A father-daughter tête-à-tête
"Are you in touch with your bro?"
"Not really. What happened?" asked my daughter, eyes reveted to Brooklyn Nine-Nine on Netflix.
"When was the last time he called or messaged?"
"Maybe two weeks ago," she said, bursting into peals of laughter when the carefree cop, Jake Peralta, performed the worm move he had just learned.
"Aren't you worried?"
"He must be busy. He was shifting residence from Bonn to Munich. So, you can guess." She paused the sitcom to talk.
"How long does it take to punch in a line - I'm busy?"
"Dad, stop being a cry baby. You want people to report to you every time. That's not possible. We aren't kids anymore."
"Children are so selfish. They will use you like a ladder and once at the top, they will chuck the ladder."
"Dad, you've got it all wrong. We love our parents. Who wouldn't? But we can't perpetually live inside a few apps."
"In the first place, you guys never take our calls. And you don't call when you see the missed calls."
"Dad, we don't wear the phone around our necks, like we used to hang our water bottles as kindergarten kids."
"I don't wear it around my neck, either. But I always have one eye on the screen. Our office functions out of various WhatsApp groups. Messages pile up if I don't look for 10 minutes."
"That's your professional obligation. We too get super busy at work trying to reach our targets or booking our cabs in the dead of night to get back home to surrender our body and mind to the universe. And that's exactly when the box buzzes."
"To multitask is very important. That's the key to success."
"Dad, trust me, the only impulse when the phone rings after a day's hard work is to flick it out of the window. We presume mum and dad will understand when we don't answer even if they buzz a bazillion times."
"Don't you feel tobliged to call back?"
"We do, but a sense of guilt and hesitation kick in by the time we want to. We also need to gather the guts and patience to listen to a few minutes of bashing before the last one minute of normal conversation. And we think to ourselves, is this why I called back?"
"Yeah, but it's your duty to think about the two old souls living alone."
"Two is company, dad. Think about me. I was alone in India. Your problem is too much expectations. Things will be alright if you can accept the fact that we are all alone in this world. We come alone; and we must die alone. What happens in between is just an illusion."
"You can't plug the holes with philosophy," I said. Yet, the profoundness of her thoughts struck me like a gale-force polar wind. They chilled me to the bone.
"We all presume we have someone to fall back on. But it is only when you fall, that you realise the crowd you had expected to prop you up was just an illusion. You wake up every day thinking the universe is at your service. That's not the case."
"I am listening."
"Dad, your son, daughter, and even your wife are all visitors in your cocoon. Life is like a comic book. We flip its pages in a snap. Death is the most easily forgotten event in a life."
Tears streamed down my cheeks. The earth moved under my feet.
"Think of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The German writer, who appeared to have had a lot of friends, was so bitter near the end of his life. 'No one has ever properly understood me, I have never fully understood anyone; and no one understands anyone else,' he fumed. Dad, the camaraderie we share is not a proof that we are united forever."
"I understand, baby. Loneliness is something we all should expect from the very start."
"Think of the last few years when we were away from you, and things were just not working right for you. That was the most creative phase of your life. Solitude unleashed the creativity in you. You are an author today. If you accept the philosophy of aloneness, you can be more creative. It will redefine relationships. You won't be bothered about calls and messages anymore."
"Listen, your son may or may not call you. I may or may not message you. Your wife may or may not cook for you. These shouldn't be the parameters of your happiness. Use your solitude to converse more with yourself, and be intimate with yourself. And someone somewhere will understand you. Till then, be my cutie, cutie pug."