I was studying in the first year of college. Our hometown was two hundred kilometers away from Delhi. My father applied for a hostel accommodation for me. Many relatives were local but he insisted on my living in the hostel. He said it taught young people to interact with friends from different backgrounds. Managing on our own, instilled independence in our personality. For a middle class family it meant a lot of expenditure.
First time living away from home, initial months were tough for me. For a small town girl, metro life was a culture shock. I was living with girls from super rich families. There were daughters of beaurocrats, army generals even foreign diplomats. It was a surprise watching their enormous collections of expensive clothes and shoes. It took me months to make likeminded friends. I missed home and rang my family often.
Once papa came for his business trip to Delhi. He had to take a pending payment from someone and also buy a new briefcase for himself. I was to spend the whole day with him. We planned he would pick me from the hostel. I was very excited. Although he was supposed to come at ten in the morning, I got ready before breakfast. My cupboards locked, room tidied up. Neither the television nor the books could hold my attention anymore. While talking to my friends, I continuously stole glances at the gate.
At last my father’s silhouette became visible between the wrought iron bars. By the time the announcement was made, I had already reached him and hugged him tightly. We beamed ear to ear. His cab was waiting. We left for our destination.
Papa took me around the old streets of Chandni chowk, where his buyer was. The goods had already been delivered, and the payment was over due. We climbed up an old building with a narrow staircase. In the office, we waited three hours at the reception area. Despite the fact papa had confirmed the appointment beforehand, the buyer did not turn up. I saw the worried look on his face. By six in the evening, he had to leave. It was one already.
We went out for lunch. He treated me to the choicest Old delhi delicacies. I peeped into his wallet. He had enough money to buy his briefcase. I suggested we choose it before going to the buyer again. Reluctantly he dragged along. We saw several shops. He did not choose anything. The affordable ones, he did not like and the good ones were out of his reach. Perhaps if he had got the payment, he would have happily indulged.
We returned to the office again but after wasting my father’s trip to Delhi and whole day, this man chose to remain absent. He rang up his office telephone saying, he would send the check the next day.
Papa came to drop me back at the hostel. I felt bad for both of us. For him, that he had a hectic and wasted day. For me it meant a separation for another month, I could go home only after the examinations. On the way our auto-rickshaw was passing through the posh market behind my hostel. My father stopped it. He entered the most expensive confectionery of the area. I saw him buy the best things from their lavish display. He loaded me with pastries, sweets, and dry fruits. At the end of it, he gave me a full wad of tenors. Fruit juice was priced ten rupees a glass those days. I was instructed to drink one glass each day till my exams and keep my cheeks looking rosy. My eyes were moist. Apart from the ticket money papa had spent everything on me.
He had deliberately forgone the briefcase to keep money for my shopping. I experienced a bittersweet feeling. I felt like a princess and yet my heart was heavy. It was no longer important, what my father did for a living. How much money we had. How many clothes I bought. What was important is that whatever my father had, he was ready to shower it all on his daughter. He was the richest man on earth for me.
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Disclaimer: First published as Papa you were the richest man…
Pic: courtesy the Internet