Being a ‘brave’ daughter

Being a ‘brave’ daughter

When I was a teenager in school, my parents, particularly my father, were bent on my faring well in academics. My father would egg me on by saying, “Why not try for the Pope Medal?” This was a medal given to the student who stood first in the ICSE examination jointly in both Bishop Cotton Boys’ School and Bishop Cotton Girls’ School. I knew that it was next to impossible, but I placated myself saying, “Only if one aims for the sky will one at least reach the trees!”

But what seriously held me back from pursuing grandiose, hyper-ambitious goals was my Achilles heel, which was my poor marks in Hindi, my second language. “Something must be done about this,” wrote my Class 9 teacher, Mrs Joseph. My ambitious parents asked whether it would be possible for me to take Hindi tuitions at school, which was usually meant only for the boarders. I told my parents that, perhaps, if I showed enthusiasm and was ready to stay back after school, they may grant me permission.

“Bingo!” exclaimed dad, “Tomorrow ask your class teacher.” The next day as I got ready for school, I began feeling intimidated about approaching my class teacher. I am an extreme introvert, silent and painfully shy, and could not summon up the courage to ask her.

That evening, I told my dad, “Why don’t you ask her? If parents ask, they generally take the request more seriously.” My father could see my nervousness but he could also see that I was adamant about tuition. So, at the next Parent-Teacher Meeting, my parents turned up, met all my teachers, and broached this topic. Contrary to what I thought, my teachers were extremely supportive and were happy that I wanted tuition to improve my prospects. It was decided that I would be allowed to take tuition from Mrs Pai, an excellent Hindi teacher, from the next academic year.

Years passed by. After school, I studied at Mount Carmel College and later went abroad. When I returned, I could see that my parents were battling age-related illnesses, that kept cropping up sporadically. But it was in 1998 when my father had to be hospitalised due to his symptoms of breathlessness.

Once at the hospital, he showed me a passage from the book, Winnie the Pooh by Christopher Robin, “My dear daughter, If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is even if we’re apart, I’ll always be with you.” His voice quivered and there were tears in his eyes as he closed the book. A few days later, he died.

It’s been 20 years since, but even to this day, whenever I see that passage from Winnie the Pooh, my eyes flood with tears as I recall my father’s legacy of wanting to leave behind a daughter who was not a cowardly wimp, but one with guts and courage. Thanks, dad!