Beyond the Lunchbox
My mom was a worried woman. Her firstborn refused to conform to the ‘wise ways of the world’. You know the kinds that expect girls to behave in a morally sanctioned code that makes them perfect marriage material – the cook, clean, sew, and domicile kinds. No, nothing wrong with the ones who choose to do that at all. But me, I was destined to be the wild one. I cleaned for myself, joined sewing classes only to leave them out of sheer boredom, and learned cooking because mom pushed me to it. In short, I did everything a ‘good girl’ shouldn’t and never regretted any of it, while mom worried about finding me a suitable boy. And worse, how would I pack his lunchbox with my limitations?
And then I met you. Shortly, thereafter we became family. It was written, I tell you.
It was a new home, you understood that and gave me my space. Never once questioning or interfering. You remember that one moment I came home real late and you never said a word? Maybe you don’t, but I do. I bawled my eyes out thinking you did not love me. It took me some time to realize you did, you just had a very subtle way of showing it.
Like every birthday or anniversary, you’d make it a point to give a handwritten card. I have saved all of them. They are precious, those words. The ones you wrote and the ones you chose. They’d sing to me, soothe me, and hold me in their warm embrace. That kind of endearing love and care which a fortunate few are destined for.
You were the kinds who believed that a woman’s life is way beyond the kitchen and the home. Besides, we already had a great cook, so no point reinventing the wheel. I, on the other hand, was grateful that my dream of ‘being married in a family where I would not have to cook’ had come true. I now took a lunchbox that I had not painstakingly crafted. Believe me when I say this, it’s the next best thing to chocolate cake.
And because I knew you loved hot chappatis off the tava accompanied by black dal and pan-fried chicken, I would cook, occasionally. I loved how you’d follow the aroma of the spices that wafted into the living room, peep through the curtains and ask, “Making Doll?” I’d smile every time, and in retrospect I think I started to like making ‘doll’ just to hear you say these magic words. Watching you lick your fingers clean, and basking in the compliments showered thereafter, I’d ponder, maybe cooking ain’t so bad. Fortunately, better sense prevailed every time, and Jacinta continues to grace our kitchen till date.
As we added years to being one large family, I came to admire the man you are. From you I learned that no matter how hard your past has been, there is always a meaningful future to look forward to. With you I understood that silences sometimes speak volumes, particularly in the face of a disagreement. Your simplicity, humility, graciousness, gratitude and above all, love for western movies made you totally lovable, and how. And I can now safely admit this. Remember all those times I compared SRK to John Wayne? It was simply to see the passion with which you explained the difference between drama and over dramatic.
You know, I think the guy upstairs knew what a rebel I was (am) and hence he conveniently parceled me to you. He was convinced that you would be the serenity I would embrace, eventually. It’s been 14 years of trying very hard, but I don’t think I’ll ever match up to you in this lifetime, Daddy.
Yes, you are an inspiration and I must tell you this. Every card that you buy with the words ‘For a beautiful Daughter-in-law’ and then judiciously cancel the ‘in-law’ bit, I tear up, every time. If your sons live and love the way you do, I promise you, someday, they will get one such ‘Lunchbox’ of their own.
Yes, becoming a father-in-law was a given when you have three sons.
But being a Daddy………….. that takes someone special like you. And I am so glad you are mine.
‘The Lunchbox’ premieres on Valentine’s Day at 8 PM on &pictures and this is my #lunchboxANDyou story.