One of the earliest memories I had of my dad is sleeping next to him on the terrace during summer nights. We slept in the open air with just a mat and mom’s old sari was our bed sheet. My brother and I had our own spots in the nooks of his shoulder which we never traded, mine was always on his right. Mostly he wrapped his arms around us and tapped gently on the shoulder. If the story gets interesting he made hand gestures in the air, drawing pictures with vast dark sky as background. We would watch his dancing hands that moved in rhythm bringing each words to life. Sometimes it appeared as if he was strong enough to gather a handful of twinkling stars and release them back into the sky.
This golden period with my dad ended sooner than I wanted it to be. As I grew up, we grew apart. He hardly took part in family responsibilities. It was always my mom who deliberated from the little things to major decisions in our lives. She soon became my model, the wonder women who carried the world in her shoulder and still managed to keep her smile. There were days I thought he wasn't good enough for her.
Few months ago, I interacted with a group of deaf people as part of a cause. A translator signed my questions to the group and translated their answers for me. “How do you feel as deaf and dumb in the world which is filled with different sounds” I asked looking at a young deaf guy. Before the translator could finish signing, he interrupted with a loud sound. The translator answered me while he signed “I am not dumb, none of us are, we cannot hear sound so we don’t know how to pronounce a word. And since we can’t hear ourselves we don’t like to make the sound. If needed I can shout to get help during emergency, so I am not dumb. We are mute but not dumb”.
I was so embarrassed and apologized for my insensitive question. But the handsome young guy smiled and responded something that I would remember forever. He signed “I understand. You did your best with the knowledge and understanding you had. Now that you know, you can understand better, and tell others too about it.”
Perhaps it’s signing hands that reminded me,my dad. I was taken back to our exact moment in the terrace with billions of stars. That’s when I released my dad from my judgments. He did his best with the knowledge and understanding he had. He still does. My mom was wonder women because he let her be. Every time I spoke harshly or denied him like cut roses he only returned blooms of understanding and acceptance. The last time I visited home, I gave him a long hug and felt him tapping my shoulder exactly the way he did when I was a kid. And with every tap we released the stars back into our sky.