The Power Of A Hug
The Power Of A Hug
Appa has always been an early riser. Out of the bed by 4.00 am, appa would go for a brisk walk around his rubber plantation. He had to ensure that his people were diligent. He would personally check if the trees were tapped to perfection, the grooves were neat and of the right depth and the bark was well peeled. Appa had an authoritative and uncompromising personality. The few decades spent in the city had brought little change to his disciplinarian ways.
Back by 5.00 am, Instead of walking straight towards the bathroom, Appa would always take a detour to turn off the fan in my bedroom. This has been my wake-up alarm since years. By the time he would have had his bath, I would have freshened up and dug my head into my books. While Appa would devour every single word on the newspaper with a freshly brewed cup of filter coffee, I would greedily gobble down the history and civics materials.
A topper all along, I was preparing for the Indian Administrative Services. It was as though I was destined to accomplish appa's unfulfilled dream. He lived his appa's dreams, and I was bound to live by his. I don’t even remember when or how it all started, but IAS had become a part of my life. Even before I completed my matriculation, appa had started dreaming about me becoming an IAS officer, how he would show off to all our relatives; the very ones who had looked down upon him when he spent his hard-earned savings on my coaching and tuitions.
I knew that appa held very high hopes for me and I was all the more willing to grind the mill. My friends, no my classmates; I have never had any friends, called me a book hound. I was that encyclopedia that had answers to everything. I would be reading my study materials way past midnight, my only companion being a flask of filter coffee. Even the aroma of a well-brewed coffee could keep my sleep at bay. The exams were due in a month and the stress was looming large. I couldn’t even dream of letting my appa down.
I know that appa loves me and doesn’t want his son to be a humble postmaster. But like most Indian fathers, appa has always been bad at expressing himself. Appa had lost his appa when he was in his teens, and since then he has shouldered the responsibilities of the entire family. He assumed the role of a provider very early on. Not having anyone to share his sensitivities with, he became a very silent and gloomy person; and that invisible barrier existed between us too. Amma was the bridge that kept us connected. But with her gone, things were never the same. Since her demise, our house was shrouded in a state of constant melancholy. He had the typical traditional mindset of a strict father. The only discussions that we had were revolving around my education and career choices. Else they were restricted to small courtesies.
June 12th:its the UPSC prelims. Though well prepared, I was a little apprehensive. And appa, he was so restless that he missed his morning walk, something that had never happened in the recent past. Rain or shine, he had to go for a walk. The only time he had missed his morning walk was when amma was in labour, delivering me. Appa offered to drop me at the exam centre. Though I was edgy, I politely declined appa's offer and chose to ride my moped. Once inside the exam hall, my tense nerves relaxed. The questions papers were distributed and the exam started. I knew it, While I was inking my answer black, appa would be restlessly pacing up and down. Hours passed by. The exam got over. Reaching home, appa inquired about the paper to which I smiled and nodded. Appa sighed in relief. That day I had truly wished that appa would have sat beside me and had a small talk over a cup of our filter coffee. But then old habits die hard. Even without waiting for the results, I started preparing for the mains. Appa was pleased.
Come August and the results were declared. By God's grace, I cleared the prelims in flying colours. Appa seemed relieved. He went to the Ganesha temple and offered a coconut. On returning home, he gave me the prasadam, and reminded me that the prelims were just the stepping stone; the mains were due in two months.
Oct 17th: The mains are to be held today. I had been preparing day in and day out for the last two months, having lost my sleep and appetite over the preparation. Appa was anxious too.
I entered the exam hall all calm and composed. The question papers were handed out. As I read through the questions, my mind went black. It was total darkness. I knew I couldn’t afford to falter. The pressure of expectation kept rising like bile in the throat. Taking a few deep breaths I tried to calm my stressed nerves. But my destiny seemed to have other plans. I attempted all the questions and handed over the paper.
I felt very depressed returning homewards. I had let down appa. Had I prepared better, put in more effort, I would have been in a better frame of mind to answer the questions. My thoughts ran wild. Though the rainy season was well gone, it started to pour heavily. The raindrops were masking away the heavy tears that were flowing down. I found my life not worth living. I did not know how to face appa. I did not see the approaching truck. Had the truck driver not hit the brakes… the screeching sound of its tyres brought me out of my trance. I continued to ride with raindrops biting hard on my face. On reaching home, appa was anxiously waiting for me in the sit out. Mounting off my bike I walked in. Appa gave me a tight hug. He did not care my drenched clothes.
The warmth from his embrace seemed to spread into every corner of my cold heart. Both our hearts were beating hard. This embrace broke many invisible barriers between us. I realised that life could not be any more beautiful than this very moment. I found a new friend and confidante in appa.