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Dashain dakshina

- MAMINA SHRESTHA

Jan 31, 2018-Papa and I have been walking partners for a long, long time now. Maybe having no personal vehicle at home brought us together in taking long walks. We enjoy each other’s company, even when the walks are mostly quiet. We are not big on conversations.

When we are on long walks, we only murmur little something along the way.  We never have long, elaborate conversations. It is easier for us, however, to rant about random things. Papa sometimes tells me of how Mum always says one thing or the other to bother him. Sometimes, Papa tells me fondly of how he used to steal honey as a child and eat it to his heart’s content. Also, there are days when Papa tells me how it is getting a bit difficult for him because of all the expenses that need to be taken care of. On some days he tells me how he’d appreciate if either my brother or I learnt how to ride a scooter. To which I retort: “But then, we’d rarely walk and I’d hate it, Papa.”  He just smiles and says, “Well that’s true too. At least, to some extent. But a scooter really wouldn’t hurt, would it?”

I know that now Papa has a lot of trouble walking. His health isn’t as good as it used to be back when I was ten and he would carry me on his back after he returned home from work. Now, because of a nervous condition on his back, our walks have shortened terribly and rides are out of question.

Nevertheless, we walk sometimes. The walks are short—just around the block while we shop for groceries. Our talks have also shortened, with the distance. Now, I spend most of my days outside of home and he spends a majority of his time inside. Papa listens while I tell him stories about how my friends at work keep me happy and make me feel at ease. I also tell him about how I enjoy writing and how it makes me feel good, also brave.

Papa tells me he is happy that I write. Also, he tells me I should set a target certain number of pieces every month. But my writer’s block is terrible. They hurt me immensely and on days when I am unable to write, I am not me. I don’t tell him all this. Papa also doesn’t ask me if I met my targets, like I said—we are not big talkers.

I am a big-time daddy’s girl. I have always been one. But last year, Papa and I had a lot of disagreements and disappointments toward one another. A part of me knows that he was mad at me for not being the ‘good daughter’ I used to be. I know now that I wasn’t good because I was hurt that things between Papa and me were not the same anymore. A majority of which I blamed on “growing up” and our shortened time together. But, because we both never said that out loud, we just got farther apart through the months.

While Dashain and Tihar came and went, Papa and I just argued more and got distant—angry and hurt on both ends. Papa gave me one fifty-rupee note last Dashain and just silently marked my forehead with the red tika. And this was only after Mum talked sense into both of us for hours. I just took the crisp note exactly how Papa folded it and kept it inside my pen holder, careful not to change a crease on it.

Months have gone by now. Things are a bit different. We are now close to how we used to be before. Papa takes me on little walks now, asks me how my day went and also keeps reminding me I have to study and not just work. On some days, I tell him about my day in all its gory details and on some days, I just sit close to him near the heater or lie down next to him in bed and try to calm my nerves. Papa understands and doesn’t bother with talks on those days and neither do I. On some days, Papa comes near Basantapur and gives me a call at 5 o’clock to ask if I’d like to walk him home. I call him back once I am done at work and then walk from Gyaneswor to Basantapur listening to songs, all eager for the walk home with Papa.

That Rs 50 note is still as it was when Papa gave it to me—the creases are unaltered and so are the red tika marks at its corners. I haven’t told Papa about how scared I was that the note he gave me would be the last dakshina I’d ever receive from him. I probably won’t tell him. Because that’s exactly how we are.

Shrestha is a BSc student at St Xavier’s College

Published: 31-01-2018 11:57

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