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A Letter To My Father from His Daughter Who Wasn’t A Son

Letter to my father I 

I sit by the edge of the seat and watch you look hard at the screen. My little brain cannot comprehend why a smaller screen than our television at home with no colorful pictures or sound can be of interest to you, daddy. Especially when the woman beside you is doing some crazy things to mommy.

When she is done with her ‘thing,’ you look at her expectantly, as if she’d tell you she had a box of chocolates for you. I know the look, because I have seen myself wear it as soon as you get home from work. You bring along a chocolate sometimes – but never a full box. I hope you do bring me one, daddy. And soon.

However, your expression soon changes into one I am scared of and I don’t know if it’s directed at the woman or mommy. I wonder what they have done to make you angry.

As we get out of the hospital building, you put us (mommy and me) in a cab to go home. I am very excited to sit by the window and look at things whirl past, but my brain isn’t content to be occupied by one thing for long and I snuggle up to mommy and ask her why daddy was looking at that small TV like that.

mother and daughter

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Mommy isn’t as happy when she usually answers my questions but tells me that the machine would let us know about my soon-to-be sibling. I ask her if I’d have a baby brother or a baby sister and this makes her flinch.

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Unable to understand if I’d asked a wrong question, I snuggle closer and hug her with my li’l hands. She wraps me up in her embrace and I feel loved. But I feel that mommy isn’t very happy and I am convinced when she occasionally lifts a hand to her face to wipe off a tear or two.

This process becomes routine – for the next three years. You take me and mommy to the doctor each time and the same thing repeats itself. Except mommy is growing increasingly irritable with my questions and you don’t bring me any chocolates, nowadays. And that the answer from the crazy-thing-lady pleases you this time. The grin on your face is unmistakable. You come home with us, in the cab, all the while very happy and talking nonstop about my soon-to-be-born baby brother. I notice you give the cabdriver more than is displayed on the meter.

mother and daughter

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At night, you bring home a box of chocolates, and ask me to share it with my younger sister, coz the youngest is not big enough to eat chocolate yet. I don’t know why you are so jubilant, but the box of chocolates makes me happy.

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But when Anam and I have emptied our box of chocolates, I tiptoe out of my room and climb in bed with mommy. You are out in the hall, drinking the drink we aren’t allowed to touch or taste, and I find comfort in snuggling up with mommy. Mommy hugs me back. It feels good. But soon I ask her why dad wasn’t as happy the last two times and she scolds me and asks me to return to my room.

I didn’t get an answer, was scolded, have to leave her comfortable embrace, and have no chocolates left either. I spend a long night tossing and turning until sleep won the game.

Letter to my father II

When the nurse comes out with my baby brother, you are already at the door, waiting to hold him in your arms. I do not recall you being there for Anam or Farah. Only grandma and I would be in the hospital corridor, waiting for my baby sisters. I decide that you don’t love Anam or Farah.

I don’t know if you’d been at the door, waiting for me when I was born and make a mental note to ask mommy. That would help me decide if you loved me.

father holding his daughter

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But mommy is very weak and does not look capable of talking. I fight back the urge to ask my question and sit by her bedside, holding her hand. You are too involved with Irfan (yes, you named my brother) to care. As you lay Irfan beside mommy, shooting her orders to be careful with him, you ask me to come out with you so we could call grandpa and grandma and give them the happy news. I do not feel like leaving mommy, but am scared of making you angry, so I comply.

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I am soon on the phone, the receiver pressed against my delicate ear, your mouth whispering ‘my baby brother Irfan is here, grandpa’ for recital. I realize I don’t like you as much now.

Maybe I haven’t liked you as much for two years now. After all, you don’t love my lovely sisters. And I couldn’t hate you until I knew if you loved me or not.

Letter to my father III

I didn’t have to wait too long to find out. When I actually found the right time to ask mommy if you’d been around for my birth too, her positive answer betrayed the look in her eyes. And I knew she was lying. I knew you didn’t love me. And I knew that you didn’t love mommy as much either.

That you loved Irfan was becoming increasingly clear when you bought home boy-toys for him but didn’t even bring my sisters or me a single chocolate! You also hit Farah when she tried to grab one of Irfan’s plastic guns. She was bleeding at the mouth.

I wondered if I could earn your love by doing what Irfan was doing. So, for a long time, I dressed up in trousers and shirts, worked hard to get even better grades than him at school, won trophies at several competitions, and even, played cricket!

mom and daughter crying

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But the one time I defeated him, you forbid me to play anymore! And gave him a new set to play with. I didn’t try to earn your love through sports after that. But I yearned for the kind of love you had for Irfan.

Mommy loved me so much but I wanted daddy too. But then, you stopped me from going to school because I was doing better than Irfan and that wasn’t okay with you. My class teacher told you I was among the brightest kids and requested you to allow me to continue my studies, mommy pleaded with you too, and so did I. But the pleas fell on deaf ears. I was out of school.

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And then I knew. I hated you.

Letter to my father IV

As I grew up, I understood it was all about your son for you. Not only did you fail to evolve beyond your primal desire for a male heir, but  you also cared little to dress your ‘desire’ in ornaments of political correctness. Not that THAT would have made it better, but perhaps, a lot more people would have been deluded.

Your inability to grow beyond the most basic of all male urges, the indifferent attitude to all else, and the ruthless actions to evince your ‘love’ for your heir, make me hate you with every fiber of my being.

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You are the father who ate at my mom’s health, a little, each time. You are the father who denied my sisters and me any formal education. You are the father who told us to keep our lashes lowered and our heads bowed. You are the father who taught us to serve – not live!

And I promise to myself, for the sake of my now-deceased mom, I will do my fair share to uproot this discrimination.

Seven years into teaching young girls to respect themselves, love themselves, and believe that they do not need anybody’s approval to fulfill their dreams, I stand on the brink of motherhood myself. And I want you to know this daddy, the father of my child is a man who does not simply say ‘the sex of the child does not matter’ but means it.

Letter to my father V

My daughter turns four today.

father and baby2

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I sit at the edge of my seat and watch her play with her dad. Her dad feeds her one piece of chocolate for every time she happens to find him in their adorable hide-and-seek game. Of course, he hides poorly so she can find him. And as I watch my bundle of love wrapped in the arms of the man I love, I replay the countless moments of our life together – the moment I discovered I was pregnant, his ensuing happiness to the moment of the tests when my doctor told me that this might be the only child I may be able to bear, his endless support, his smiling tears when he held our daughter in his arms, the countless nights he’d spend reading stories to her even if she’d fallen asleep, all the times he was right in the front row at kindergarten races, and so much more!

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She is the apple of his eye, and I know she has everything I never got from you.


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But more than all of that, she has the one thing that I have been teaching my students for over a decade to follow – the one thing I learnt the hard way – and the one thing I am so glad she will never have to do –

She will never have to live a ‘false’ version of herself to be someone else’s version of what her ‘true self’ should be like. Coz she’s a girl, and nobody around her makes her feel that she’s not ‘good enough’ for being one. And nobody is allowed to, either.

And daddy, as I post these letters today, I hope your ‘son’ has turned out good enough. And while many might suppose that’s sarcastic, I will let you know that my daughter has dissolved my bitterness, and taught me to lead with kindness.

Coz that’s what daughters do. Maybe you could have given them a chance too. It’s never late.

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Article Name
A Letter To My Father From His Daughter Who Wasn't A Son
In a letter to my father, I lay bare all that I feel for not being his son. And it's not what you think.
Sejal Parikh

Sejal Parikh

"I'm a hurricane of words but YOU can choose the damage I do to you..."