As the wheels touched down on the tarmac, I got a rude jolt. I had arrived at Ahmedabad, putting a distance of two thousand miles between me and my family. As I swung the backpack on my shoulders, it felt heavier than what it was back home. A lot was riding on my shoulders, and the liability to SBI was just a small part of it. I had left behind a government job, the city I was so fond of, and the two people who meant the world to me.
Being at IIMA was a dream that I had nurtured for long. Good things come to people who wait, they say. But it also comes at a cost that few are willing to pay. As I went in through the hallowed gates, I kept asking myself, had I taken the right decision?
The same dilemma had kept me from taking up earlier offers from other b-schools in the country. This time, it was too much to let go. My wife and I had arrived at the conclusion after a lengthy discussion that I should join the course. Little did I know then what it going to mean for both of us.
The physical distance between us was the starting point. We had been through a lot together, and it was only each other’s support that had made us sail through everything. Ever since we knew each other, there had hardly been a day when we had lived in separate cities. And if we had, we had had the solace that it would last only a few days. One year was too much by our standards. And added to it was the fact that now we were three, that changed all equations.
Taking our daughter along to a new city, to the extremes of heat that Ahmedabad offered, was never an option. It meant my wife had to stay behind. With me not on the scene, it meant she also had to sacrifice a lot on her career. Juggling both her practice and the care of our baby, wasn’t an enviable proposition.
Behind every successful man there is a woman. I have often heard that cliched dialogue, but never had quite understood why women should always be made to stand behind. To me, that statement so far reflected the attitude of the society to women, where they were only allowed to stand behind and support the man, while he went about his career.
It was only during the next two months that I was going to realize the true impact and meaning of that statement. It is only women who are perhaps capable of actually taking the backseat in the family, sacrificing their careers, amongst a lot of other things, so that men can pursue their dreams. Faced with the same dilemma, I wondered if I would have given up on my dreams and aspirations if she had had such an offer.
And why only her career? Being alone meant she also had to take care of our dear Sharo, who had just started to crawl, all on her own. I remember bringing our baby home- it was an overwhelming feeling. We soon realized there was much more to parenthood than just cuddling the baby!
We both took turns at taking care of her- leaving the feeding part, which of course I couldn’t contribute much to. But I actually had mastered the art of making Sharo sleep, much to Devlina’s jealousy. We divided the work of changing diapers and staying awake at nights, as she was too exhausted after the nine months and the subsequent delivery. I could almost visualize Sharo growing up in my hands, as she increased in size a little each day. We had to show a lot of patience and keep our cool, amidst the three four hours of sleep we were getting each day. (It provided good preparation for my course though!) The first six months went off in a breeze, and we knew we had crossed a landmark.
And just as we were starting to enjoy being new parents, the news came. I had got the call, and we needed to make a decision. As supportive as Devlina had been all through my preparations, she promptly told me I had to go. But it was putting too much on her shoulders, I told her.
I had so far thought it wasn’t going to happen, and at times I almost prayed that it didn’t! Choosing between my family and studies was something I didn’t want to do. It was a difficult decision. Leaving behind our daughter with her meant all her responsibility was to be borne by her, as I would be too far off to be of any real use. One small sneeze from Sharo freaked me out, so I was going to be high on the worrying part too. Knowing and accepting the fact that you cannot do anything no matter how much you want to, is also not a good feeling to have, specially when it comes to fathers and daughters 😊
However, I could only do it because of the faith I had in her. I knew it was only she who could do it. And she has been doing it ever since, without ever complaining. A day doesn’t go by, when I don’t sit at my desk in my dorm, look at their pictures, and wipe a tear perhaps from my cheeks. But that is the most that I can do. I cannot be with them, hold them or talk to them face to face. I cannot see my daughter growing up in front of my eyes, trying to hold my hands as she tries to stand up. I may not be there when she says her first words, or walks on her own. May be these only come to people who deserve them. And there’s no questioning who does that right now.
Leaving behind her promising career, just after her MD, without even thinking once, was something only she was capable of. And that’s where I realize that fathers are only fathers. Mothers are in a different league altogether.
But then someone said, babies don’t need fathers, mothers do. Someone who is taking care of a baby, needs to be taken care of. And that is exactly the thought bothering me now.
Archya, is a doctor-turned-healthcare administrator, who thinks he has a passion for writing, and hence uses his limited idle time to pen down his thoughts. No publishing house has yet made him any offers, so he has to now debate his opportunity costs.
Archya is presently pursuing a MBA (PGPX) from IIM, Ahmedabad.