5 Things I Wish I Could Say To My Daughter

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
When you used to bring home report cards, I used to scold you for getting Bs. My parents did the same thing. Only As were accepted in our household. Uncle Jeet (not his real name) and I both had shining report cards, or else we would get slapped. It bred in me a fear of failure. This fear helped me succeed. Things were different in those days. We were told that if we worked and studied hard, we would become people of note, have a life worth living, away from the clutches of poverty. That was what your grandparents always stressed. And it worked for us. I thought it would work for you too. But things are different now. Things were so different for you growing up. I should have realized that we weren’t in India anymore, and you had no notion of what it was like even to live in India. I shouldn’t have been so hard on you and I should have let you make more mistakes. I made you cry on those days that I scolded you. I’m sorry.

Please wear clothes that keep you covered
I know that as a modern dad I am supposed to let my daughter express herself and be herself. Hence, I wish I could tell you how awful men can be and how they can objectify women as sexual objects, especially when a girl wears clothing that shows a lot of skin. As an Indian, I have to accept that my daughter, who was born and raised in America, will be Americanized, but I wish you wouldn’t be so Americanized. I guess I’m a little traditional in this regard, but can you blame me?! I don’t want my daughter to show her skin so willy nilly. It is so painful for me as a father to see other men, both young and old, ogle you and sexualize you.

You can open up to me about relationships
There were times in high school I would hear you crying from your bedroom. I would stand outside and listen to your sobbing and it would fill me with heartache. From Mumma, I got to know that it was about a boy. I wish I could punch that boy into oblivion. But I felt even more shame that every time I stood outside your room, I was filled with dread at the mere thought of having a conversation about boys with you. I should have known better and I should have tried to be a father who would listen. My parents never had the courage to talk to me about my relationships and vice versa. I wish I could have ditched this particular Indian part of me to listen to you.

Please let us send you some biodatas
I know that Mumma pushes you. You are 25 now. Mumma and I were married when she was only 18. So it is only natural that she pushes you to think more about marriage. I know how pressured you must feel. I want you to get married to someone you love and who loves you back equally. But I must say, the thought of you getting married scares me. You are my only daughter and the idea of you leaving your Papa’s shelter and staying with another man really scares me. Dads have to let go at some point, but I wish I could tell you to hold off on marriage. But then again, our society here will judge you, the extended family will judge you. Most importantly, I fear that if you don’t get married soon, your chances of marrying someone who can take care of you will dwindle. Marriage in our society can be very fickle and no matter how much you believe in the American way of finding your partner, trust me, I’m sure there is an Indian boy here who can completely make you fall head over heels for him.

I love you
Indian parents never say this. My parents never told me this. I’m sure their parents never told them those words either. It was always known that family was important and unconditionally you loved your family no matter what. But actually telling your family how much you love them never hurts. Or at least it shouldn’t hurt right. Then, why do I feel so embarrassed to say those three magic words to you? Is it because I feel like as a father I shouldn’t have to say those things? Is it because I have to put up a strong front and saying those mushy things makes me look weak? Is it my Indian-ness that prevents me from doing this? Truth is, I don’t know. I haven’t dug deep enough to figure this out. I feel very embarrassed when I even think about saying I love you to you. But I know I should. American parents make it look so easy. It’s second nature to them. They say it over the phone, they say it on holidays, they say it in passing. If only I could do the same to you, my daughter. I have tried a few times, but as soon as the words approach my lips, I back away. This just isn’t done in our culture. I guess you won’t understand. But neither should you. You deserve to hear from your father how much he loves you and how he would go to hell and back to keep you safe.

Karan, 50
Los Angeles


Question for Readers:

What do you wish your father would say to you growing up?

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