I looked like my mother – green eyes,fair skin, long nose.I had my father’s hair.
It was black and curly.That was the only physical resemblance between me and him.
But as much closely I resembled my Mother physically, mentally and emotionally I was my fathers daughter-in and out.
I was not as outgoing, popular or adventurous as her.
I was more of a calm ,peace-loving ,socially awkward kind of girl.Very like my father.
Sometimes I sit and wonder what drove them to get married.
They were too different to endure the complex system called marriage. Hailing from different cultural and racial
backgrounds, with different tastes, different friend circles- there was nothing that could hold them together.They had nothing in common, nothing except me.
Both of them loved me like crazy.Their separation had been mess-less and easy – except for one terrible argument- about with whom would I live.
“He wanted to keep you.As if I was going to let him.I said-‘over my body Prithvi’.You are the most precious thing in my life baby .I shudder to think what he would have done to you.He would have made you as messed up as himself” I had grown up hearing my mother telling me the story of how she fought for me.
She kept the car and house and got to keep me on one condition. My father was to be allowed to pick me up every Friday evening and I was to spend the weekend with him.
This arrangement worked well till my mother decided she had enough of New York and wanted go back south, to her hometown.
She sold off the house and the car ,and took me with her.
Initial days in the new town was very hard for me.Those days I missed my father a lot.I loved my mother,but I knew I yearned for my fathers company. He understood me in a way nobody else did. I always felt I was as transparent as a glass before him. I had once complained to him that he always found out what I was up to.
“That’s because you are so much like me” he had winked at me.
My mother was very happy to be back amongst her old friends and family.Her only worry was me.
She was always like-
“Oh baby..why don’t you come out for the barbecue party.There will be lot of kids of your age..get yourselves some friends…” or “I don’t know why you sit locked up in your room,what are you reading..lets go for a walk..looks its so sunny”
I did comply even when I did not want to.I did not want to piss her off.She was already complaining a lot about how unusual I was.
But things were tough.I knew no one there and my introvert nature did not help. I did not have much friends even back in New York, but it felt really awkward here- going from party to party-standing in the corner watching my mother laugh,talk,dance-unable to strike a conversation with anybody, feeling out of place and lonely.
I started writing long emails to my father. Confiding my fears, my pain, my loneliness. He took me seriously. He did not tell me “Common, how tough is it to make friends?” like my mother. He was empathetic. He read my long and silly rants and replied.He understood. “I have been there” he used to tell me.
I looked forward forward for his visits. He used to visit me once very month. We used to stay in fancy hotels, eat take outs, go to movies and talk, talk for hours. I sometimes visited him during my holidays. He mostly took off from work during those days; when he was busy he would buy me a book and tell me-“Read this Neesa, you will like it” and I would like it. We would later sit back and discuss the book.I was pleasanty surprised and had run to meet him
I must have been 14 then. One day I was back from school and I found him waiting in our front porch. I was pleasanty surprised and had run to hug him.But the look on his face stopped me in the midway.I knew something was wrong-terribly wrong.
” I want to talk to you Neesa” He had whispered.
It seemed my father was going back to India, a country unknown to me,strangely a country where I had half of my roots. He did not want me to go with him.”You will be better off here with your mother dear” he had re assured me. I was broken.I felt scared.I begged my father to not go. I cried. I told him I loved him. But he said he had to.He explained to me how he did not belong here and how he had to go back home.I did not understand this. I was his family. I was all that he had got.That’s what he had told me. Why would he go away leaving me behind?I asked him if he would come back.He did not reply and merely kissed me on my forehead.
My father left.His absence left a huge void in my life.He did not reply to my emails.It was as if he just vanished out of my life. The only proof that he existed was some of his photos and his name that was added to mine.I felt concerned and scared. I wanted him back.I became more withdrawn and silent.My mother often tried to cheer me up but failed.
“I am worried about her” I once heard her whispering to her friend.I sometimes heard her cry in her room at night. Then I thought that I had to be strong for her. I did not want her to be sad or worried ,so after that I put up by best act to show her that I was coping well.
An year after that, my mother married her childhood friend Jeff.Things were improving overtime. By the time I was 16 I had made some good friends.I was more confident and was more social.May be my mother was in a way right about my father’s influence on me.
Jeff turned out to be a great guy, a good friend and a father figure.I knew he would never replace my father , but tried.I owed him a lot.He was the one who came to all my school functions, he was the one who proudly watched me graduate, he was the one who took me to the soccer games, he was the one with whom I went hiking, he was the one who did all those things which my father should have done.
I heard nothing from my father and kept thinking about him all the time.He had left me some money for my college but other than that he had intentionally pushed me out of his life..
Years passed, I had completed my bachelors in creative writing, was doing odd freelancing jobs and was living with a friend in Chicago. I occasionally visited my Mother ,Jeff and their twins during the weekends.
I had not seen or heard from my father in about 10 years. I had always tried to think of the cause that made him leave me .Why did he not offer me any explanation.He loved me , he would never have left me for nothing.There must be a cause, a big mighty cause . I told myself that again and again.
I was obsessed about finding this out. I did not know how to find him. I only had his email ID and emails to that mailbox was bouncing back . I tried to search for him in Google and Facebook with no results.I tried asking around to some of my mothers old friends in New York, but no one was in touch with him. The only lead I had was the name of the hospital he worked in New York.I tried calling and emailing the hospital a few times ,without any results. And then I decided to go and find out.
Flight to New York was expensive. I decided to drive.I went alone.I did not want to have anyone witness this personal chapter of my life. It was a long journey and by the time I reached the hospital I was very tired.
“Dr Prithviraj Solanki” I repeated for the third time to the lady in the Administration department. It took a while before she spoke up again.
“And why do you want to know about him?” She asked , her eyes still on her laptop.
“I am his daughter” I replied.
She looked at me and raised her eyebrows.After a moments silence she added.
“Do you have a proof ?”
I knew they would ask me this. I produced my passport and my birth certificate and some of the old photographs.The things that kept reminding me that once there was this man in my life and that he was not a dream She looked at them and replied.
“Ms Solanki..I am sorry we don’t have his current whereabouts . I am not supposed to disclose any reason behind his discontinuation of job” She might have seen the disappointment in my eyes.She continued “But I recommend that you go and meet Dr Ali. He is also from India and have been here for 20 years. He might know something about your father and might give you some unofficial information”
With pounding heart I waited for Dr Ali. I was frantically hoping that he knew something. I heard and faint cough and looked up to see a clean shaven ,middle aged man standing before me.
“You must be Ms Solanki?” “Neesa” I extended my hands.
“Hi..Carol talked to me a few minutes ago” I searched my old memories to see if I had seen him before. He did look vaguely similar.May be I did.Was he a friend of her father?
“I did not know Dr Solanki that well..”he continued and my heart sank. For the past few days I had been banging my head to remember some of my father’s old friend, but I couldn’t. All I could remember was the two of us- the two of us talking, laughing,having fun in our own world.I tried asking my Mother and she did not seem very co-operative.Either that or he was as clueless. But for my Mother he was something of the past.Something whom she barely remembered. She told me to get over him. “You have Jeff” she had told me.”He is a thousand times better than that selfish man“.
” I know he was planning to move back to India. But I have no idea where he works now or of his contact details” Dr Ali continued. “I doubt you can find anything from the hospital, he did not have any close acquaintances around here”
I mumbled my thanks and walked back to my car.I bit my lips and tried to control my tears.I was as clueless as I was on the day when I my father had told me he was going away.
Why did he leave- was it for a new family or was there something more to it? I would never find out. I don’t know if he is alive or dead.I don’t know if I would see my father again. I had often thought of travelling to India. But I don’t know if I really want to know.Though I still love him I don’t know if I will forgive him if I found out he was leading a happy life. But that’s something next to impossible- he could not have wiped me off for something like that.
Years have passed, I got married, had children of my own. I have made peace with the fact that I will never know the reason.The thought no longer haunts me now.
Jeff passed away last month. When I gave him my final kiss I could sense two persons lying in the casket- one who chose to stop being my father without explaining why and the other who tried to fill up the vacuum that the first left . I cried and mourned both of them.