Papam=bechari/bechara in Hindi= Poor one in English
Like every day, Dad dropped in for our customary morning cup of coffee. As we dunked our digestives in the hot brew, Dad looked at me and beamed.
“I have a new student in my tuition class,” he said. As I smiled appreciatively, he went on, “Their family is distantly related to us. The girl’s mother… papam…like you, she has also faced many difficulties.”
The smile faded from his eyes. The coffee tasted tepid on my tongue. It was the sound that papam made. The images it conjured inside my head.
“What does she do?” I asked, reaching out for another biscuit.
“I don’t know, but her husband used to work for HPCL.”
“Daddy…how many children does she have?”
“Two daughters. One of them has just completed her M.ba and is working for an MNC. The second one is in tenth.”
As he said this, some of the chaos surrounding papam began to fade.
“Dad, what does she do?” I asked again.
“She is learning Sanskrit,” he replied.
“See she is doing something and there you are papamizing her.”
“No…No I don’t mean that. Come on M, having to do things without a partner is not the same as having someone by your side. Haven’t you seen it all?”
The P word again. The sound of it now filling my eardrums. Coursing through my veins. I needed to silence it before I was consumed by its lure.
“Nannaru…I understand what you mean. And I know you say it in the kindest manner. But when you say papam like that, it takes away our agency. I know you mean things would have been easier for us. But you know what ? Papam anchors all those women and me back in our pasts. Papam is devoid of any movement. This woman is celebrating herself by signing up for a course. She has raised a daughter to be financially independent. She is raising another daughter successfully.”
Dad nodded, light filling his eyes.
“I agree,” he said putting aside his coffee cup, “Look at that other lady T. No one can take her for a ride. She single handedly runs the entire business.”
“And you call us Papam,” I said laughing, relieved that the P word was finally exiting my system and my father’s.
So dear Solo Moms, if you have a favorite aunt, a best friend or a sibling saying the P word wistfully, do what a dear friend taught me. Ask them to spell their name. Both forward and backward. Ask them to say their telephone number aloud. Forward and backward. And as they are struggling with the numbers, ask them why Katappa killed Bahubali.
It silences the sound of papam every single time. And then life begins to flow. Like a gurgling river.
©: Sridevi Datta.