Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Miracle in the Meeting Room

An Unreal Story, That Happened to Me...

I have over three hundred powerpoint files on my laptop, which can roughly also mean that I have made the same number of presentations in the past eight years, plus minus a few that may have got lost, not been backed up, or missing for reasons that seem irrelevant today.

There are few things that I have almost got used to the routine of making these presentations.

The drive to the client's office is usually a long one, sometimes catching up with emails, phone calls, ideations, small talk, but one thing doesn't change, traffic, and the impatience that comes along with it. 

A standard template text message to the client informing about the duration of delay, expected arrival time, and an apology which in most cases I don't really mean from the bottom of my heart, but more of blame the infrastructure that our honest municipality offer us here in Mumbai.

Thirdly, comes the irritating security at the gates, most of them untrained in basics of manners, mostly making you look like a hindrance in their lives, and almost giving you the feeling that your laptop is a ticking time bomb. 

A register to mark your entry, with your name, company, mobile number, and some more details I have to give voluntarily. I wouldn't be surprised if they ask me my education qualification, underwear size, and other intricate and personal details. There always is a completely stupid form field, called Purpose, and its Official all the time, I can bet my life that if I write, Bombing, Mass killing, Data Theft and I'll happily be allowed to pass through. This is then followed with a leash around you neck, with a big black font of 72 point size, saying VISITOR.
So much for Atithi Dev Bhava. 

Part 5, is a rude, or fake smiled receptionist, who will ask who you want to meet, but never dials to tell them you have arrived, which you then have to inform via your cellphone.  

Then comes the "reception meditation" - Which is the endless silent wait for the client to finally have some pity on you lingering around.

Followed by the hunt for a meeting room, after battling with others, which is no less than the Panipat Battle of the 18th century. 

Finally you are in. A few handshakes, exchanging visiting cards, the treacherous long wait for the laptop to load, the projector to connect and Eureka! It's camera, lights, action!

Only this time the story takes a new turn.
An unexpected turn I would never ever forget in my whole life. Who knew?

So its the usual, loading the laptop, cards exchanged and a wait for a few more colleagues to join in. 

Small talk.

The man on the head of the conference table, is a senior, grey haired, jolly looking man, content with his position, and fairly senior in designation. His personality exhumed confidence and an aura of experience.  

My colleague is elated with his presence.

"It is an honor to have your presence in one of presentations Sir!"

He laughs at the compliment and doesn't accept it, humbly.

"I like this guy", I say to myself. Something nice about him.

The wait is a little longer than we expect. The man picks up my card out of lack of activity going around, and studies it...

"You know my first boss' surname was also Merchant, he tells me. We were in Indo Pharma, Biddle Sawyer and some other companies together." He says fondly almost slipping into nostalgia.

The companies he names sounded very familiar. I had heard them, and not because I work closely with the healthcare market, but for other reasons. I had heard these names in my childhood. These companies didn't exist anymore, and No! I wasn't an ardent reader of the newspaper then.

I am tempted to ask him, and for some reason I don't hesitate. 

An unusual question.

Sir, what was your first boss' name?

Yasin Merchant, he replies promptly.

I feel a huge surge of emotion. 
My ears feel the gush of blood. 
Adrenaline pumps.
Heart beats faster.
My excitement cannot be contained. 
My hands feel a tremble. 
I manage to mumble a sentence.

"That's my Dad"

Six people in the conference room. 
All turn their heads to me, unbelievably.

The gentleman verifies my statement. 
"You mean, Yasin Merchant, from Kemps Corner?" 
"The building which was near Cumballa Hill?"
"Tall, lean man who used to smoke?"

And I am just nodding my head in approval. Yes yes yes....

I stand up and shake hands with him again. This time it was different, not like a business handshake. It was on an emotional level, because words couldn't not explain 'our' excitement levels, and the entire room sensed it.

The gentleman, begins narrating anecdotes about my father. He recalls the times when he interacted with him. He starts with his personality, tall, dark, sharp, very good at his work, how he was mentored by him, how he was 'brewed' by him, my dad was his inspiration and how he was a big reason behind this man's success.
It is a five minute speech. 

In between the man's boss comes in, but that doesn't deter him from going on.

I am overwhelmed. I cannot contain my tears. I can almost feel my eyes moist. I quickly blink a couple of times and try to stop them. I manage to, with extreme difficulty. 

For a person like me, who can have tears rolling down my eyes for a flop movie, like Waqt, starring Amitabh and Akshay Kumar, this was a real story... MY dad's story, so you can imagine my plight.

The man wants to talk to my father, right there, right now. I quickly dial my landline, but since its noon, the phone just keeps ringing, with no one to receive it. I then dial my wife, and ask her to hand the phone over to dad. She tells me he is sleeping, but I tell her to wake him up, someone wants to speak to him. 

Surprised, she gently asks dad to wake up. 

Its urgent, she says.

The gentleman takes my phone and humbly, very humbly, introduces himself.

Boss? Boss!
(And this wasn't like the Boss you refer to someone to meet in the train or bus, who you want to ask for way, or someone you intend to push of at the next stop.) in your senior. Someone who you call fondly 'Boss', because he or she is someone you look upto, and sometimes you don't want to refer by name, out of sheer respect.

Boss? Its me. (Introduces himself by name) Pehchana?

Kaise ho? How are you? Long time sir?

All good?

Your son is in front of me, making a presentation.

Very happy to speak to you Sir!

Yes Sir! Aata hoon. Ill come and see you soon.

Of course Sir!

See you.

Bye Bye Bye!.....

I am handed over the phone. He is beaming with joy. 

I am confused. I am now really wondering if my dad could really place the guy. But one thing was for sure, this man respected my dad to the end of the world.

The tough part begins now.

I am to start my presentation. Most of the times, I am labelled as passionate, energetic, and dynamic in my presentations. But I am full of doubts this time....of myself. 

I was suddenly going to be measured against this huge mammoth of a man, who meant the world to someone I was presenting to, and the bar was set so high, that I knew I would never be able to meet that standard, forget beating it. I had to only ensure that I don't create the impression of being a loser, compared to the man I was being put against.

It was like Rocky Balboa and his son.

I manage to put up a decent show, the ideas are liked, a few are shortlisted, its seems like the mission has been accomplished of getting the assignment. I am not even considering the impression part. I cannot contest this competition, and I am ready to succumb to my defeat. The white flag is raised in that department.

Nope! This is not a case of "Haar ke bhi jeetne waley ko Baazigar kehte hain"

We all stand up to sign off for the day, and we get the parting speech.

"There is no doctor who didn't know him. When he entered their clinic, they would stand up and greet him. They knew him by first name."

"Merchantsaab bolne ka."

"Yasinbhai bolne ka."

"Even the directors of the company would never accept his resignation.They went to his home when he put in his papers, and didn't allow him to resign."

He wanted to say more...I could sense it. But he stopped himself, I guess he was getting emotional talking about his mentor. My dad. 

I manage to gather some words...

"Sir, I make presentations almost everyday. But today I was nervous for the first time, not because of anything else, but because my dad's name was at stake"

He laughs. "Don't worry. You did well."

I'm still dazed. The drive back is mostly in silence. I had lived a moment that probably will never come back to me again. No discussions on the outcome of the meeting. No talk on the future possibilities. Just about the utter coincidence.

Coincidence- is too small a word for this. 

Serendipity - too frivolous.

Miracle, is what I am talking about.

God's perfect timing. 

Truth is, the past few days were worrisome for me. I was worried about my dads health and overall well being. Anything remotely bad happens to him, and I am all nerves, and this was just one of those times when I needed a little hand holding to get me through.

Imagine something like this happening to you, and it reinstates your faith in God's grand plan for each one of us. I was filled with optimism, hope and love.

I don't go back to office. I rush home. I want to see my father, hug him, and tell him how proud I am. I run up to the lift. Open the door, but he isn't home. I am disappointed. 

After a few minutes he arrives, but in my head that moment was lost. How I hate myself for that.

We look at each other, smile and I am still excited. I call everyone in the living room and narrate the incident. My dad smiles proudly at my story. I somewhere guess that he  senses my emotion.

He narrates his side of the story. Only this time I listen differently.

These stories I had heard from him many a times. About his work, his interviews, how he trained his juniors, how he knew all the doctors of Mumbai, and how they knew him. How his boss wouldn't accept his resignation and how they had come home to convince him. How he was liked by his colleagues because of his deeds and another hundred stories.

But this time I heard it in a new light.

I wasn't hearing it from my dad. I was hearing it from one of the best sales officers in the world. 
My world, and that gentleman's world, and God knows how many peoples world who he had touched in more than one way.

For me he was till yesterday, a humble, fun loving, sometimes solemn and strict, generous, talkative man. 
But starting today he was a larger than life hero.

A man who's standard I would never be able to match. I can only pay ode to.

I know for sure that I wont ever be able to reach where he has reached...ever. And the truth is I don't want to even try. What I want to do, is learn from him, and continue his legacy of touching peoples lives, transforming them in my own way, and maybe never know....I can just barely, slightly aspire that Samaira will meet someone, someday who will tell her. 

"I knew your dad, nice guy"

That much also will be enough for me.

Thanks Dad! You always were my hero, but now you are bigger, better, stronger! 

This made me feel like going back to nursery and telling my friends..."My dad is so strong, so strong, so strong, that he can.......


Love You Dad! You are an inspiration.

Monday, December 10, 2012

59 Minutes of Nostalgia

From all the duties I am assuming as a new Dad, one of the million ones is to be a driver to drop Samaira to birthday parties. The trip this time is to a residential locality near one of the beach line homes in South Mumbai. 

Since I am not invited for the kiddy party, my simple job is to simply drop and move on to do my own thing, until I get the call to pick up.

This time I'm kinda happy because I am in the middle of the place I grew up in. I call up a few friends, who I have known since over 25 years, but life has moved on, and priorities have changed. So I'm pretty used to not getting positive responses from them now, and trust me, it doesn't hurt either. It's now a matter of acceptance. 

Predictably, all of them are either busy, travelling or don't pick up the call.

Parking is an issue, so I drive across the lanes, until I'm pretty far from the drop location, but this area is very familiar. 

Not much has changed, yet so much had. 

It brings back memories of growing up, of cycle no. 28 for two rupees an hour, or defeating the fear to climb a jungle gym, cricket matches, escaping home for a late night bike ride and lots more.

The dark lane behind August Kranti Ground has a slot free, just enough to allow my car to sneak in. The cop on duty looks along suspiciously. As the door slams shut, I look at him in the eye, and turn away my gaze. I had seen cops guard that building earlier too, and I was reminded of the days when my dad asked me not to run on the road, or police uncle will catch me and put me in jail. 

My look is a mix of emotions. 

Of mock, because I know now that he can't arrest me for running on the road. Unless of course I had chain snatched. 
I also felt of fear, for no reason at all. Its just something that I had grown up with and I guess I didn't shrug off the feeling ever. 
But most importantly that of relief, because I smiled, and he reciprocated. 

Both my hands in my pocket, I looked around, walking rather lazily.
My body language was unapproachable, and I was creeping into a shell. There were things I wanted to defy. 

Identity for instance.

I enter the playground), and it seemed so much smaller now.  The path was slightly downhill. I recalled my elder sister Farhana, pushing me down the bicycle, minus the balance wheels, and I freewheeling down, petrified like it was the last day of my life, somehow managing to hold my balance and Viola! I had learned to ride. 

Groups of men, mostly laborers sat in circles, and I really don't know what they discussed then and I couldn't figure out what the discussed now. I tread carefully near them, trying not to get noticed, but they mostly sat in silence. I figured it was some sort of community meeting, where they seek a certain time of solace, after work. It seemed like this was a daily ritual, despite of whatever came in between, contrary to the call that wasn't picked up because the meeting to close a deal was more important.

I walk to another segment. This was mostly for kids in primary school. With jungle gyms, swings, and slides. Somehow these areas mould you as a child. I still recall not being able to sit on the swing for any longer, if I had a child waiting for his turn after I get done. I would simply leap out and walk away guarding my privacy, somewhere today also, I'm not tolerant of people stepping into my space easily, and nor am I any kind of extrovert, completely opposite of what many people think I am.

The jungle gym was a challenge to me. My younger sister, Sweetina, was a pro, at it. She went from one pole to another pole, like Tarzan, while I simply used the excuse of being shorter to get away.

"If you do this exercise, you'll get taller" they'd tell me, so I would try, but couldn't get past more than the safe distance, and hurried back, just to save my ass (literally). 

A little too late, I realized that height was a major virtue to have, and I gave it my all. Looking back I overcame the fear of the poles, but I couldn't overcome the 5 feet 5 inch mark, till date.
I smiled silently and moved on looking at a tallest part of my shadow.

Another part of the garden, was a greener pasture. I could visualize mom and dad sitting there, talking, and waiting for us to get done with our games. This was where I sometimes saw, how deeply my parents loved each other, and how they valued the time they gave to themselves.

I was at the end of the playground now, as I crossed the road, I was amazed to see that Imperial 'Dabba' school was now an upmarket Pre-School and Activity Centres, affiliated to some London counterpart. Imperial 'Dabba' was not the name of the school. It was a threat. 

"If you don't do well in your studies, we will put you in Imperial dabba".

It was the school for the kids of vegetable vendors, laundry walas, and other sundry people. I don't mean to be derogatory, because eventually I landed up spending a good part of my childhood with these guys, playing cricket, and they were bloody good at their game. Far better than some of the boys at my school in their Nike's and branded gear, and for all I know, they must be doing better in life, than I am.

I now pass by the shops, and I look around if I can recognize the few faces I could recall. Shop to shop, I pass by, just to see no known faces. The oil-ghee wala, the electrician, the chana wala, the quiet 'permit bars', the bhaijiya wala, the vegetable vendors...I see no face I recognize. Some shops looked familiar, but most of them had changed interiors and facades. 

The path felt the same, but these roads weren't mine. They had forgotten me, and as much as I wanted to believe that I hadn't, I guess a lot of it was forgotten by me too, and I was simply trying to catch up with twelve years of metamorphosis.

My home is a few meters away. I still call it home, and not house, building, or apartment, because if I truly felt connected and grounded in this world, this is the place.

A door plate that said...
Yasin H Merchant

93, Mama Chambers
Ground Floor, Gowalia Tank
Bombay 400036
Tel: 8221574

Don't bother to google this..It doesn't exist.

I look hard, my quest to see a face I recognize was getting desperate. Finally I see him. 

A cold drink wala I knew.

Greyed and looking into the blank, expressionless. I should have felt happy, and content. I wanted to say Hi!, and ask him if he remembered me. 
But I didn't. I was clouded with a dark emotion.
I turned away my face. I didn't want him to recognize me.
I walked faster, looking the other way. 

More shops. More alleys. More missing pieces of my childhood memories that had now turned into a jigsaw. I somehow managed to put a few pieces together, but failed, miserably. 

The temple bells tinkled. The sound didn't seem a bit different. For a change, it felt like time stood still here. I looked at the temple from a distance. I had defied going in earlier also.My faiths were different. I felt it would be cheating on my multiple beliefs if I stepped in there.

The deep dark well was still there. The well in which we would throw stones in and analyse how deep it was. 
The fear of falling in, appeared in many dreams. I was tempted to take a peek, but I didn't. 

I'm tired now, and I buy a bottle of mango juice. Somewhere I felt a sense of self worth. I could buy something, without asking the price and knowing if I had that much in my pocket. Even previously it was the same, I wouldn't need to check if I had that much in my pocket, because I would go to the shop, counting my coins carefully again and again, to ensure I could afford it, and save myself any embarrassment. 

When I had gotten of my school bus, in my boyish mischief, I would walk along uncaring I had once had a chai wala spill boiling hot tea on me. The shop was still here, luckily the mark it had left on my chest, wasn't. Was that the reason i didn't sip hot tea even today? I wonder. I guess not. Childhood couldn't leave so many marks on you. Can they? Unanswered I scamper away.

I smell kababs. A pungent smell of spices overtakes the air. I look around. This couldn't be. It was just the same. I had never eaten them, and I always wanted to. I look around frantically. Where is he? My eyes search for him everywhere. I see him. I run across the road, half not seeing the car, that screeches pass, and I ignore the look of the driver. If I would ever dream about tasty kababs, this was the aroma I had in mind. Nothing could replace it. I could see myself munching into them. 

I reach out to my pocket to hand over the money to him, almost deciding my order, and then I change my mind. 
I walk on. I couldn't eat here.

The adult in me didn't allow me, for reasons unexplained. Somewhere I consoled myself. What if they tasted really bad? A huge part of this fairy tale childhood was suddenly diminish, and I simply couldn't afford this part to leave me anymore. 

Or was it my ego that had set in?
How could I eat at a road side joint, frequented by road dwellers? 
Ashamed of my pride, I turn away. 

The church is a block away. 

The bottle of mango juice was half empty, my pessimist mind didn't say - Half full. 

I give it to the beggar and she receives it smilingly. I wonder if she had ever tasted it before. I wonder if she will give it to her kids, or have it herself. And as I wonder, I am lost in the steps of the church. The same St. Stephen's Church that I used to frequent every Sunday with my sisters and mother, until the rebel in me took over, and I stopped going there. 

Why didn't I stop now? 
Why was I willingly ready to step in the church, and not the temple. They are both places of God. 
What about all those claims I make about believing in free religion? 
Was that a fake side of me?

My excitement to enter and kneel on one of the back rows ends with disappointment, as I look at the shut gates. It was past the opening hours. Ironically, God had shut his doors on me today.

The phone buzzes. Shwetal and Samaira are ready to go home now. 
My one hour is up.
I rush back the same path. 
Only this time emotionless. 


I wonder what memories I will create for you? I wonder if you will look back at your childhood pleasantly. I hope you do. Its a great time to live. It never comes back, they say.

Then does come back. 

We just don't have the eyes to look at it as a child anymore.

If we did I would have said Hi, to Sanjay, the cold drink wala, maybe had a bite into those mouth watering kababs, and been happy to just pray at the door of the church and felt I did my turn at thanking God today, for this wonderful life.

But I didn't...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Festival of Hope

It was the part he hated the most, as it was the steepest hill of the journey to the lake. The little boy, must be all of six, wearing khakhi shorts and a unclean white shirt, presumably his school uniform. They tugged the Ferris wheel, as the rays of the early morning sun blinded their path. The road was quiet besides the occasional humming of motorbikes that slowed down near them, to greet them with the customary hello.

Kaise ho Haribhai? 

Bhagwan ki kripa hain...

Karan? School vacations on is it?

Ji kaka.

For years the Ferris wheel was their source of income.  Passed down two generations, it had grown rather rusty, but was mended, oiled, and painted every time the season got them a little more money to spare. 
Baba? the little boy called out to his father. 

Can we buy some fireworks this Diwali?

Fireworks? Why? Don't you know we cant afford them? Its like burning money my son, and they hardly last for seconds.
Baba, I really would like to buy rocket this time. All my friends fathers are getting them rockets. The ones that light up the sky like a huge sparkler in yellow, red and green.

Those cost up to two hundred rupees, son! You know we simply cant afford that.

But Baba, how can everyone else buy them? 

The crop season was good this time, all the farmers reaped profits. Hopefully the tourists will come this season and we will have some money to buy some sweets for Diwali.

Baba, I don't like sweets. I want fireworks, the little boy said, with tears in his eyes.

They arrived to their spot near the lake, which had water filled to the highest point possible, which was indicated by the red pole in the middle of the lake. The monsoon was really good this year.

Haribhai, started to spin the Ferris wheel with his lean but strong hands, and the trinkets made enough noise to get the attention of the hawkers around, who greeted him with a smile. The early morning tourists walked up to him and their kids looked with amazement at the brightly coloured carriages. After a small negotiation, they struck a deal with him. He then fastened the metal rod, up went the kids, with squeals of laughter, and the momentum gave them butterflies in their stomachs.

Pop came the camera, and Haribhai would slow down the speed to ensure they got a good picture. The smiling parents would immediately look into the camera screen, to see if they got the moment right, and then went on to click some more.

Somehow the digital cameras these days, spoilt the fun of the old analog cameras. There was always a certain joy when the dad came home from work, and on his way had picked up the pictures from the studio, after they were processed, negatives made, and printed and neatly put in a envelope branded with the photo studios logo and details of how many pictures were printed in what size. Once in a while a few pictures would get overexposed and that part of life, was only stored in the memory of the people who lived it. Besides only thirty six pictures could be clicked, so each frame was carefully chosen, eyes would be kept open until you almost felt you couldnt hold them open anymore. 

Smiles would be held, until someone screamed... Ready? Cheese!

I always felt, it should have been freeze!

The envelope would be opened in front of the entire family, and one by one the pictures would be passed through hands, laughed at, smiled at and jeered at. The best one would be kept aside and been sent to the studio for 'lamination', and then proudly kept in the centre of the living room for guests to come and admire, followed by a proud conversation on how much fun they had during the last vacation.
Far better than just a folder in your computer now, or shown off on social networking sites, waiting for people's comments, or likes.

The little boy sat on the stone, and sulked. Haribhai really loved his son, and wanted to make this diwali special for him. he could have stretched himself and bough a few sparklers, but he knew that his son really wanted the rocket that lit the skies in the diwali nights.

After running the Ferris wheel for over three hours, the midday sun seemed harsh, and visitors trailed back to restaurants to grab a bite, ice lollies or a sherbet. 

The father and son too unpacked their meal which consisted of a vegetable bhaji, and a few chapatis. Both of them settled down the huge banyan tree and ate their meals.

Why aren't you eating?

I'm not hungry, replied the boy.

Don't take out your anger on food, its not the right thing to do. Haven't you learned in school?

He nibbled on the chapati, not saying a word.

They took their afternoon nap, and by four in the evening, the tourists came again and it was business as usual. 

The diwali season was always looked forwarded to by the villagers, as it was the time to save up for the leaner times of the year.

The jingling trinkets, which was a bunch of ghungroos that belonged to haribhais mother was sort of their advertising strategy, and attracted the children to look at the Ferris wheel and then eagerly at their parents. Haribhai considered it as a blessing from his mother and was superstitious that it got him luck.
They tugged the Ferris wheel back home and the dark night was lit by the fireworks. 
Fountains, chakris, sparklers, and bombs. 

Why dont you go with your friends and see the fireworks they have got? 

I want my own, the little boy wailed. he hadn't spoken to his dad all day after lunch and Haribhai was upset about his financial state, but put up a strong front. They had made a decent amount of money, that would help them last the cruel and deserted summers. He also had to buy the sweet boxes for his sisters and their kids, as it was customary to do so.According to his calculation, he would manage to buy a box of sparklers for his son, but the rocket would be impossible to afford.

Dinner was finished around the kitchen fire, and the usual chatter about the tourist traffic and seasonal predictions. 

How are your diwali decorations selling at the market?

Pretty good actually.

We managed to sell quiet a lot of the stock we made. Especially the traditional designs. We almost sold the entire stock, this time, his wife said excitedly.

Though the plain ones will have to be gotten rid of now, and they aren't in much demand.

She and her friends had started a group of housewives who were mostly free in the late mornings and afternoons to make diwali diyas, paint them and sell them in the market, and then split the profits.But she sensed that her husband was worried about something, so she didn't take the topic further.

Haribhai couldn't sleep that night. he had heard his son cry himself to sleep, quietly under the sheets, He didn't want his father to know. He understood his fathers financial state, but after all he was young, and had dreams of his own. 

An innocent minds dreams aren't restrained by possibilities and capabilities.

Haribhai simply didn't have the money to buy expensive rockets, but he had an idea.

The next morning, father and son, woke up, and left for the market as usual. The boy was still sulking.
Cheer up son, with Gods grace, we will try and have a good diwali this year.Diwali was a time for new clothes, sweets, friends, relatives, gifts, and fireworks. But not for everyone. For some its the festival of a reminder of their status in the society.

Its gotten late today, We won't take the Ferris wheel back home, I'll just lock it to the tree on the other side of the lake and we will leave. I'll return early tomorrow and get it.

It was the Hindu New Year the next day and the hawkers were in a hurry to leave for home after the market started getting empty. Haribhai asked the little boy to sit on the wall,while he tugged the Ferris wheel to the other side of the lake.

It was dark and lonely now, just an occasional sound of the water lapping by the shore of the lake, and in the distance he heard his father pulling the Ferris wheel, as it creaked, to the other side of the lake.
That's a rather far distance he is taking it too, maybe he is being extra careful that the village kids don't tamper with it before we get here tomorrow, the little boy thought to himself.

Suddenly in the quietness, Haribahi screamed.



The little boy leapt to his feet, worried.

Yes Baba, he said fearfully.

This one is for you beta....

And in the dark night. Little flames of light, circled in a bright yellow color. The reflection of it brightened the lake. And they all went round and round. Then suddenly one by one the little flames lit up and circled round, that resembled the rocket when it burst in the sky, only that this one lasted longer and looked more beautiful, in the reflection of the still lake. It suddenly appeared like as if a huge firework lit the landscape. It was the most beautiful firework ever seen by the boy, and the it just seemed to go on and on, unlike the rockets or fountains that fizzle in seconds.

The boy suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder, only to see his father smiling at him.

This was all I could do for you son. Happy Diwali.

The boy didn't say anything, and just hugged his father, and cried. I'm sorry baba. I'm sorry...

In the distance, at a fancy resort that overlooked the lake, a kid was staring outside the balcony of the suite he was living in and was watching the lights that lit up the lake.

What's that mom? 

It seems like someone has put lots of diyas on the Ferris wheel and is circling them round, son.

How silly is that?, he questioned sarcastically.

Do you want to go and light your fireworks? Your dad has got you lots of rockets. 

No mom, they're the boring ones.
I wanted the ones that whistle and sparkle, and all I have is a box of the ones that simply sparkle.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Child gives birth to a Mother (and a Father)

The doctor appointments were now once every week, compared to once every month and then every fortnight. I still remember our gyneac, Dr. Sejal telling us that in the last trimester, you will have to come every week for checkups and that time to meet at that frequency had already come so soon. The past eight months had flown, literally.

Beautiful eight months. With all the attention we would get from everyone, not just family and friends, but also hotel staff, traffic commuters, rickshaw drivers, and even security personnel at malls, who would gladly let Swetal pass by with no checks at all.

But there was one check, we were still worried about. The first check-up, in the last trimester, and the dreaded ‘Labor talk’ that followed. As a person, talking anything about medical procedures was something that would make me cringe, and all that talk, about cutting, and bleeding and dhish and dhash was making me really nervous. 

Labor talk.

We went nervously to the clinic that day and doctor took us through the entire gut wrenching details and process of delivery. From c-secs, to normal. What is dilation? What is epidural? When and why a doctor takes a decision to go for a C-sec over a normal? Besides other million FAQ’s.
All this with a real human hip bone in her hand and a small soft toy doll, which amazingly she managed to pull out of the gap in the bone, as she explained us painstakingly every minute detail.

She wanted to prepare us for the big day, and in a way wanted to rule out any problems that typical parents delivering kids for the first time have with their doctors. Including clearing doubts about doctors, who fleece patients on the pretext of emergency in order to make a quick buck by choosing the knife over the natural procedure.

The last trimester had us rushing through the hospital with two false alarms and a few more tense visits to maternity homes nearby. All this had started getting me prepared already. In fact we had a few NSTs (Non-Stress Tests) to monitor the foetus’ health at the actual labour room, which was good in a way, because in hindsight, the place had started getting familiar. The staff got friendly and the atmosphere needed acclimatisation, which these exercises did for us in a good way.

The tension started to build up as the weeks went. We tried different routes to the hospital by car, to see which way would be easier to take, in case of an emergency. But each one seemed worse than the other. The questions started filling up our head.  
Was the doctor good as we had heard?
Would the hospital be clean?
Will we be well taken care of?
Will the baby be healthy?
And other million, if not a billion questions.

The due date was 7th October 2011, plus or minus a week. But Swetal's friends who were pregnant as well and some who were due around the same period, known as the ‘Preggo babes’, all from her lamas cum motherhood preparation class had already started delivering. And every night we would discuss their stories. C-secs, normal, night, day, bleeding, epidurals, emergencies, smooth ones.
Each one was a different story. 

Somewhere in our minds we were preparing for the worst, and I would like to say hoping for the best, but really, the thoughts that came, were so overpoweringly negative that we just could not think with a straight mind.

Now came the time to guess the date, and we had all sorts of predictions, raising anticipation levels to peaks of the Himalayas. The Diwali week was around the corner, and Dr. Sejal finally announces in the appointment, that she is going to Malaysia for a holiday, and would be back only after a week.

We were taken aback. We were due any moment!

What if we had to deliver in that week while she wasn’t there?

She tells us that her mother in law, who was also a highly qualified doctor would be around, and plus the staff would be present; who she claimed were highly proficient.

We had chosen this hospital only because of Dr. Sejal. She was the only reason to travel so far from home. In fact we had one of India's best hospitals, a hop, skip, and jump away from home. But she was the factor that made us change our mind. But no kind of pleading would obviously help, because her tickets were booked, and she was ready to go the next day.

After that each day passed very slowly, and in a subtle sense of tension. One or twice we did call 
Dr. Sarla (Mother in law) and she was patient. But she didn’t know the history of the pregnancy, and that got us worried to a great extent. She kept telling us that she was given a handover and we needn’t worry a bit.

Somewhere we finally accepted that Dr. Sarla was going to handle our delivery and she was a kind old lady. So we really didn’t bother or think about it as much as we could.

The nights were longer now.

Swetal still wouldn’t get any sleep.

One particular night while sleeping, I saw a bright white light on my face, and I thought, I guess my time has come to leave this world, and the lord was calling me. I gently opened my eyes, expecting to see angels taking me to the heavenly abode. Only to realise that Swetal was busy typing away on her phone and phone screen was right on my face.

Many a nights, her Blackberry was her companion, and other expecting mothers on the group, who chatted about all sorts of things, from diaper brands to doctor comments.

In one of the major decision making talks that we had, we finally decided that the name of the child was a big issue, and I was insistent that we need to sort it before he or she was born. So we got out a piece of paper and started writing names which we had been hunting for and short listing after all the internet searches, endless hours at the local bookshop and recommendations from all near and dear.

Girl: Alisha, Ayesha, Samaira
Boy: Zidaan, Rehaan, Ayaan

We made our votes and it went for Girl: Samaira, and Boy: Zidaan.

We were pretty convinced about the girl’s name. Samaira seemed just fine and perfect. 
Samaira Merchant sounded nice too. 
But Zidaan, somewhere in our mind was not working. But still due to lack of liking any names, we finalised these two, and both of us signed the paper and sealed it.

It was our little own secret, as it was customary not to tell until the baby was a week or two old.

The date predictions hadn’t stopped yet. People who had guess dates that had passed their time a month back also, were still trying their stint at Nostradamus.

Finally Swetal announced her prediction. 
'Well, all of you have had your say. I have never ever predicted. So now it’s my turn...”

Every one listened attentively. “1st November”, she said.

The last word was announced.

31st October 2011

A usual day at work in the morning, and I left for lunch as usual at about 3pm.  
Today Swetal was feeling a little uneasy. She tells me that she wants to go to the parlour and get her hair washed and blow-dried. 

We drive carefully and slowly dodging potholes, a skilful art I had mastered in the last few months, to the saloon below my office. Just outside the shop, Swetal stops walking and holds my hand really tight. She is unable to speak and her face is really tensed. 

“Are you ok? Swetal? You ok? Are you feeling anything?”
No answer.
She just leans against one of the cars parked, and holds still.
The moment passes and she smiles back. 

“Nothing. My stomach was paining. It’s nothing”
“Chal, I’ll go and get my hair done.”

“Are you sure?” I ask

“Yeah Yeah. Don’t worry.”

“Call me if you need anything? And I’ll drop you back home, once you are done.”

“No no, don’t bother. I’ll walk back. I’ll feel a little fresh also.”

I nod my head and head to office. 
“Iska kuch nahin ho sakta!!!”

(Much later, I learned that our maid had told Swetal, that even when she starts getting the contractions, she shouldn’t tell me, or “Bhaiyya will panic and take you to hospital right there and then, and you should wait till the contractions come in very frequent intervals.”)

Frankly I had no clue what was waiting for me, that day.

Four floors below my office, Swetal happily gets her hair washed, shampooed, blow dried, and a manicure and pedicure done too. After that she heads off to the Derasar (Jain temple) and offers a book, a pencil and some other stuff, today being Gyan Pancham, this was the usual ritual to ask God to grant knowledge and bless with the power of enlightenment.

She then takes off to High Point, the local restaurant for some Pani Puri and Chaat, which she had avoided for over 8 months now due to health reasons. And finally heads home late evening. I’m guessing that this was the result of the ‘gyan’ that was imparted to her a moment ago.

Meanwhile, I suddenly get a feeling that I need to handover my office projects and other misc. work, and I get into the process of that, just in case. Somewhere I had started to get an intuition that tomorrow would be the first day of  the paternity leave I was due to take, and Swetal’s cramps needed immediate attention of a doctor. I was going to put my foot down and take her to the doc anyhow today after work. And stubborn as she is, today I was not going to take it lying down.

I head home, and as usual Tiara greeted me.
Everyone is in the hall, and I settle down on one of the sofas. 

“Today I’m going to sleep with my shoes on”, I announce.
Dad lifts his eyebrow by probably a millimetre, and starts to look back into the newspaper he is still reading since morning. Mom smiles at me not understanding really, and Swetal ignores.

“Swetal, today if you are not going to come to the doctor with me,
I’m not going to take off my shoes”, I say firmly.

“Arrey nothing is happening. Just a little stomach pain.”

“Exactly my point, we are going to the doctor, just to show that.”

“After my serial”, she says.
I shake my head in frustration and walk off, while she reaches for the remote.

Dinner. Serial. End credits roll. A quick round of freshening up. And mind you, shoes still on.

11 pm

I pick up the hospital bag, that was packed 2 months ago and start leaving, bidding goodbye in a rather comical manner, using melodrama by placing the back of my palm on my fore head and saying, “Hum jaa rahein hain.”

But instead of getting a laugh back from my mom and dad, they look at us, and say,
“All the best”

Our maid’s eyes get moist, and Tiara doesn’t stop us (unusually). Weirdly she sticks to Swetal as she walks down the living room, as if she was lending a shoulder.
In fact they all bid us with wishes and luck.
Dads parting words go like "Beta call us and let us know, what doctor says, we will come immediately”.

Lift door opens. We enter.

A strong whack from Swetal on my shoulder.
“You are such an idiot na. Now we will come back and say, Nothing happened. All ok. 
Wait till next week. Unnecessary you want to jump around and make a fool of me”

Swetal then turned to her stomach and talks to baby.
“You Rakshas (devil), you better come out today, or you will make a popat 
(in this context ‘fool’, literally it means parrot) of your parents.”

Another contraction and the mood changes again.

“Let’s go!!!”

Now, weirdly, there was no traffic whatsoever on the road. We didn’t get even a red signal this time; 
I stepped on the accelerator like the hero of the movie, only to be quickly reminded that I have a 9 month pregnant wife in the car.

No thunder. No lightning. No speeding on the road. No flying car. No sharp turns around bends. No burning tyres. No traffic cop catching me for skipping a signal, followed by a chase leading straight to the hospital. Nothing.

On the way Swetal and I joke, that now as soon as we see the doctor, they will tell us,
“Go back, it’s nothing”. We would complete our hattrick of false alarms.

While there are still more regrets on the melodrama front.
I didn’t have to rush inside the hospital and scream,
“Is there a doctor here? Help! Please! ... “
I was ready to do a Dilip Kumar “Aye Bhaiii!” “Ayee Bhaii”, but it didn’t seem necessary.

Nothing! It was smooth as silk. 

We reach the lobby. The resident doctor checks her, while I’m wondering if we have time to stopover for an ice cream on the way back home. The doctor touches her stomach, and nods his head negatively, and then he says "She is in labour"

His face and his words didn’t send the same message, so I presumed from his facial expressions, that it was negative, until I heard him say it again. “SHE IS IN LABOUR!!!”

Ohhhh myyyyy godd!!!
The world stopped for a moment.
Camera zooms into his face thrice. Then Swetals face thrice. Then my face thrice.
Thaddan. Thaddan Thaddan!

What do you mean? I was not prepared for this. Not even with the hospital bag on my shoulder. Not even while I was bidding my dramatic goodbyes. Not while driving.

“Can we come some other day? Do we go back now?”

Who was there to listen?
No one.
Suddenly activity begins.

Swetal is rushed into the room. Nurses rush in and out. Equipment comes in. Medicines come in. A senior nurse enters with a syringe and one of those things they attach in the vein of the hand. I forget what it’s called now. To add to it, Swetal starts getting acute contractions now. Every 2 minutes. 

And it was me, all by myself.

A few quick calls. 

“Dad, Doctor says tomorrow morning she will deliver.
You guys come by 7 in the morning, don’t worry.”

I try and keep my tone as calm as possible, because I don’t want to trouble them. Frankly I had no clue how long this was going to take. From the stories I had heard. Labour pain ranged from 10 hours to 24 hours, so a quick calculation made me do the math.

Next call was to my in laws.

By then Swetal’s contractions had gotten worse. So the calmness was not the same as the first call, and this time, they were more tensed than I was. Still I told them come in morning.

A few quick calls to my sisters also, telling them also.

10 minutes on, the contractions kept coming on 30 second intervals.
Unheard of but yes, it was just a 30 seconds pause, and then a contraction that would last for a minute or so, it felt much longer for me, imagine what it felt for her.

In between that express break she would get, she would ask for water, by the time I reached for the water, she didn’t want it.

It felt like someone was breaking her bones, one at a time. The pain was severe, and I could sense it.
At one moment I would hold her hand, only to have it pushed away the next minute.

Luckily for me, I didn’t get slapped, like they say there are a lot of chances of. Thank God, for the babycentre emails, that had sent me a mail once earlier this week, titled ‘What to say when she is in labour’, and that’s exactly what I did.

“You’re doing just fine!”
“You’re doing a good job.”
“Superb Swetal. Superb!”

“I want some orange juice!” she says
And I’m like....uhhh...okkk...obviously I can’t go anywhere to get it. The hospital cafeteria was shut. It was a Maharaj who was there actually, not a “cafeteria cafeteria”. Maharaj is a term used for Rajasthani cook. A one man army, who would purchase vegetables, clean, cook and serve all in one. 
So cafeteria closed, meant, Maharaj was.... sleeping. Ahem!

Certain as I was that they have already left, despite me telling them not to, I called my in-laws, and I could hear the car horn in the background. I told them to get some juice. About 1 pm at night, using influence, they manage to smuggle some juice from Shiv Sagar at Juhu, which had closed long back. 

An inquiry at the counter.
Lift button pressed.
Room door opens.
Storm inside the room.
Swetal screaming.
U turn.
Out of the room.

That was in short how we had our first visitors - my in-laws.

I’m inside now and Swetal starts asking for the epidural. The pain is getting unbearable. The nurse tells her that she has to try doing it without the painkiller epidural. But Swetal won’t listen to any of that. So the nurse buys time, first by disappearing, and then telling her, that the doctor is called and is on his way.

The water bag hasn’t burst yet. But she is dilating.
Yet she can’t tell how many centimetres till we reach the target of 10.

Lift opens.
My parents enter.
Swetal’s VFX: Arrrggghhh!!!!

I walk out and tell them, she’s doing ok. They have called Dr. Sarla and we should be expecting her any moment. I see Sister Varsha walking into the room, with a huge scissor. Door is locked from inside and after a minute.

A huge scream, loud enough to wake to the anaesthesia induced patient 3 floors below.
Apparently the water bag was burst, using that scissor.

Rush into the Delivery Suite, Swetal was then put on the labour room bed. I was asked to fill up a few forms and sign them. And while I was doing that engrossed reading the form fields and half mind on Swetal’s yelling. 

Suddenly the door opens, and... Dr. Sejal enters. 

“Aren’t you supposed to be in Malaysia?”, we exclaim.

For half a minute even Swetal forgot her labour pain.

“I’ve come straight from the airport, for you, dear..  I just landed and got a call from Dr. Sarla”, she says beaming, Yes she had. She was yet in her travel jacket and a bag that had an airline baggage tag. 

She was like an angel in disguise. I just couldn’t stop smiling.
A few checks and she confirmed that we should expect the baby in a few hours. 

More screams. More pain. More bone breaking.
Getting intense every time they happened.

All this while, our entire family was waiting in the lobby patiently.
Some prancing up and down, some sitting on the bench and some on the stairs. Waiting patiently.

Finally the moment of melodrama I was waiting for came.


PUSH Swetal, like you are passing a hard stool! 
And it didn’t sound as funny then, as it is sounding now, unless you are laughing in fear and anticipation.


Another 20 minutes of Push, and nothing happening.

Finally Dr. Sejal gives up and asks her to be shifted to the OT, and the anaesthetist was called. We were preparing for a C-sec. She was fully dilated, and she was pushing well also, but the baby was probably tired and wasn’t coming down. This couldn’t wait for longer. The baby has to be out in minutes, or we might call for trouble.

A few more minutes and no anaesthetist. In a sense of urgency that I could sense, Dr. Sejal tells sister Varsha to help her push the baby down. Now the pushing she did was scary. I was at the door of the OT. Allowed to look, but now allowed to enter, holding the videocam.

“Swetal, it’s just you and me now”, Dr. Sejal says. “We have to do it by ourselves”

This was the climax scene. 

Sister Varsha pushes. Dr. Sejals pulls. 4 more people including support staff, paediatrician and God alone knows who inside motivate Swetal.

And finally she stops pushing. 

“Swetal!! Listen to me. One final push. One hard push.”

Aaarrrrrggggggghhhhhhhhh! Swetal gives it her all.

The baby is out! 
“4:15” says Dr. Sejal, with a sigh of relief.

After 4 hours of intense labour.
Trembling Hands.
Blood and sweat and tears.
Pain and Guts.
The moment had arrived.

My hands start trembling. I had witnessed life taking birth.
A moment I will never see again in my life.

Swetal closes her eyes in slow motion. I almost pass out.
Dr. Sejal takes the baby, and puts it in the tray and the baby is whisked away to be bathed.

Swetal, wakes up after about 5 minutes.
“What is it?” she asks.
The question had come to me the moment I saw the baby, 
but because of the distance and umbilical cord, I really couldn’t tell.

“It’s a girl”, Dr.Sejal says.
Those words still echo in my ears even today.

Flashback: From the day Swetal and I were even seriously seeing each other, we wanted a girl. We had even thought of a name. Rihanna. After the pop singer Rihanna, who we both liked.

When we started going for our scans, we wished it was a girl.

One of the 3D scans which we had done, which is said to show very clear pictures, we felt we had noticed the additional male organ, and we both looked at each other in surprise. Was it a boy? We were almost sure it was.

The rest of the pregnancy had gone, walking aisles of baby shops in malls and looking at baby clothes, toys, beddings, feedings etc. And trust me, Boys clothes are soooooo boringly brown, blue, checks, while girls clothes are pretty, colourful, in variety, and in all sense...beautiful. 

But we would put up a brave front, and pick a lot of yellows, blues, and also one or two pink items.

Anyway coming back…

“It’s a girl.” Dr. Sejal says.
I break down. I can’t stand.
This was the best news I had ever heard in my whole life.
One of the first items in my vision board exercise from the book “The Secret” was “A baby girl”.
First time I realised what it means to have tears of happiness.

Meanwhile, outside the OT, this was what our family experienced...

Swetal was heard screaming inside.
Then a loud one.
The final push.
Since the baby's first cry was a weak one, they didn’t hear that at all.
What they heard is the hustle  bustle of the support staff inside.
A nurse runs out to fetch some stuff and walks back in answering no one.
Then a few minutes later.
I come out weeping.... and hug my sister Farhana, who was sitting in the stairs.
I don’t say anything. Just keep weeping.

“Aleeeeeeeemm!!! What happened???? Aleeem!”
“Aleem!!! All ok??? What happened.”
“Beta?? What happened?”, asks my Dad impatiently.

Finally, my mother in law held my hand and firmly asks.
“Aleem? All ok?”

I just gathered enough strength to raise my thumb positively, and say...
“It’s a girl!”

Next moment, they all forget me.
Start celebrating.
And I’m all alone!!!

I enter the OT again. And I see her closely for the first time.
She was beautiful. The most beautiful thing I had ever seen in the world.
She had lovely hair. Tender hands. Tender legs. And wide open eyes.
And she was smiling, not crying.
I had over my finger to her. And she holds it, instinctively. 

That moment is something I won’t forget even when I get Alzheimer’s in the later years of my life. If I ever lose my memory, don’t bang my head on a stone or something, just show me the picture of her holding my hand for the first time, and it will all come back to me.

One by one, everyone comes and sees baby, while she is under a bulb. We click pictures. Dr. Mehul, the paediatrician, starts talking to us, while checking and showing concern over the weak cry. I ask him if there is something to worry, and he says no. But we will observe her for a few days.

Its 6 am now. We all settle into the room. Swetal comes in on a wheelchair - All smiles. 
We all greet her with a big congratulations! She looks surprisingly fresh.

We all decide to sleep for a while. 

I lie in the couch-bed, too tired to speak anything, but too excited to sleep also. After sometime our dear little baby enters the room, with a catheter in her feet. I choked to see her that way. But she was sleeping. Peacefully.

Menu> Messages> Compose SMS> To> Select All> 

Swetal and Aleem
Now proud parents
Welcome their baby girl
With lots of presents
Mom and baby are doing just fine
We welcome your visit anytime
Date: 1.11.11
Time: 4:15 am
Weight: 7 pounds

An hour later. We have visitors. Lots of them.
Friends, Family, Neighbours.
The room is full of flowers, teddy bears, cup cakes. 
Theplas, khakras, chaass, etc etc etc.

More visitors. More congratulations. It’s a beautiful day.
The sun seems brighter.
The clouds seem clearer.
The birds sound sweeter. 
Today was our day.

There were a lot of things that made us as a multicultural family and friends motley, feel good. 

The date was a one you will never forget, 1.11.11

It was the week of Diwali, and today was “Labh Pancham”
‘Labh' means benefit. People today usually wish for material 'labh' such as: a good job, riches and so forth. Yet the scriptures and Sadhus inform us that the greatest 'labh' is human birth itself. With this one should endeavour for God-realization. Goddess Laxmi was born in our home.

For North Indians, it was a day of Chatt Puja, which is one of their biggest days.
Chhath Puja is an Indian thanksgiving festival dedicated to the Sun God. During the celebrations of Chhath Puja, people gather on the banks of the River Ganges to bathe in its sacred water, pray and make ritual offerings to the Sun God.

For Christians it was a day to honour all their saints.
All Saints Day, the day on which Catholics celebrate all the saints, known and unknown, is a surprisingly old feast. It arose out of the Christian tradition of celebrating the martyrdom of saints on the anniversary of their martyrdom. So today was celebrated in order to ensure that all martyrs, known and unknown, were properly honoured.

For Maharashtrain’s it was the day of the Holy God Ganpathi- A Tuesday.

Even the time of birth, which was 4:15 am, is supposed to be a time of “Bhraman”, more known as a time of knowledge and enlightenment. They say that if you study at this time of the day, you tend to remember what you read, as it is the time of God’s to pray.

Now surprisingly, a form I had to fill for her birth certificate was numbered. 786.

"786" is the total value of the letters of "Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim". In Arabic if you take the numeric values of all the letters of the Bismalah, according to the Abjad order, the total will be 786. Some people, mostly in India and Pakistan, use 786 as a substitute for Bismillah. They write this number to avoid writing the name of Allah or the Qur'anic ayah on ordinary papers. But this was no ordinary paper, it was the paper that would register the presence my dear little baby on earth.

In one way or the else, this little angel had united us all. She had united what would have seemed impossible for any human to do. To unite this multicultural, cosmopolitan, modern yet firmly grounded, family and friends circle, with one small heart beat.
That was in a mobile incubator unit, right now, monitored.
One beep at a time.

The whole day went seeing our nearest and dearest. It felt very nice to have so many people who care. And they come with lovely little gifts. Reminded me of the stories I read when I was small, of baby Jesus being born in the manger, and people from near and far coming with various presents.

The next day, I went to the mall and picked up some stuff for baby which we had parked in our minds. Especially a beautiful Eskimo dress in pink, nice and furry and soft. We wanted to take our baby girl in this outfit home...if we ever had a girl.

That night Swetal and I spoke to each other while we slept off. I told her to sleep as much as she wanted tonight. Because that was going to be the last night we would be sleeping in peace. And I guess what they say is true about walls having ears, because on the other side, our little baby probably heard us, and must have smirked.
That truly was the last night we slept for months to come, till this day today.

The next morning in a moment of silence I look at the three of us and I think
"We are a family". It’s the first time I ever felt it, and I was a Father.

Six alphabets, just like Mother.

The Assistant Parent.
Provider not entitled nurturer.
Underrated role.
But I felt great. 
I was on top of the world.
I still am...

They say a child gives birth to a mother. No doubt, the mother carries the baby in her womb. Takes care of her even before it is born. Cares for the baby in every moment of pregnancy to delivery and forever after, till her dying day. Mother’s day is a day of celebration and love and lots of gifts. Mother is the first word a child says and I could write another blog on the role of a mother, a good mother that Swetal is even today, and I know for years to come, she will play that role to perfection.

But the world conveniently forgets the man who stands behind the curtains through the entire process, holding his guts together and plays - the nobody. The man who wakes up in the middle of the night just to check if everyone’s sleeping well. The man who quietly makes sacrifices in his own way, without letting anyone know, and still loves every bit of his backstage role, watching his world unfurl from behind the wings, and claps when no one is watching.

I know you won’t go and give your Dad a hug even if I tell you to.
But remember, your first word must be Ma, but Parent begins with Pa!

Cheers Dads! (Including mine)