I had never faced such a dilemma before.Should I tell him? What if I hurt him? As I looked at the email again, I wondered anew if I should tell Papa...
Talking to my father wasn't the easiest things when growing up. There were topics you didn't broach with him: Bollywood, any other film industry, fashion, any idea that might directly or indirectly contradict what he'd just said, Punjabi boys, Tamil boys, Bengali boys, any other human being remotely described as boy, Boy George, Madonna's Like a virgin, waxing your eyebrows... Then there were things you broached via Ma: almost everything else.
Food was the only topic you could discuss with him unhesitatingly. If you wanted to eat anything, you asked Papa and even before you'd voiced it, there it was, served to you. It was also the same with most other things. If he saw me looking at a doll -- and felt it justified -- it was bought. So while I didn't have a Ken or a Barbie bathtub (with real bubbles!) or the Barbie house and didn't have more than two extra Barbie dresses (there were so many cool designs!); I did have a Barbie (Birthday barbie) and the next year, a Skipper doll. When we went shopping for new clothes he'd always buy the dress Ma picked but put away because the tag was too much. We didn't go to exclusive, private schools but we went to the best an Army officer's modest salary could afford.
Achievements were rewarded and interests were encouraged (academic and non-boy, non-movies, non-fashion variety). We had great holidays. I've grown up eating very yummy food. And with no restrictions on the number of Dairy Milk chocolates you could have. Despite him being stern and strict and having
some mostly impossible rules, he’s been a loving father.
And here I was, looking at the email, wondering if I should tell him... My phone buzzed.
"U dere? Skype?" said Papa's text.
So I Skyped and looked at his nostrils as he frowned at the monitor, chin raised, peering over his reading glasses. My video must've come on then because he broke into his beautiful smile and asked me the routine when-on-Skype-question.
"Can you see me?"
I told him I could but not very clearly.
"Ei je, esho, Papu eshe gache," he called out to Ma while waving at me, nostrils in and out of focus as he tried adjusting the camera. I could see Ma's blurry form sit down beside him. He finally stopped fiddling with the webcam. I now looked at half of each of their faces.
"Did you get my email?" he asked excitedly, and right then I knew I had to break it to him.
“Papa,” I said gently, “I love getting mail from you. But you know the emails you send me? I know those are new to you but I’ve been seeing those forwards since 1996. You’re kind of spamming me, you don’t do that on email.”
There. I’d done it. Internet etiquette to the man who taught me how to hold a pencil.
“Ah, ok, ok,” said my stern, always-sure-of-himself father looking adorably sheepish. “I’ll send you new ones then?”