Papa, Don’t Preach

“I’ve made it my business to observe fathers and daughters. And I’ve seen some incredible, beautiful things. Like the little girl who’s not very cute – her teeth are funny, and her hair doesn’t grow right, and she’s got on thick glasses – but her father holds her hand and walks with her like she’s a tiny angel that no one can touch. He gives her the best gift a woman can get in this world: protection. And the little girl learns to trust the man in her life. And all the things that the world expects from women – to be beautiful, to soothe the troubled spirit, heal the sick, care for the dying, send the greeting card, bake the cake – all of those things become the way we pay the father back for protecting us…”( Adriana Trigiani, Big Stone Gap)

I got a call from my Dad this morning. Exchange of the usual pleasantries, but more importantly the un-plesantries. He starts with a Sanskrit ‘mantra’ in his beautiful,rich voice and then explains the meaning to me. I listen, enchanted as always, when my Daddy speaks. He has that gift. People love listening to him for he is an extremely well read man with fantastic communication skills. Partly,it could also be due to the fact that he is a Leo! So he loves the sound of his own voice! Don’t we all know  that Leos love being the centre of attention, lording it over lesser mortals ? 🙂

The un-pleasantries start which target my so called disgraceful Bohemian lifestyle.’You don’t take care of yourself’,’ You slept at 4 am??”, ‘What about that loser friend of yours? The one who quit his government job and is now farming?”,’How are your dogs? Have you brushed their teeth?”,’Did you hang up on your Uncle ( his pathetic brother) ?”. Blah.Blah. I get mad at this infuriatingly  adorable man in my life. I mutter sing-song like ‘Papa, don’t preach’.

That’s what my sister and would say all throughout our growing up years. But sotto voce! For one dared not disregard Don Mohapatra’s diktats. We called him ‘Don’ between us and still do 🙂 An extremely handsome man, no woman between 6 and 60 could resist his charm. In hindsight, I think he was a little bit flirtatious too. He loved talking to women and basking in their compliments. I don’t blame the women for falling like nine pins though.A handsome, intelligent, with a great sense of humor man in UNIFORM ( he is an IPS officer) were and unfortunately even today are very scarce. The flirtatiousness was casual and sweet.No hearts were broken. And the poor man could really have done nothing about it actually because his brilliant and sensationally beautiful wife was a Scorpion woman.

This gregariousness naturally was in disgustingly low measure where his daughters were concerned 🙂 Our house was like a fortress which boys and young men couldn’t enter.Unless they had proven credentials and the Lord of the house was present. The poor guys would enter after facing  a Gestapo like  interrogation by the guards. Either we would sit out in the open lawn or in the drawing rooms with every door and window open. Don believed everything and everyone should be in sight to mitigate any hanky -panky 🙂 Inevitably,one of his flunkeys would also be around on the pretext of serving snacks, tea etc.

Don wouldn’t let  off any guy who had the temerity  and had mustered the courage to chat with his daughters’ in his territory,naturally. He would descend with a ‘hello- I -shall-disembowel-you-look’ in his eyes and proceed to ask about life, future plans, Indian culture, academic performance, Hindustani Classical music etc to the now thoroughly cowed guy. I am certain that the guy’s raging hormones must surely have been very calmed , if not frozen, by the Don’s battle strategy. Yes, I must add, any bachelor officer /probationary officer who would talk to us at the parties would be immediately categorized as ‘Uncle’. Oh how I vividly remember that killer statement of Don: ‘You must take Uncle’s advice about the UPSC examination’!

Don’s preachiness extended to all aspects of life besides the guys.Thus, one had to read  ‘proper’ books,  wear ‘decent’ clothes, no make-up and high heels, no late nights. One had to be dignified and  ‘lady-like’. While my sister listened to him obediently and heeded his words and was his pet, the Don and me fought many battles and wars.

Today, I can and do smile at his preachiness. But I remember that it was my Dad who set the moon at the edge of my crib …and hung my name up in the stars.

I will always remember his words, on a warm evening, with the scent of ‘mogra’ flowers in the air. I was 16 years old. On the threshold of womanhood. He gave me that beloved dictatorial look and held my hand. And told me  clearly and strongly “Believe nothing a man tells you and everything he shows you”. That has stayed with me.

My Daddy is the BESTEST 🙂

PS: But seriously guys, maybe I should ask Madonna ,clad in one of her bustiers & fishnet stockings, to sing ‘Papa, don’t preach’ to Dad? He drives me nuts!

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