My dad was a stern man with no heart. He had a quick temper and lost it even for mild irritants. When he drove the car, he would be swearing at every passerby who crossed the road or the vehicles halting before him for signal. In shops or restaurants he demanded immediate attention and the slightest delay would provoke him. He could not suffer fools. He was a man full of ego and autocratic in his ways. Little wonder he had few friends. All of us dreaded him when he came back home from office. Even as he entered the home, he would survey the scene around him and will flare up if he saw anything like school bags, shoes or books lying scattered away from their designated places. The three sisters including me would swoop down gathering the offending things and run away fast from his sight. He was not violent but his tongue was sharp with a sarcasm that was biting. We simply detested him never looking up to him for anything. It was our dear mom to whom we confided and on whom we showed all our affection. We pitied her for having to spend her life with this boorish man. While my sisters would not defy, I would protest when I found him unreasonable to mom. This would anger him further and he would shout at my mom for bringing me up as a brat.
But things went beyond control when I wished to marry a colleague of mine. He was a perfect mate for me being highly qualified, holding a good job and coming from a respectable family. The only snag was he belonged to a different religion. I was firm in marrying that guy even when my mom pleaded with me to go by dad’s advice lest he snapped all relations with me. When I did not budge and went ahead with printing invitations, he called me one evening to the living room and shouted in the presence of all ”Nivedita, you are no longer my daughter. You are a slut unfit to belong to my family. Get lost right away. I disown you. Do not enter my house even when I am dead.”
When my mom protested at his crude words, I was shocked to see him raising his hands to hit her. I got up and just walked out with my handbag with no clothes even for a change. That was the last I saw him .. My mom and sisters used to call me occasionally but dared not visit my house where I lived with my hubby.
I got a call from one of my sisters that dad had passed away suddenly after a heart attack in the morning and that cremation was to take place in the evening. She didn’t ask me whether I would be coming home or not. I felt bad for my mom and wished to be by her side. But I remembered crystal clear the stentorian voice of my dad forbidding me to enter the house even when he was dead. I decided to respect his wishes. He had made no attempt to build bridges with me and I learnt he even prevented mom from visiting me when I was ill once.
It was crowded with relatives and neighbours at the crematarium.I stood at the fringe of the crowd. I could see his body laid there in a large hall with a new white shroud and mom and sisters sobbing by his side. I could not restrain the sudden gush of grief coming out as a suppressed sob and the eyes well up with tears. I disliked his ways but did not hate him. I always felt sorry for him. I do not know how long I stood till I felt someone touching my shoulder. It was my sister. She didn’t utter one word but dragged me to my mom’s side. My mom’s eyes were swollen and with worried lines on her fatigued face.I broke down on seeing her melancholy face and the dead body unable to control the heartache kept suppressed for years. I had no words to say except to embrace her warmly. She asked me to come home after the ceremony. I mumbled some excuses and said would come later.
It was a week later there was call from attorney’s office asking me to meet at 3pm.When I went there my mom and sisters were already there. In a brisk manner the lawyer said he would read out the gist of the will left by my dad only a month back. I did not evince any interest as I was certain about the outcome after he disowned me and carried the grudge till his end.
“…………………….I have done a grievous wrong to my daughter Nivedita and I repent for it sincerely. It was my foolish ego that forbade me from granting her wish to marry a man of her choice. It was not the religion of her chosen man but her decision to go ahead without involving me that made me angry. In my anger I paid scarce attention to the pleas of my wife and other daughters to accept her marriage and bring her back in the fold.Nivedita had taken after me with an independent mind of her own. I am proud of her for standing up to me. I love her as much as my other daughters. I beg her to forgive me and start visiting her paternal home.
I hereby bequeath one third of my wealth to my wife and the balance two thirds equally amongst the three daughters…………….”
Nivedita was could not believe her ears. Choked with emotion and tears on her cheeks she let out a scream “Daddy, forgive this wretch for not understanding you. Daddy, I miss you so much. Why did you leave me?......................”
“What is past is past, there is a future left to all men, who have the virtue to repent and the energy to atone"