return was to look at the ceiling fan. He goes into history as the first baby who was so happy to know you.

In the meanwhile, you have already made more people happy than you can imagine. Grandma Karin was so ecstatic when she first saw you that I thought she was going to run around the hospital kissing everyone she can find.  Mommy was sitting on the bed very tired when the doctor suddenly took you and gave you to her barely two minutes after you were born.  I tried hard to find a way to tell you how happy she felt – but believe me – the best of writers will never be able to find a way to describe it.  After all, in that one moment you ended many years of desperately wanting to hold you, and that very moment she held what will be her joy for years and years and years to come.

Some people do the most ordinary things in the most defining moments of their lives. That day, it was my turn. Before I get into those details, let me dispel what might become a myth if I do not tell you the truth. There are those who say that daddies faint when babies are born, and I am very sure that your mother will tell you that at some point. For the record, I was very composed and completely in my senses. For a little while, I let your mother hold my hand. After you were born, it was all overwhelming and so I just took the camera and started taking pictures and kept going around and round the room making sure that I do not trip on the nurses.  You will find in the future that the pictures are quite ordinary. Not much thought went into taking good pictures. Not much thought went into anything.  If you are disappointed in the pictures on a later day, I would like to tell you that you share a very good part of that blame.

As I think about that day, I can barely believe that it is already three months; nor can I believe that it has only been three months.  You are twice the size, you sometimes speak non-stop and you have your favourite toys. You have also met a lot of people.  Aunt Alison spent two weeks with you and she would not put you down.  Vaidehi patti and Seenu tatha demand to see on video all the time.  They have been seeing you and talking to you for three months, but there was that one day when you turned towards the camera and looked right at patti – for the first time.  One look is all it took and patti could not contain her joy.  She gave the tablet to tatha and ran to her bed so that she can sit down and wipe a stream of happy tears.  And once in the last three months, I even caught Frank tatha dancing with you in his hands in the middle of the night.  It is only three months and you are already such a large part of our lives.

I came back home an hour ago and sat down in the very chair that I had used a thousand times before. But by now, I have come to expect to hear the sound of a just waking baby to who I can rush and say ‘good morning uma kutti’ at any time of the day.  You normally smile, tilt your head and rest that sumptuous cheek on your raised shoulder as if you were shy; and then you would raise both your arms and push your chest out as if you had just won an athletic contest – in truth you were just stretching like a lazy girl.  And then, I would give you kisses.  Today is another day and a new routine.  I have come back to the same chair that is not the same anymore.

 

In 1928 Jawaharlal Nehru wrote a series of letters to his daughter, which was then published with this title.  You are barely 3 months old and not yet ready to read, but I thought that I should write to you so that you can look back at your younger days through words as much as you can through still and motion pictures.  Memorable as they are, photos and videos need a lot of skill and luck to capture the times, and I hope that words can fill some of the gaps that the rest will inevitably leave.

About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.

Leave a comment