My dad never called me his little princess. He didn’t call my sister a princess either. I guess you could call it a cultural thing. I guess you could call it an “our dad” thing. I always wondered why this was so. At first, I let my own insecurities interpret the reasoning. Maybe he didn’t deem us worthy of being princesses. Maybe he didn’t like the idea of princesses. It wasn’t important to him that we might want to be princesses. I ended up not buying into the whole idea of what I thought was “silly girly dreams”. I later realized that classifying something as “silly girly dreams” was internalized misogyny. However, at the time, I remember not being anyone’s princess. The supposed “rejection” could’ve consumed me.
Instead something beautiful happened.
My need to be called a princess transformed into a deep-seated need to better myself. My hands became acquainted with the earth and soil and the life that was created in that soil from an early age. I remember those mornings and evenings when my dad would point out the little saplings growing in our garden. We would help him water those plants. We would see them grow and blossom and reap the rewards of the hard work when we got to pick those vegetables and eat them fresh. My dad thought it was more important to teach us the value of hard work and the delicate balance, fragility, and resilience of nature.
I was told to write. Since the moment I can remember, my father encouraged writing. It didn’t even matter what kind of writing. So long as we were using our hands and our minds to write. In hindsight, if my dad hadn’t encouraged writing so much and hadn’t emphasized the importance of it, I probably wouldn’t be a writer today. If my father hadn’t proudly showed off my writing when I first got published in a national newspaper, I wouldn’t feel the need to continue. This past semester, I got the chance to read Sandra Cisneros’ Only Daughter. In it, Cisneros told the story of the first time her father had read her translated work and praised her in his own way–by asking for more translated copies of her work for the rest of the Spanish-speaking family. When I read the short story, I realized that if my father hadn’t been so supportive of my writing, I probably would not have continued writing. This is what my father gave me. Being dad’s little princess seems so trivial when I realize I was learning to become a better writer each day.
I learnt at an early age the power of ideas and discourse because my dad would often talk to us and ask us what we thought of some obscure paper he’d found. I was asked to think like a scholar and was told that my opinion and perspective was important. I was told that my way of looking at the world was unique and important. For an eight-year-old, this was radical and revolutionary. Even today when I am thousands of miles away from my family, the trivial questions of “how are you” and “what are you doing” are lost among more important questions like “How do you think the recent earthquakes are going to affect the political landscape of Nepal?” In college, when a professor first told my class, “Whenever you walk into this classroom, tell yourself, “I am a scholar!””, my mind wasn’t blown. My reality didn’t shift. I wasn’t shocked because this was something I’d been groomed to think all my life. I was told to look at the world differently. “Lateral thinking” was a phrase used over dinner almost every night.
My father isn’t perfect. No matter how much I want to believe it, I don’t always agree with him. He is human–full of amazing strengths and humbling flaws. But I cannot thank him enough for not letting me become caught up in the world of vanity and vagueness. I cannot thank him enough for talking to us and more importantly–listening to us. Parents often forget the power of simply listening to your child.
My mother wanted one of her daughters to become a doctor, but she never forced us to give up our own dreams to fulfill hers. She never made us feel less than capable because we were daughters. She never gave us a reason to doubt our abilities. My mother didn’t want us to get into trouble. When we raised our voices, she would fear on our behalf. When we decided to act out against any sort of injustice, she would ask us to silently suffer through it instead. Why ruffle any feathers when you could silently navigate your way through it? My mother didn’t do this because she liked it or wanted to suppress us. She did this to teach us something–sometimes silence is the only answer. There is a time and a place for fighting, for struggling, for voicing the injustice suffered. However, sometimes, when circumstances dictate it, remaining silent is the resilient thing to do. Sometimes, inaction is action. My mother would tell me and my sister, “Timi haru ta mero hira haru ho.” Translation: “You guys are my diamonds.” My mother called my sister and I her “diamonds”.
Geologically, diamonds are crystals of pure carbon that form under crushing pressure and intense heat. They’re formed about 150 KM under the surface of the Earth. They can withstand natural (chemical, physical, radioactive) conditions that would destroy other substances. If placed inside the human body, it will not trigger an immune response. Diamonds aren’t just for pretty rings or jewelry. Diamonds are resilient. Diamonds have incredible strength because they’ve been through so much already. Diamonds shine as a result of all that they’ve endured. I like to believe that when my mother calls us her “diamonds”, she isn’t just saying we’re pretty.
My mother isn’t perfect either. She has her own quirks and skills that continue to amaze and irk me. My sister recently told me something about our mother that has stuck. She said, “Sometimes I think she does things to teach us. Trying to get us ready for the real world.” I don’t know if this is true. I don’t know if my sister’s certain either. Mothers are funny beings. We might never know. But I realized something because of this conversation. Sometimes parents don’t know how to teach you certain things. They don’t have the language or the means to explain the world to you. Sometimes, they don’t have it within themselves to rob you of your innocence and wonder by telling how you shite the world is. But still they try. And boy did my parents do a fantastic job trying.
My sister and I were never princesses. We never grew up to be princesses either. Instead, we grew up knowing we can be so much more.