Snow may be harsh and chilly to the world, but to me it’s always been the scintillating spread of joy that arrived every winter, and brought my father along with it. You’d expect an army man’s daughter to be as tough as he is, but Papa’s first knock on our door every December when he returned home, had me bawling like I did as a baby, every time my father left my sight.
During every trip home, he’d get me a snowflake from the hills stored between a glass frame in polyvinyl acid, so that I could save it forever. The smell of his piping hot Dal Khichdi and mouth-watering Gajar Ka Halwa along with million such memories were trapped within the walls of our house, as it lit up with the joy of having him back.
“How do you manage to stay away from home for 11 months a year?” I’d ask him, as we took our morning strolls by the beach.
“I gather these pieces of joy during winter, and memories of them keep my heart warm all year round”, he’d say with a smile.
Our nostalgic afternoons were his favourite, second to the loving Ginger Tea I’d make for him. We’d spend hours reading our stack of Tinkle and Champak comics together, reminiscing the days when he’d read them to me as a child.
Evenings were a delight, as the Retro Bollywood buff inside him caught up with all his favourite songs. The charmer that he was, he’d always manage to win over Maa’s heart just like he did 25 years ago, as he danced to the tunes of Oh Haseena Zulfo Waali and Mere Sapno Ki Raani.
Nights were my favourite, when we’d sit under the light of the stars in our verandah, simply basking in the beauty of the silent night, amidst each other’s company. I’d rest my head on his lap, as I’d hear him humming the lori he sang to me as a child, and I’d doze off to sleep, in the comfort of Papa’s warm embrace.
It’s December again, an incomplete one this time. Papa isn’t coming back. Not now, not ever. We received the news a few months ago, and ironically I haven’t been able to cry ever since. A sudden knock on my door reveals his final gift to me, a glass frame, with a snowflake saved between it. I keep it safely, and then cry for days on end, for the hero that the man was, as a soldier, and as a father.