Unloading the last bag from the train to the station floor, my father let out a sigh. Four bags, which wouldn't have mattered a few years ago, were too much for him now.
"You should've let me help," I said.
"I did, didn't I? I asked you to carefully step down with your handbag. That's also heavy," he replied still panting and asked, "I am still worried though child, how will you carry all this when I leave you?"
"I'll manage," I said while making space for him to sit.
This was me, leaving a city I had lived in for 21 years for the first time and heading off to another to take on the world on my own while my father still weighed my handbag to be too heavy for me.
We had to change trains at this station, and so had to wait a couple of hours till the next one arrived. I looked at him as he took out his handkerchief and wiped the beads of sweat off his heavily lined forehead. I remember when I had told him that I received my joining letter, I was jumping with joy while he smiled and left the house with an excuse of bringing sweets. His eyes were damper than usual when he returned.
That has been our family tradition; we leave the place when overwhelmed with emotions instead of conveying them to one another. In fact, I cannot even remember the last time we had an actual conversation. Maybe that is why I was so happy on leaving home that seldom felt like one finally.
"I am an atheist Papa," I said as if replying to a completely random what's up.
"Hmmm," he said and folded his handkerchief along the long made creases before putting it back inside his pocket.
"What about you, Papa? Do you believe in God?" I asked less for the curiosity on his beliefs than passing the long hours made longer by an awkward silence.
"When I was leaving the house this morning, a lot of things clouded my mind. What if we miss our train? What if the train was late? What if you weren't able to reach on time? What if someone stole our bag? So before stepping out, I closed my eyes and prayed. Now, I do not know if anyone heard it or not. I do not know if it gets answered. But, that few seconds of meditation surely suppressed the tides of doubts rising inside my head. They made my mind calmer and more efficient. You must be hungry we should eat something," he said and started unpacking the food.
I looked at him as he struggled with the polythene and paper wraps. Little did he know that I prayed too. My prayers, just like his, were never wishes waiting to be answered but massage for my ever anxious head.
The train arrived and we boarded only to spend another day listening to the rattling music with Papa convincing me to eat every 5 minutes or so. Finally, at the destination, we bid goodbyes. His eyes, again damper than usual, while mine dry of regular lack of emotion.
"Take care," he said and kissed my forehead. He will pray, I knew, for my well being but little would the prayer calm him down this time.
My praying ritual, however, was done as always by his lips on my forehead. With a calmer and steadier mind now, I was ready to take on the world.