Updated: Oct 15, 2022
It was love at first sight.
She came, she saw and she conquered. I still remember it vividly. It was 21st July 1972. I was holding this bundle of joy in my arms. She was my first born daughter, Shafina. With love, I call her Shafu.
She just rolled her eyes, smiled and I felt I have been waiting for this moment all my life. I was over whelmed with affection and pride and there were tears of joy in my eyes. I am certain there is no kind of affection as pure and angelic as of a father for his daughter.
There are no strings attached to this relationship. As Shafu started growing up, she became a darling child of entire house. We were living in a joint family and everyone wanted to hold her in their arms.
She was an easy child, always smiling and willing to play with everyone in the family. She held a special place in the heart of her grandma, my mati.
As a small child, Shafu loved moon watching. She would get up in the middle of night, shake you and point towards moon. This she did even when she could not speak. But she spoke with her big eyes full of love and emotions.
I would take her to the balcony. She would look at the moon, than your face and giggle. She was a child of her own kind, living in a dream world, where she had a kingdom that needed saving from the monsters, and she always won.
A charming girl with big captivating eyes, a hypnotic smile and curly hair, she often looked as if she had walked straight out of a fairy-tale story book.
I remember, when she was three years old, she developed some infection around her back of neck. I took her to one of best skin specialists with clinic at Sindhi house, Connaught Place. He gave some medicines and ointment and advised us to keep child happy as much as possible.
One day, from his clinic, we went for a round of inner circle in Connaught Place. We were crossing a toy shop and Shafina spotted a toy and insisted on having it. When I tried to reason with her, money being short in those days, she said very innocently, But papa, doctor uncle said, you should keep me happy at all costs! I smiled and brought her the toy.
She had a way with words, and it was difficult for most of the people to say no to her. Shafu was a pampered child and rightly so. She was and is my weakness as well as my greatest strength.
She has always been my most precious possession. Whenever my child fell sick, I made sure our refrigerator was well stocked with her favourites like ice cream, chocolates and cold drinks.
Shafu did not like milk and I do not remember how many times I drank half of it to make my princess happy and save her from her mommy’s glares. I remember, whenever we took her to a cinema, she loved to visit canteen for ice cream, chocolates and cold drinks.
Suppose she chooses Fanta as her drink. After drinking half of it, she would start sobbing. I would ask her what happened and her standard reply was, coke to leke Diya Nahi. I would rush to canteen counter and get her coke. She would laugh and give me big hug, saying, you are the best papa in the world.
My daughter was very fond of playing hide and seek. At times when she was hiding, she would go to sleep imagining about her perfect world. And then trouble started!! You could not find her as you could not locate her hideout. She would often go underground or choose the most dense trees in the park where no one could imagine that a small child would venture.
Once after a massive search drive by family, friends and neighbours, we found her sleeping comfortably in a grove of trees, plants and shrubs in a park adjacent to our house.
Shafina had a large heart and was sometimes tricked by her friends. Every new session in school, we got her a new school bag. Once, when she came back home from school, her new bag was missing, Instead she was carrying an old bag. Enquiries revealed that she exchanged her brand new bag for old one with one of her class mates. My elder sister went all the way to school and retrieved new bag.
My princess was always bold and fearless. She always lived life her own way. She had a tendency to flirt with danger. Perhaps it gave her thrill. When Shafu was about four years old, we visited Kashmir. Me, my wife Uma and Shafu.
I agree with the Mughal emperor Jahangir that if there is heaven on this earth, it is this, it is this. We were in Sonmarg, known for glaciers where ice skating is favourite game. We were talking with locals about specialities of Sonmarg, when I heard cries of Shafu, papa, save me. I was startled and horrified to see that My dare devil daughter was on top of glacier calling for help. I pleaded with local guides for help but they refused saying it is risky and dangerous. I did not waste any time and shouted, wait beta, do not panic, stay where you are, Papa is coming.
I ran like mad, slipping several times . I heaved a sigh of relief when I reached my Shafu and brought her down safely, mounted on my back.
Such was my little princess. She was deferent and a class of her own. Whenever guests and relatives visit us, it is duty assigned by her mother to her to entertain them. Shafu is apt at this and with her quick wit, humour repartee and art of weaving tales holds attention of everyone around her. You could easily call her multi-talented girl. My princess has always been intelligent and all-rounder during her school and college days.
As she started growing, I realised that that my daughter, my precious treasure is also cause of my sleeplessness.
Come what may, I will let my daughter do what ever her heart wants. I will support her, guide her and give her all the knowledge I have. Because I want her to succeed in whatever her heart desires. Between father and daughter, it is love at first sight.
The moment he lays eyes on her, a father adores his daughter. Whoever she grows up to be, she is always to him that girl in pig tails.
Shafu was favourite of grand ma,Mati, as we all called her. Once Mati was going to Ambala to attend a wedding. She came to me and said, Harish, I am taking Shafu along with me to Ambala. I objected saying, Mati, she is just one year old. It would be too much trouble for you. My mother lost temper and said, I am just informing you, not asking for your permission.
Sorry ma, I said, please do not be cross with me. How long will you be at Ambala, I asked. About eight days ,was her reply. Once mother and Shafu left for Ambala, I realised me and my wife Uma had eight clear days to ourselves.
I planned a trip to Nainital and we had great time . Look at the love and affection of Mati for Shafu. She was really fond of this little girl with big smile.
Shafu was senior to her younger brother, Ankur by about five years. She was highly possessive about her brother and no one dare touch Ankur with little finger in the presence of Shafu. We were in Janak Puri in Delhi at that time. In our neighbourhood lived an old man, whom children called Dabu, I do not know why. He was highly irritating and had worst relations with all children in the area.
Once he beat Ankur over a trifling matter and he went to his sister Shafu. Dabu had committed mistake of his life by touching Ankur. Shafu vowed to teach him a lesson. It was winter time and Dabu was enjoying a sound sleep in the sun outside his house. Shafu had somehow managed to get a bunch of crackers and was on the lookout to take revenge. As Dabu was sleeping, long chord of his pyjamas was hanging down from Charpoye on which he was sleeping. Shafu sensed her chance. She tip toed to dabu’s charpoy, tied crackers to his chord, put them on fire and made a bee line for home. Crackers started busting and Dabu woke up in panic, jumping around. Children clapped and enjoyed the scene. Such was Shafu.
Shafu was in college now. She studied in Lady Irwin college and was in hostel. Her college was about 15 kilometres from our home. Her grand ma would pack a big tiffin with goodies, Shafu’s favourite, and went to her college to feed her. Rajma and chawal were a must, which Shafu loved. Can you imagine someone taking so much pains at the age of seventy plus for her grandchild.
If this is not pure love, what else is. Shafu loved Mati equally. She would insist grand ma travels in an auto rickshaw back home . She would call auto rickshaw, pay him. full fare and ask him to drop Mati home at Neta ji nagar. But old lady was equally smart. She would travel about a kilo meter ask auto driver to stop saying I have some work here. She would pay driver for one kilo meter, take money back, and go home in a bus.
Shafu is our life-line now, our support system. I cannot imagine life without her. Sometimes, when she says, papa I need your help, she has no idea that papa needs her billion times more. My son looks after our medical needs but Shafu looks after our every need.
COVID had assumed gigantic per portions as a pandemic, affecting entire humanity adversely. I was its victim last year. Ankur was in America and provided medical advice to doctors looking after me at Max super speciality Saket.
Shafu ensured that I got the best treatment. I was in hospital for nineteen days. COVID affected my lungs and at times my oxygen level dipped to 72. I was on oxygen for twenty four hours a day. I was lucky to survive. Shafu left no stone unturned to arrange plasma which was administered twice. She stood on her toes for two weeks running around till she brought me home.
My princess was my saviour angel.
Iam lucky to have children like Shafu and Ankur. I am a humble being with many defects but I am proud of the fact that I gave this world two children who are nearly perfect.