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Fathers and Daughters


It was a bright sunny morning…the birds were chirping and there was a cool balmy breeze. But the beauty of nature that morning had no apparent effect on Tamanna; she looked pale and worried there was a frown on her usual carefree countenance …

She had her physics exam that day.

‘I really cant go and write the exam’ she thought worriedly ‘I wish I had studied at least last night instead of reading Sense and Sensibility I don’t know anything .I hope that some leader has died so that they declare today a holiday’ she thought as she got into the car….her father was dropping her in school in honor of the fact that she had her exams.

“Daddy” she said hesitantly looking at her father who looked disgustingly cheerful. He was humming a tune.” Daddy “she said again “Yes” He replied absent mindedly. He seemed to be enjoying the cool balmy breeze and the chirping of ’ those vile birds’.
She took a deep breath “I don’t want to write today’s exam. I don’t know anything” There it was out in the open, she looked at her father from the corner of her eyes-was he angry? Annoyed? Irritated? Frustrated?

“No no no no you must not think like that. It is natural to be a bit nervous before the exam (‘ bit??’ she thought) But don’t worry you will get only what you learnt.”
She tried to think of what she had learnt in physics and shuddered as she realized that she had learnt nothing. All that she knew was that the exam was today and she hadn’t touched her textbook after she bought it. In fact she had searched for it and found it only the previous evening.
Desperate times call for desperate measures “but daddy I didn’t learn anything” That seemed to shake him a bit but not to the extent of turning the car around and taking her back home.

“That was very wrong of you, “he said as he adroitly drove around a cyclist who had seemed to be determined to kill himself.” But I am sure that you can manage with what you understood in class usually that is more than enough” Tamanna was plunged into the depths of despair as she remembered the numerous story books she had read during physics class. In fact she doubted if she could recognize her physics teacher if that lady came in front of her carrying a placard mentioning her name and job.
Necessity is the mother of all inventions: in Tamanna’s case stark naked fear is the mother of plausible excuses to miss an exam. She wildly looked around …then” Daddy Monday I have math exam, I know even less in that .If I miss today’s exam I can sit and work out math at home” her father did not reply but the cheerful humming had stopped. Tamanna hoped that she had finally penetrated her fathers’ armor of faith. But apparently a father’s faith in his daughters’ ability is bottomless.” No” he said, “you have 2 days to study for mathematics” his tone discouraged further endeavors to miss the physics exam. But Tamanna was courageous and highly resourceful. She thought quickly and changed tactics .She said faintly,” I think I am not well. I feel like throwing up”.
“Its just nervousness” he said uncompromisingly .She tried to faint but the fighting spirit had gone out of her besides he didn’t notice. A girl can work only so hard; she gave up. ‘If it is the teachers fate to correct my paper then so be it’ she thought philosophically. They had reached school and her father seemed to have regained his cheerfulness (somehow that annoyed her more).

As she was getting down from the car He said to her lovingly “Look since you say you haven’t studied I wont expect you to do too well - 70% will do. You are an intelligent girl, next time study and do better. You see I am a reasonable man and I don’t want to pressurize you “he seemed very pleased with his reasonableness. Tamanna looked at the ‘reasonable parent’ with disbelief as he waved to her and left-she was too stunned to wave back.

One month later…
Both father and daughter were standing outside the school staff room. The strained silence between them spoke volumes of the shock the father was still in after receiving a phone call from school regarding his daughters “performance” in the physics exam. Tamanna religiously looked everywhere else except at her father.
‘ It’s not fair she thought I did warn him that I hadn’t studied.’ she thought bitterly. She winced as she remembered the row there had been at home when her physics teacher had called and told her father that she wished to see him regarding her abysmal performance in the exam. It’s not surprising that he didn’t know anything about the result being bad because she had never told him that she had got her results. She clutched her answer script nervously - the teacher had viciously scored out the all the sheets. Her father had been speechless for nearly an hour after the phone call. She wished that he had remained so….
The teacher came out” Your daughter seems to still be confusing Physics with chemistry…”she began in a shrill voice. It was at this precise moment that Tamanna began to study her shoes. Finally after one long hour of contemplating her shoes and deciding that she needed a new pair; she realized that her teacher had paused to take a breath or maybe she had finished but Tamanna was not going to take any chances. She looked up at her teacher and said”Ma’am I will work hard and do well next time”

The teacher looked like she wished to say something more but her father immediately patted Tamanna on the shoulder and said benignly “Yes that’s the spirit. Very good. Failure is the stepping-stone to success. I’m glad you realized that ” This definitely was a different tune to what he had been singing the previous evening but maybe he just didn’t want the teacher to start again.

As they were walking towards the car Tamanna was wondering that if the physics teacher had so much to say, how much more the math teacher would have to say! And also would it be better to petition for a new pair of shoes before the math teacher decided to call her father. The last hour had made absolutely no other impact on her. Her father said” Now that you have realized that you must work hard you must not put it off from today you must study physics for at least one hour a day.”
Thinking of the copy of Wuthering Heights tucked away among her schoolbooks in her study table Tamanna blithely replied “Yes Daddy” After all, the next exam was 3 months away!!!!!!!!!

A few years later; on another cool morning Tamanna sits morosely beside her father explaining to him in detail her present medical ailments….”And I have a splitting headache and every time I move my head I feel like throwing up” Her father who was driving the car listened to her indulgently.” Yes yes if you still have all these problems once you finish the exam then we will go to the doctor. I still think that its just nervousness but once you finish your paper well you will feel better because you will have the satisfaction of having done your most difficult paper well” She just shook her head resignedly and leaned back on her seat’ when will he learn?’ she thought sadly as he turned the car into the parking lot of the prestigious Institution that she studied in.
She tried another tactic “I’m so sick I don’t remember anything I studied” she said tentatively. But he was having none of that ”When you see the question paper you will remember everything. You will remember everything that you studied” This sounded more like a curse than a blessing to her since she had spent the previous evening pleasantly; reading the collected works of Saki.

Every step she took towards the building felt like one more step towards her doom.’ This is how the French aristocrats must have felt as they were approaching the guillotine’ she thought desolately.
She entered the hall feeling like she had lead in her stomach. When she received her question paper, which looked like it was written in either Greek or Latin (she couldn’t say for sure since she didn’t know either language) she thought ’ when will he understand that when I say I don’t know anything I mean I really don’t know ANYTHING?’ She took up her pen to write the supposed answer and she smiled to herself-at least in College they did not have her fathers’ mobile number.
Published: 2006-07-22
Author: Shweta Subbiah

About the author or the publisher
Shweta Subbiah is a young Information science engineer currently residing in Chennai.Her love for reading is well known among her friends and family. Her stories reflect incidents from real life and are highly entertaining.She derives her style of writing from her favourite author- Hector Munro(Saki).

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