22 years old Vaishali Kumari lives in Begusarai in Bihar. Born to truck driver Subodh Roy and Durgesh Devi, she wants to pursue IIT’s or IISC. Currently she studies in the Institute of Technology, Guru Ghasidas Vishwavidyalaya, Koni, Bilaspur.
If I could rate one man as my personal superhero, instead of all these fictitious Superheroes, it would be my father.
I was in class three, when all parents had been informed about the PTA meeting. I was eagerly looking forward to my father visiting my school and speaking with my teachers. I was so excited. I knew he would get to hear a lot of appreciation about my academics. I was the topper of my class. Unfortunately, on the same day when I would have thumped my chest with pride, I realised that my father had left the house early in the morning due to an emergency call. I was crestfallen. My mother didn’t know when he would return.
I got ready for school. My mother assured me that papa would come on time. I went to school and spent six long hours waiting for him. Papa didn’t arrive. I kept crying but tried to hide my tears. When I came back home, I did not talk to my father. I was furious at him. Although he tried to apologise, I didn’t forgive him.Back then I was too young to understand what my father did for a living and why he couldn’t make it to school that day. Much later I realized that my father is a truck driver.
The word driver gives an impression of a poor unkempt man struggling to secure two meals a day.
My father has put his three kids in top notch private schools all on his own, without any help from friends and relatives. I feel overwhelmed thinking what he must have gone through in his pursuit to make his three kids Independent and self-reliant.
That day he could not attend the PTA meet as he was called specially for a trip to a distant place. Since it was his holiday, he was paid twice of what he usually drew. For very little opportunity that came his way, my father stretched himself to make more money so that we could study and lead a better life. He was always busy building our future that only he could visualise, nurturing a dream that he lived for us. He wanted to give us the kind of childhood and upbringing that he never had in his life. It’s almost more than a decade since then and I have learnt a lot from it.
Growing up, I have realized that for my father money is not an asset. It is the means to educate, feed and make a family of five never feel pitiful about themselves. We have never been affluent but we have never been deprived of anything either. It’s not always about the struggle that my father has gone through in order to make us who we are today but it also about changing the paradigm and misconception that money alone can make life better. What I have learnt from my father is the spirit which holds the key, money is secondary. My father always taught me that you can be beaten in hard work, intelligence and labour but nobody can beat you in your persistence.
Studying in IIT is a dream many have. So do me and my father. My father always wanted to be recognised as a proud father of an IITian. He managed to save Rs. 50,000 in 18 years to fulfil his daughter’s dream. This selfless and enormous love can never be paid back and neither could even be thought of.
Kota was where I had to go to make my dream come true. As they say, happiness comes at a cost. In my case, it almost cost a life. It was horrendous. Just a day before I had to leave for Kota, my father suffered a fatal stroke and all I could do was pray. If you are brought up in a family where money comes hard, you develop tremendous faith in God. I was in the hospital for 3 days and I could do nothing except pray. I don’t even remember eating anything during that phase. It was either my prayers or my father’s will to see his daughter fly, that he got up. When he came back home the very first question he asked my mum was, “How much did my treatment cost?” Hearing that his treatment had engulfed all his savings, he literally fell on the ground dumbstruck. All he said was “You should have let me die”. I could not resist my tears. I hugged him and trust me, that hug still stands out to be the most peaceful experience of my life yet.
I was in Kota for a year, but I couldn’t make it to IIT. I think my father was more heartbroken than me, but he never complained. Although I was somewhat close to 99% in the IIT prelims, I could still not qualify for the main exam. I made it to one of the less renowned central universities of India.
All that I have written so far, is just one small part of the story of my father’s life. Driving a truck, his profession abounds in dangers and unpredictability. Driving in tougher terrains to higher altitudes, from bad climate to worst roads, being sleep deprived, yet never giving in to fatigue are some of the difficulties a truck driver faces.
My father had numerous accidents throughout his life. Some were so bizarre that he had sleepless nights for months. Every time he holds the steering wheel after an accident, his hands shiver, his adrenaline controls his heart, his mind protests against doing it again; still he fights back, not because he is not afraid but because he has no other option. I remember once my father came from a distant trip after 2 days, he asked me to cook instead of my mother. I was surprised, I am a terrible cook. I still tried to do my best. My father loved whatever I served. Later when I asked him the reason, he smiled and said “It was raining continuously for the last two days. We couldn’t find a place to eat and I haven’t eaten anything ever since. I wanted to see if my daughter has that magic in her hands to feed a hungry man. And you proved me right.” As it turns out to be, that was the only compliment I have ever received for cooking, and it couldn’t have been from a better person than my father.
“You will never travel to half the places that I have been to my father said when I asked him about his experiences so far in life. His positive attitude at the end of the day is inspiring. “What really matters is a home to walk back to, a smile to brighten the world, a hand to hold, and a meal to share. At the end of the day, it’s all about family.”
Ultimatums in life are inevitable and one day you will have to face one. With each passing day, the deteriorating condition of my father’s health does not let him drive as accurately or precisely as he could 10 or 15 years ago. Still he drives for us.
One day he won’t be able to drive, to climb stairs or change his own clothes, a bitter truth that makes me sad. But before that, I am pretty sure that I, his daughter will make him feel proud of all his sacrifices. Right now the only thing I can do is to comfort him with these words. Love you papa and I will always be there for you.
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