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June 2007

Last June, my dad relocated to Bangalore

to take up a position as chief scientist in

IBM India. Life just isn't the same without

him, even if there might be one less catfight

in our house.

"Pavithra, must you really have the lights

on in your room at the fullest? Why can't you

use the dimmer? It doesn't have to be this

bright! Our electricity bill this month! Do you

know it's 500 dollars! FIVE HUNDRED!"

"I forgot. Jeez, Dad. Sorrryy. I was working,

you know."

"Working, indeed! You think money

grows on trees?"

Ah, yes, it's yet another kind

exchange of words between father

and daughter in our household.

One second we're screaming our

lungs out, the next minute Dad's

comforting me, seeing that Mom's

being unreasonable with me. We

are, I suppose, the average family

—one that has its bright and

dim moments.

Dad can't really complain.

I don't suffer from any of those

typical teenage ailments. I haven't

overdosed yet. I'm not a raging alcoholic.

And I'm surely not sleeping

around—unless sleepovers count. I'm

a boring, goody-two-shoes kind of kid.

But in this family there's a slew of issues

that come up no matter how good a child

I am. Some matters are complicated, some

trivial, others valid, and yet some others just

plain silly.

But most of the squabbles that arise between

daughter and father stem from the fact

that both of us are so alike. We manage to

clash over just about everything. We're both

stubborn. Neither of us can ever take the

blame during arguments—and we're intolerant

and short-tempered. Not the best qualities

to possess. Mom says this is inevitable since

we're "cast of the same mold."

Some things don't play into this battle

of the genes. One thing we never butt heads

over is regarding my performance at school.

Dad doesn't nag me about grades. He doesn't

breathe down my neck about violin practice

or SAT practice tests. This detachment is

sometimes a good thing, just because I don't

constantly feel pressured by yet another person.

I always have someone to turn to when

my mom is being too pushy or aggressive. But

while my dad may not ask much about school,

I know that deep inside he expects my grades

to be fantastic. He believes I'll work hard and

be successful in everything I intend to do.

Yet this detached approach of his isn't

always convenient. My dad isn't always able

to understand the trouble I go through as a

high school student. Cramming in the extracurriculars

and the honors classes isn't as easy

as everyone makes it out to be, and it's hard

for both my parents to understand that. Mom

is always around me; therefore, she's more in

sync with my everyday concerns. Since Dad's

job has always involved a lot of travel, he

doesn't always realize what deadlines I'm on

or what stress I'm under.

So while I'm diligently working on math

homework, Dad will storm in and question me

about the mysterious towel lying on my floor

or the heap of clothes on my bed, proclaiming

my room to be a pigsty. Or he'll be on light

patrol, watching me like an eagle when I enter

and exit the bathroom, playing the ever-alert

Mr. Policeman just to make sure I turned off

the light.

I'm not trying to make excuses for my

shortcomings, but my neat-o-meter isn't often

alert when I'm studying for finals or scribbling

an opinion piece that's due the following day

for my journalism class. My dad just doesn't

get it sometimes, and such disagreements often

lead to full-blown shouting matches.

And like other fathers, Dad is always

peeved about my spending habits. Sometimes,

my mom and I go overboard when we

go shopping. Watch out, mom and daughter

on the loose. Now Dad doesn't always see

eye-to-eye with our interpretation of our

credit card bills. Mom and I, the writers,

are always rounding down $29.95 to $29.

Dad, the computer scientist, is always

rounding it up to $30. See the problem


In spite of the many conflagrations,

most of our fights are over

petty things—silly things, really,

that we both like to whine about.

If I sit on the first barstool in our

kitchen, Dad throws a fit. You see,

it's his seat—with a convenient

plug point for his laptop and at

a safe distance from any source of

water. No one, not even the Queen

of England, may sit there if she's in

town. But I like to plant myself on

his spot just to annoy him.

You can see that I'm not always

the perfect daughter. And surely, it's

obvious that my dad isn't the perfect

father? But I wouldn't have it any other

way. I'm not always fond of my dad (and neither

is he of me) but I couldn't imagine calling

anyone else "Dad."

He's quirky. Yet he's always there to bring

wisdom, calm, and perspective to my mother

and to me, and pay for all of my activities—

ranging from violin lessons to speech and debate

to my many other valid demands on his

wallet—without one single complaint.

As a junior this year, I desperately need my

dad back here to help me attack the terrifying

derivatives of AP Calculus. Dad is ? well ?

integral to the functioning of our family.

And if he comes back home as fast as he

can, I even promise to dim the lights. Every



Pavithra Mohan is a junior at Saratoga High

School, Calif.

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