My father is the sixth, of the eight children, born into a family of adversity and overwhelming tradition. Over the years, he showed courage enough to change what life and tradition would mean to me. He built a home with solid foundations of love, faith, hope and laughter.
I was born in a country that is still fighting against female feticide. Despite that, I was named ‘Joy’ in the moment that my parents learnt they had another baby girl. We are two sisters, and we both are the apple of his eyes. He treasures us! And, he never runs out of cuddles for us.
As a young girl, I had the privilege to be his workshop elf, with full access to his tools. With all that he taught me, I can change car tires, tend to the car engine and lift weight- on my own and without chipping my manicured nails.
In both, words and action, he raised me to believe that despite our differences in age, gender or beliefs, everyone stands equal. And he didn’t let the rigid world tell me otherwise. He silenced its judgement and didn’t let biased gender roles restrict me. Contrary to what my culture swears I should be; I do not have long, beautiful hair, neither do I have fair skin and I definitely don’t count as the ideal Indian girl. But at 23, I had decided a life for myself; short spunky hair, the biggest dreams and happy- without waiting for a prince to hand me my ‘happily-ever-after’. He insisted that we become strong, independent women- marriage wasn’t even on the cards until I wanted it to be.
Brave enough to follow his heart and humble enough to do what is best for our family; he proved that there is no work, big or small, that he wouldn’t do. He taught me how to work and also taught me how to dream. I once asked what he dreamt for me to be, considering all the years and resources he had invested in my life. He gently replied, “Maria, I worked as hard as I did so that you could dream your own dreams.”
Another thing that amazes me, is that even though has the strength to lift a quintal (true story), his big heart is bursting with love. And the largest portion of it has my mother’s name on it.
And with everyone else? I’ve witnessed him help countless people, often in ways beyond his means and always behind closed doors. One evening, he came home in his undervest because he saw someone down the road, who needed his shirt more than he did. He is the most kind-hearted man I know.
My father is a hero. Not just my hero, but a hero in general. And I couldn’t, possibly, have asked for more.