The long road to letting go

By Suresh Pattali

Published: Fri 20 Dec 2019, 3:01 PM

I have been rotting ever since I came to Dubai. Over two months now." That's my daughter on a Friday morning when I was grappling with a topic to write my column.
"You are here to prepare for an exam, so keep yourself focused."
"That doesn't mean I should be incarcerated like this. Let me soak up the sun, let me breath in the freshness of the winter, let me get drenched by the raindrops."
"The elements can wait till you pass the exam."
"I haven't even visited Jumeirah. Dad, I'm a creature of flesh and blood."
"Nothing matters once you have set a goal. Life will be a delectable slice of Black Forest gateau once you hit the bull's eye."
"You are a person who drove us to the desert in freezing winter mornings. You always lived by the aphorism: drink life to the lees. Why are you suddenly holding yourself back?"
After a fierce hour-long debate, we set out to kayak in the Hatta reservoir. It was a trip down memory lane as I showed her the area near the dunes where I used to carry her in a woollen baby wrap to watch the sunrise. The desert seemed to be timeless, weathering the winds of change that have swept across Dubai over the past couple of decades. My eyes wandered to locate her tiny footprints on the infinite dunes which we fondly called Pattali Land.
We crooned and whistled our way to Al Madam to take the direct E44 route to Hatta through a strip of Omani territory. Our vehicle (as well as the spirit) was forced to make a U-turn as we were told expats need to take the Sharjah-Kalba road to Hatta.
"Let's go back. The detour via Al Malaiha along E55 means we need to drive 40 minutes more." I was a bit sceptical.
"No, dad, you said nothing matters once you have set a goal. Stop the car. I'm going to drive now." Vava was adamant.
I passed the reins to my daughter and eased into the passenger seat, where I hardly get a chance to sit, and watched her mannerisms behind the wheel. Is she driving safe? Is she signalling before changing lanes? Is she keeping a safe distance? I craned my neck far too often to check the speed and she aimed a hard stare at me.
"Dad, stop assessing me. I've passed that stage. The RTA did that before I hit 18."
"Every day I read about teenage victims of car crash, drowning, flash floods etc. Don't leave your fate to chance."
"Dad, can you please stop talking about death? You are making me nervous. You are hacking at my confidence."
"There's no fun in fast-driving. Drive slowly and enjoy the new terrains." Google Map suddenly buzzed, indicating that we just missed the right turn to E44.
"Shucks, we missed the turn to Hatta. Dad, can you just shut your mouth for a while and find out the alternative route on the map?"
"Turn right after a couple of kilometers." Finding ourselves on a two-way dust road, we stopped by a 4X4 full of local teens.
"You should go back and take the turn you have missed. This road will also take you to Hatta," one of them said. We opted for the second option and soon found ourselves driving over the mountains riven with hairpin turns, steep climbs and slopes, and nerve-wracking gorges on one side.
"For God's sake, Vava, slow down at sharp turns."
"Dad, how much more can I slow down? We are already below 30. Can you please control your impulses? You are moving your legs as if you are driving."
"Oh my, watch out. The road seems to terminate on the horizon. We don't know how the downhill is."
"Dad, everything that goes up must come down. I can't believe you are a cadet trained in warfare by the Gurkha Regiment. I can't believe you received basic training in para-jumping. What's happening to you?"
"Life has made me a weakling. I also suffer from vertigo."
"You should have let Amma sit in the front then."
As we came down to earth, after a series of sharp turns and steep gradients, ink had poured down the sky over the valley and the Hatta dam. Pedalling the boat in the placid waters under the moon light, Vava said: "Dad, I've diagnosed your problem."
"What is it?"
"All along you have been in the driver's seat, whether in life or in a vehicle. You are a control freak. You never let others take a call because you have no confidence in them. Think of your son. He grew up wearing long-sleeve executive shirts you chose until his marriage. Out of the bondage, he is wearing colourful T-shirts. Amma has a cupboard full of saris with the same golden hue. You never let her wear what she wanted."
"They both looked good in what I selected. Anyway, accept my apologies."
"You are welcome. Dad, let's pedal to the mountain side. It's so cool."
"No, let's return to the shore. It's late."
"No, let's float around a little while more. Give me the rudder lever."
"NOOOO."
suresh@khaleejtimes.com




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