It's a great thing this, being a father. You begin preparing for it by being blamed for twitches, urges, yearnings, nausea, back pain, leg pain, swollen feet and ugly clothes. You read up stuff, learn to do the right things (but do them at the wrong time), get congratulated for running errands to fetch gulab jamuns, ice creams, sevpuri at two in the morning (you realize very soon that the standard list of easily available at home items like pickle never feature in 'I feel like eating...'), you read forwarded newsletters on what is happening inside this week, see images radioed from inside and try to imagine a real live human being instead of the static on screen, you attend classes so you can witness the big moment...
Then one day, you hold a little life in your hand and try to control all that stuff that is rising inside you and trying to burst out of your eyes and softly mutter to yourself over and over, 'I am a father, this is my child, I am a father...' Afterwards, in the solitude of the bathroom, you blow your nose and look into the mirror and smile at yourself.
With time, you learn to clean bums and bundle the baby in a cloth and almost shit your pants as you use that monster safety pin to keep the cloth in place. You wake up when the baby wakes at night and pick it up and hold it in your arms and sway, transferring your weight from one leg to the other like an addict at a rock show until the baby goes back to sleep. You learn to check the temperature of the milk, to tell stories, to make animal noises and bird impersonations. You learn to sleep without stirring, afraid that you, with your mighty weight and clumsy body, will roll over onto the baby.
Your co-workers and bosses fail to understand why you have to take a day off or leave early or reach late because you are not the mother, you are the father. Your female co-workers find it cute, but they don't understand it either.
Time passes. You bend over the bicycle's training wheels and take them off and spend large chunks of Sundays running behind, holding the seat until one day you let go and stand rooted to the spot with joy. You buy toys out of turn and for no reason. You buy ice cream and are responsible for colds, coughs and missed days at school. You buy clothes and shoes on your own and they always turn out to be a size smaller or bigger. You beat your head against weighty science and language assignments. You drive around half the city looking for one stationery shop that will be open at this time of the night. You are strong because you are father, except for superman there is no one stronger, and however old the kid is you can still pick him (or her) up like a feather when he (or she) has fallen asleep at a party. You learn to be judge and jury and also the cop and the lawyer.
You are guilty of indulgence and of indifference, too much discipline and too little, of not being there and of being there but late, of being partisan and of being wrong almost always.
Somewhere along the line you get comfortable with your role, admitting to yourself that it is never going to be as glamorous as the Mother's, but also that without your role this movie would never be complete either.#daddy
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