My early memories of childhood is of lying on top of my father’s belly, stroking up and down in rhythm of his breath and dozing off to sleep while listening to his stories. I was two years old then.
I could understand only half of the story, but knew it was the only way to slip into sleep. His stories were my lullabies. His stories were limited, but characters were in abundance. Everyday he used to tell almost the same story while changing the characters meeting the same destiny. For me then, the construction of story was immaterial, I was all soaked in his art of story telling. It was our time, where we used to bond together. That swing of his belly and his deep voice taking me to the story world was all I ever wanted as a two years old (or that’s what I have been told by my mom).
While growing up, he kept exposing me to various stories. By Indian author, foreign literature or regional tales. I was always surrounded by stories.
His self-made stories were most earnest, but with loopholes. His characters were believable, but mostly loser. His stories never had morals but always had promises. They always ended happily. It took me many years to understand his simple ways of decoding life to me through his stories.
We had Premchand, Leo Tolstoy, Sukumar Roy, Sherlock Holmes and Tagore mostly ruling our conversation. As I stepped into my teens, my over-curiosity forced me into his sections of books. Marxism, Lenin, Chinese revolution, Urdu Poetry and Bankim Chandra Chaottopadhyaya. I tried bringing them in our conversations too, but realized I am rushing too fast. He assured me to pick them only when I am mature enough to appreciate them, else I may grow a distaste towards them. That assured me of heritage he may pass on to me. I parked those books for future, anticipating more stories. He elongated my depth towards Bengali and English Literature again introducing the right stories at right age.
He used to read stories aloud to me, the way these days I read the news paper articles to him. We still tell stories to each other, over phone. Of people, fiction or life in general. The moment we bring a story in our conversation, we both know that it is OUR time. Meant only for two of us. Secluded from rest of the world. We had nurtured our relationship over the years through stories. We now dig people from past and memorize events we celebrated. We recall faces. We remember incidents. Our stories are now more life-centric. Like past, still our stories have happy endings.
Today, I see another father putting sleep to my daughter. He strokes her hair with his long fingers. He smiles and looks as composed as my father. He also repeats his stories. He also searches for situations. He also always keeps the ending happy. I now see myself in my daughter. I can now again feel my father deconstructing life and constructing stories for his little daughter. Only this time, I witness it from a distance.