1. Little Amara’s Two Dads
We made Father’s Day cards at school yesterday. I made TWO of them, a vast improvement over Mother’s Day when I made no cards at all. Ms. Lynne asked us to read our messages out aloud. I couldn’t wait for my turn!
I proudly announced that I had two; one for Daddy, the other for Papa. The class burst out laughing, and Ms. Lynne scolded them. I sat down abruptly, my head hot and heavy. I did have two fathers. What was wrong with that?
After class, Matt, the bully, made fun of me. He said things about my dads that I may not have understood, but it hurt anyway. When Papa came to pick me up, I remained sullen throughout the car ride.
“Amara, are you hungry? Is everything OK, Sugarplum?”
Papa worried about everyone and everything. Daddy on the other hand was quieter, but when he spoke, he made sense.
That evening, I broke down and told them everything, about class, and Matt. Papa started pacing up and down, clenching his fist tightly.
“I’ll complain to Ms. Lynne! An eight-year-old shouldn’t be bullied like this!”
Daddy put his hand on Papa’s shoulder.
“We can’t be there every time. Amara needs to stand up for herself.”
Daddy gave me advice on how to handle the situation. I grinned.
Matt wouldn’t know what hit him!
I set off to school, promising Papa I would be fine. I bumped into Matt right in the class corridor.
“Oh, look! It’s Gay-mara herself!”
“My name is Amara. And if you insult me or my dads, I will punch you in the face!” I threatened, balling up my fist tightly, my features contorted to their menacing best.
Matt slunk away. That’s all it took to show a bully his place; a taste of his own medicine. While I wasn’t planning to punch him, I wasn’t going to let him walk all over me either.
Daddy had told me that sometimes the hiss is more powerful than the bite. It’s true.
My friend Ashley is going to visit her grandparents in Canada, over the holidays. I’m jealous!
I’ve lived all of my eight years in America- we have moved states when Daddy’s job demanded it. Papa does freelance work from home and takes care of us. Papa’s parents are dead. Daddy’s parents are alive, but they live in India, a country I have never been to.
Yesterday, I mustered the courage to ask Papa.
“Can we please do a video call to see what my grandparents look like?”
Papa hummed and hawed but ultimately gave in. He can never say no. Not to me, or to anyone for that matter. And Daddy never says no to Papa, well except when Papa gets carried away and gives me too much candy.
After incessant pleading, Daddy messaged his parents. Guess what? They replied that they would love to speak to him! I’m flipping out! I FINALLY get to see my grandparents for the first time. And to think, all we had to do, was ask!
I’m going to tidy my room and take out all my stuffed toys to show my Dadaji and Dadiji, for that’s how I’m supposed to address them.
I’m going to love them. I know it.
Some days, we wake up thinking that the day will be perfect. But like an ice cream that is accidentally dropped on the sidewalk, everything goes splat, leaving only a mess.
Yesterday was the day of the video call. I wore my blue Frozen dress with matching ribbons. Papa said I looked like a princess. I twirled around happily.
The Zoom Meet connected, and I finally saw them- my grandparents! I was thrilled. Dadaji looked just like Daddy. Strangely, he was not smiling. And Dadiji looked like she was going to cry.
Dadaji thundered, “Aman, it is still not too late. Why this madness? Come back home. We will find a girl for you to marry. And this time you can have real children, not someone you picked up from the street.”
I couldn’t understand what happened, but one thing was clear. My grandparents were mean. I had never seen Daddy this angry before. His veins on his hand bulged as he clasped the mouse tightly.
“This IS my family. And no, you are not welcome. Your loss!”
He cut the call and stormed out, with Papa following behind frantically.
It was evident that my grandparents didn’t like us. Well, we didn’t like them either.
At night, Daddy and Papa tucked me in bed together.
“Sugarplum, do you know why we named you Amara? It’s a portmanteau of our names. Aman and Rajesh. You are a symbol of our love. We don’t need anyone else. We’ll be OK.”
As my eyelids grew heavy, I saw them watching me tenderly. They were right.
We were perfect just the way we were.
2. Growing Pains
I’m only twelve, but my life is awful. No one understands me, not even my dads. I had a meltdown yesterday and said things that I shouldn’t have. It all started with revelations from their side.
- I’m adopted. This shouldn’t have come as a shock. I mean what was I expecting? I feel like the Kung-Fu Panda, when he was told the goose wasn’t his dad.
- My biological mother is an Indian teenager who gave me away and didn’t want to keep in touch.
- I have one set of grandparents in India, and they hate us.
Daddy came here to the US to study, and that’s when he met Papa. Daddy and Papa fell in love and got married. After a few years, I was adopted (refer to 2. above). Daddy’s family acknowledged neither their relationship not my existence.
At school, I‘m that ‘Indian girl with the gay dads’. Isn’t there more to me than that? There are other children with two dads or two mothers too. But you see, I’m brown as well. Brown, adopted, with gay dads; a lethal combination.
Mrs. Mary from the neighbourhood church turns up her nose every time we unfurl the rainbow banners in June. Daddy keeps reminding me that if I react to every tiny thing, I will have time only to react.
It’s not fair that the Judys and the Ashleys of the world have mothers and fathers. Divorced yes, but at least they exist. Unlike me. Every Mother’s Day, I pretend to be sick, because…you know.
My life sucks.
OMG! Today, was EPIC, in the worst way.
I went to the loo.
“Papa! I’m dying!”
Papa rushed to my side, his apron still tied on, with smudges of flour on his beard.
“Papa, it’s my kidneys. They are bleeding out. We need to go to the ER!”
Papa seated me on the sofa and hugged me. He gently explained to me that I was having my first period. The school counsellor had been through this already. Some of my friends already have gotten their periods. I should have known. But the crimson tide scared the daylights out of me. And from the looks of it, it wasn’t just me. Papa looked woefully unprepared and helpless. He mumbled, “Sugarplum, I want to make this better for you. If you want something, tell me, OK? We need to get you sanitary napkins. Let me call Daddy to pick them up on his way home.”
An hour later, I was in my pyjamas eating cupcakes, when Daddy came in running. He was carrying a carton.
“Amara? Are you Ok?”
He emptied the carton, and out of it came napkins of every brand and shape. I kid you not! Our small living room was flooded with packets.
“I didn’t know which brand you would prefer.”
Papa and I looked at each other. We had never seen Daddy this ruffled before. We burst into laughter. A sheepish Daddy ran his hands through his hair, embarrassed. It wasn’t long before he joined us.
I’m going to remember this incident every month when Aunt Flo marks her ominous visit. The cramps will probably hurt, but it doesn’t matter.
I have two people here who will hold my hands and make everything better.
Periods suck! Every month, five days of agony and cramps. I wish I were a boy; then I wouldn’t have to go through this.
Why, God, why?
You won’t believe what happened yesterday. My dads sent me shopping with Judy and her mom. For what? Bras! Seriously? We got to the store, and Judy’s mom whispered conspiratorially to the shop assistant. The assistant looked at me and went, “poor lamb, let me help you.”
After many humiliating trials, we selected sports bras. Never doing this again! I sulked all evening, making my displeasure known to Daddy and Papa.
They sat with me after dinner.
“Sugarplum, we love you. But there are things which we may not be able to explain well enough. That’s why we sought Judy’s mother’s help. We are sorry if you think we weren’t there for you!”
Papa looked sad, and Daddy apologetic. They had the same look on their faces when they waited for me outside the Ladies, when we went to the mall. I felt a pang in my chest.
“It’s OK. I forgive you. Now, tell me, how are babies made?”
Papa choked, while Daddy spluttered.
That was me messing around. I learned about birds and bees at school anyway. But the look on their faces? Priceless!
3. A Trip to remember
Jeff asked me out on a date! I can’t believe it. The hottest boy in class wants to go out on a date with me. I feel like Cinderella. Ashley is going to be so jealous!
We are going to the movies next week. What do I wear? Papa is the authority on fashion. I’ll ask him. I hope Daddy likes Jeff too. Who knew turning fifteen would be this awesome?
When I reached home, I learned that Dadadji was unwell, and he wanted to see Daddy. In fact, he asked for all three of us. (!!!)
When it rains, it pours. First Jeff, now India. Dadaji being unwell wasn’t great news, but I’m sure he will get better. I am going to see my extended family, one that I have only dreamt about.
When people ask about my Indian roots and heritage, I’ll have something to say now.
We made it to Delhi!
Daddy’s family is a joint family. One of his sisters has a son who is eight; they call him Chintoo. He follows me everywhere and calls me Didi.
Dada, Dadi, Didi. Tongue-twisters!
Daddy was welcomed with open arms. Papa and me, not so much. My aunts and my uncles treaded around us like cats on hot bricks. I heard my uncles whisper that ‘gayness’ was infectious.
Tell me they are joking, please.
Dadiji tried to speak to me but didn’t understand my American accent. We slowly learned to communicate with one another. She made Samosas for me one day. It was love at first bite. When I demanded a second, she smiled, and said in broken English, “you are just like Aman.”
Did she forget that I was adopted?
Dadaji was bedridden. Daddy spent time with him. After all these years they must have a lot to catch up on. While father and son bonded, Papa and I set off to explore Delhi.
My eyes grew as wide as saucers seeing the crowds and the hustle and the bustle. We ate Gol Gappe from the street vendors, small fried balls of heaven with tangy and sweet sauces. It tasted nothing like the packaged stuff we got at Patel’s back home.
When we got back, Dadaji asked for us. Papa and I went to his bedside. He was a far cry from the formidable man who had threatened us over a video call. He smiled at us with tear-filled eyes. I recognized that emotion.
Regret. Unfortunately, a little late. One lifetime late.
Shortly afterward, Dadaji passed away peacefully in his sleep. Daddy performed his funeral rites. The house was flooded with relatives who eyed us suspiciously. I saw an aunty give an amulet to my Dadiji to ‘cure’ Daddy of his ‘gayness’. It gave me much satisfaction to find it discarded in the waste basket.
After the relatives left, Chintoo came to me for help with English lessons. I looked at his textbook. It had a picture of a family with a mother, father, and two children.
“Chintoo, sometimes families can have two mothers, or two fathers too. Like mine.”
My aunt came running. She snatched the book from me and started wailing that I was corrupting her son.
They ask me to call her Bua, I would rather call her Boa Constrictor.
Dadiji startled us all by admonishing Bua. The Hindi was too fast-paced for me to understand, but I could make out that Dadiji was supporting me.
Grief does strange things to people; not all of which is necessarily bad.
I can’t believe it’s been a month since we got back from Delhi!
I’m trying to catch up on my missed lessons, and there’s a mountain load of them. Dadiji calls every weekend and I tell her about school. Her English is getting better, and so is my Hindi.
I thought I could pick up from where I left off with Jeff. Turns out Ashley, that snake, made a move on him in my absence. And now they are together! I hate them both.
I returned from school, looking glum.
Papa took one look at me and asked, “Boy trouble?”
I nodded. He got us a tub of Ben& Jerry’s from the fridge, and we got comfortable on the couch. He switched on the TV.
I burst out. “I liked him, Papa. It hurts so much!”
“Sugarplum, you are young. One day, you will meet someone who is going to sweep you off your feet, and then you will know why it didn’t work out with anyone, before that.”
“How did you meet Daddy?”
“We met at a library. He was searching for a book, and I helped him find it. We started discussing the book. The librarian scolded us for talking too loudly So we took our discussion to the café. We connected over our mutual love for books and our Indian roots. And then we met again, and again.”
Papa with his glasses and beard. Daddy with his wavy hair and grey eyes. They make quite the couple. I want a love like that. One day.
Daddy’s voice interrupted our reverie.
“What’s my squad up to?”
“Netflix and Chill!” yelled back Papa.
Daddy burst out laughing, while I stifled my giggles.
Papa still doesn’t know the meaning of ‘Netflix and Chill.’ I haven’t told him.
- Sugarplum grows up
Today was my graduation day! Twenty-two-year-old graduate with a new career to look forward to! I was SO excited. Well, perhaps not as excited as my dads.
Daddy posted non-stop on Facebook. Papa took me shopping to ensure I graduated in style.
‘Degree in Dolce,’ my Instagram read.
My parents had front-row seats at my graduation ceremony. Papa burst out crying seeing me in a graduation gown. The last time he cried was when I announced that I had found a place and was moving out. Even Daddy, the more stoic of the two, couldn’t hold back his emotions today.
When my name was called, I walked up to the stage, my heels going clickety clack. As I received my graduation scroll, I heard my dads cry out, “Amara! Amara.”
How embarrassing! But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We took loads of pictures. There is one of all three of us, the graduation hat on Papa’s head, the scroll in Daddy’s hands, and me sandwiched between them; my favourite click of the lot.
We went to a bar to celebrate afterward. I raised a toast.
“To Papa and Daddy!”
“To Sugarplum!” Papa exclaimed excitedly, earning a glare from Daddy. But it was too late. On the greatest night of my life, my childhood nickname became public.
I thought Brian was the best thing that happened to me. I was ready to move in with him. How could I have been this delusional?
We had been going strong for eight months. Daddy and Papa met him once. I kept insisting that I wanted to meet his family too, but he made excuses. I should have noticed the red flags.
After much pleading, he finally drove me down to meet them. The tension was evident. His orthodox mother kept telling me that men living together was a sin. I lost it and told her every form of love was special, and no one got to judge my dads, especially not her.
She went purple in the face. Brian and I had a huge row afterward. I drove back, alone and shattered. He didn’t call. It was over.
I called sick at work and lounged about in bed all day long. I spent my time in bed fantasizing about all the awful things that could happen to him. Like walking a plank over shark-infested waters.
Is that the doorbell ringing? Be right back.
Daddy and Papa had come to pull me out of my rut.
“Sugarplum, are you OK?”
I burst into tears and spilled the beans.
They cajoled me to freshen up. I took a hot shower and emerged feeling more human. I could smell tomato soup on the stove and Papa buttering toast. Daddy pressed a coffee to my hands, and said sternly, “enough of wallowing in self-pity. Let’s move on.”
That evening I sat on my sofa, sandwiched between my two dads, feeling loved and protected in our little cocoon.
The perfect man for me? Someone loving and sensible, someone who would accept my parents for who they are and treat us all with respect.
Did that man even exist?
Last year, I wondered if the perfect man existed. But guess what, I found him, and that too in the least expected of places. A Pride march! Jagan was there to support his friend, who belongs to the queer community, while I was there for my parents. Love blossoming between two straight people under rainbow flags…. Straight out of a Bollywood movie, indeed!
Jagan is half-Indian, and my dads adore him. They swear by the Paneer butter masala he cooks when we invite them over for dinner. When Jagan proposed to me, Papa gave ‘him the talk’ about keeping his princess happy always.
Jagan’s family is excited about our upcoming nuptials next week. So is ours. Dadiji is flying from Delhi, and Chintoo is accompanying her too. I want my dads to walk me down the aisle.
I will walk with one dad on either side, like how it’s always been.
Today was my BIG day. I am Mrs. Amara Jagan now! Everyone at our wedding said I made a stunning bride. Jagan looked dapper in his suit. His sister set up a collage with our childhood photos, and they were as embarrassing as they get. Everything from the décor to the food was perfect.
My toast was absolutely smashing. I’m writing it down here for posterity. I will get it framed later.
“I was raised by two wonderful men, Rajesh, and Aman. It wasn’t easy for them to be parents to a girl, and one as headstrong as me.”
(My dads nodded here, much to my indignation.)
“I’ve been asked many times; how can gay dads be good parents? Do they even understand the institution of family? Let me tell you this. There were times when it wasn’t easy, for any of us. When everyone treated us like freaks who didn’t deserve happiness. My dads could have filled me with hate. They didn’t. They told me to be happy and live life to the fullest.
I grew up in a stable, content home, with the world’s best parents. They embraced who they were and taught me to live with dignity. If I had to do this all over again, I would gladly choose them as my parents. The world labels them queer, gay, or different. I call them Daddy and Papa.
Daddy, Papa, thank you for being there for me. Thank you for having my back and being the wind beneath my wings. If Jagan and I can have a love that is even a fraction of yours, we’ll be incredibly happy. Love you!”
There was not a single dry eye at my ceremony. My big day was simply perfect!
Got to go now. My new husband awaits me!
I’m newly married and busy!
No more entries for a while….
- Kung fu Panda Adoption disclosure:
- OMG- Oh My God
- Boa Constrictor- A snake
- Netflix and Chill-An Internet slang used as a euphemism for sexual activity, especially by the teenage community. Not to be confused for viewing Netflix and chilling.
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