This was written last December when my father in law turned 81. It is my contribution in the souvenir I compiled using write ups on him that I collected from all his near and dear ones. There were 42 entries in total...including the last two ( mine and my husband's...) Am sharing this with people who can feel similar sentiments... When does a father in law change into a father? At his son’s wedding? In a month? In a year? In 24 years….? As far as I am concerned, I can not specify the date of transition when Appa turned from a father in law into a father figure. Normally, according to Tam -Brahm traditions, such transitions don’t take place… One’s ‘Maamanar’ is a person to be feared… a personality in front of whom the DILs rarely stand, let alone dare to sit… a person whom they rarely call Appa… He is supposed to be called Mama in Tamil or Mawa in Kannada. He is someone to whom you can place your requests, through the via media called Mother in Law… In the last 24 years, I have flouted all these inviolate laws of ‘daughter-in-lawhood’! Not only do I call my father in law, ‘Appa’, I also treat him like one. I tease him, joke with him, fight with him and… I adore him like any daughter would. 24 years back, I just slipped into my new status as I would change into new clothes…easily! My husband left for <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comffice:smarttags" /><st1:country-region><st1lace>Iraq</st1lace></st1:country-region> exactly 14 days after our wedding and I was literally amidst virtual strangers… For three months, I stayed with my in laws… and may be from day one they became my Appa and Amma. Looking back on those naïve days of my life, I wonder what Appa must have thought about my casual treatment of him. Once, when he saw me curled up on his sofa, legs tucked under me, he told me, ‘This is the first time someone is doing that in front of me.’ And I remember saying, ‘I always sit like this on a sofa!’ Now, I did not mean to be rude at all… I just reciprocated to his words… He must have been taken aback… He took Amma and me to a movie called ‘Dulha Biktha Hai’. All about dowry harassment…During the interval, he asked me what I would have done if he and Amma had harassed me like that… and I quipped, ‘I wouldn’t have married your son…’ I did not realize that I had offended him with those casual words… and he sulked for three days… not talking to me at all. I had forgotten all about the reason and was wondering why Appa was so distant with me and finally decided to catch the bull by the horn. He told me he was hurt by my words. What words? I didn’t even remember … He told me, ‘How can you say you would have married someone else?’ Then it clicked and I burst out laughing! ‘Appa! You asked me a hypothetical question and I answered hypothetically… I don’t think I meant to hurt you!’ ‘ You are our daughter now…. I don’t even want you ever having thoughts like that!’ That is Appa for you… Very possessive of all his near and dear ones… even the new DIL! We have grown to be comfortable with each other…in fact, I dare to take liberties that very few DILs take with their FILs. We rag each other. We rag others together… There is a very private joke between us. If he interferes in unnecessary matters, I just tell him, ‘Appa, you are parking the scooter…!’ and he starts smiling and stops himself from interfering. The story behind this joke is a bit personal…only Appa and I know this …so it is taboo for the curious readers… I remember Appa telling me once, ‘When you married my son, we thought we’d get a bahu who would cover her head and stand up in respect each time she sees us… someone who will get up early in the morning and clean the threshold of our house with ‘shaanaathanni’ ( dung water) and put kolam (rangoli) and come and wake us with a steaming cups of coffee..’ And I said, ‘Appa…come on…let us look for such a girl for your son..!’ And he’d laughed … I think all his three daughters in law are so untraditional… that he may have been disappointed… We fight once in a while… perhaps not as much as we laugh together… occasionally I manage to ruffle Appa’s calm feathers and POP! He blows a fuse… Then I know I have overstepped my mark…however justified or right I am… and stay undercover till he is in a calmer state of mind. It is not in me to let it go. So we thrash out the matter again, in a more calm and grown up manner and he never baulks at saying he was in the wrong…and … all’s well with us again. Such tiffs have never lessened our love and affection for each other. Appa encouraged me to write. I am ever so grateful to him for that. Since childhood I had had this thirst for writing inside me…but it really took Appa’s encouragement to bring it out. I remember him going through my first story in the Woman’s Era and his subsequent comments encouraging me to write more and more… He used to read all my drafts and rate them before posting them to the magazine. Once I started blogging, I have a regular reader and great PRO in him. He has printed out all my blogs and flaunts them in front of all relatives who visit Bhdarvathi, often forcing them to read it…. No wonder relatives think twice before coming all the way to BDVT, now a days…! He was so happy when I told him about the acceptance of my writings by the Chicken Soup folks… What made Appa ( and Amma) all the more close to my heart is the unconditional love they shower on my twins. I love it when my kids are loved…and Appa and Amma are so generous in their love for all their grandchildren, it warms the cockles of my heart. My twins have great bonding with them both…especially with Appa, who is their guide, mentor and above everything else ‘jigri dost’! They don’t pamper my kids…they haven’t… regular doses of discipline has always been there… but there is that permanent blanket of love that covers them and keeps them warm… Mangala and I realized just how close had gotten to Appa, the day we got the news of his hospitalization 2 years back. He was in ICU and we just couldn’t stop crying here. For a week we spent calling each other and crying our hearts out for him….praying like we have never prayed before to God to spare his life. Thank God for hearing our prayers… I feel nervous and terrified only for one thing… If I have to cook for Appa. He is such a perfectionist in his eating habits that I feel inadequate when I cook South Indian dishes for him. I have this feeling that he doesn’t relish my way of cooking…may be that is why Amma doesn’t let me cook lunches… But he loves my rotis and subjis and I love preparing the night’s fare when I am in Bhadravathi… Appa is a voracious reader. I love supplying him with books. Sometime he doesn’t like my choice of books and we debate on that issue. Another pastime with us is the exchanging of proverbs. Appa has a humongous collection of Kannada and English proverbs and he loves to spout them at the right time. And I am expected to give him equivalent ones in Malayalam or Tamil… It is an ongoing game with us. Appa is fiercely possessive of his family… Be it his brother, sisters, sons, daughters in law or grandchildren, he hates when anyone says anything against them. He would then snarl and charge at the offender… it is this possessiveness that makes him do so many things for his people… things that we perhaps take for granted… and never acknowledge… So this is my attempt at repaying in a minuscule way, the Herculean efforts Appa puts up in protecting our interests…praying constantly for our well being and safety… guiding us when we err… comforting us when we hurt… holding us all together under the huge umbrella of his love and care… We all love you Appa… And we feel safe in your presence. We pray to God to protect you and shower you with good health so that HE can delegate that work to you…and you shall continue protecting us and showering us with your love … HAPPY BIRTHDAY, APPA… You are so close to my heart!