Sadaf, my eleven-year-old daughter, was to get a prize in her school today. Sensing the hostility I would gain from her pals, which I eventually did, I was reluctant to accompany her.
What else, if not hostility, can a disfigured father gain, after all?
But she was equally adamant to have me by her side. Perhaps, she wanted to see her father’s chest grow in size on seeing her receiving the ‘Student of the Year’ trophy.
She, I know, is a bright student. The brightness she nourishes, clearly gets reflected in her eyes, and her gait is a perfect blend of confidence and bravery, as if all ready to kill dragons and save people, if need be.
But me? I’m her polar opposite. All my brightness leaked out from the left eye that got impaired when a shard of glass flew into my eye, tearing my retina. And my walk, well forget it… After the amputation of my right leg due to poor blood flow, I haven’t been able to take a step without crutches.
reactid=”.2.1:4:1:$comment492042847637576_492080464300481/=10.0.$right.0.$left.0.0.1.$comment-body.0.3.0.$end/=1$text24/=010″>Having assented to accompany her, I prepared myself for the disdainful looks that would greet me, but what came along was something way more acute.
“How did Sadaf hug that man? Look at him, I wouldn’t dare touch him with a bargepole, he’s that ugly!” said one of her friends, oblivious to the fact that we were a little too close.
This statement punctured my heart. It was as if every fang of contempt that had ever been buried into me, was being buried all over again, with thrice the intensity, all at once.
I could sense Sadaf’s discomfiture as well. Stories where children shoo their clumsily-dressed parents by calling them their domestic help, in order not to feel ashamed before their friends, engulfed me. Why wouldn’t it, after all? I was clumsy from head to toe.
I wanted to apologise to her for not being adamant enough on the point of not accompanying her, but before I could, I saw her walking towards her friends.
“Would she deny me being her father?” This question had almost reduced me to a mere throbbing clot of shame, when I heard her say something that quadrupled the size of my chest.
What she said was swift enough to put me in awe. It seeped through the pores of my skin and rejuvenated every cell inside of me.
“I understand the human tendency of finding it easy to love those who are beautiful and to snub those who aren’t. But heaven forbid, if one of you meets with an accident and loses a limb or two, would you want people to treat you this way?” she questioned.
The sorry faces that they were quick to wear made her say, “I forgive you for what you said to my father…yes, he’s my father, and hope Allah blesses you with eyes that are capable of analysing a person’s true beauty, with strength to accept people as they are, and with power to understand those, who unlike us, are physically challenged.”
Then she came, grasped my hand and kissed it, saying, “You are beautiful, Abbu. Don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise!”
For the first time, words made me feel healed. For the first time, I experienced something beyond euphoria. For the first time, I felt proud of the scars and disability I wear. And for the first time, a daughter became a father’s hero.
Yes, in this stage show where we are all puppets, I am her father, but she is my hero! She will always be.
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