The soul develops in the father’s consciousness before it is weaved in its Mother’s Womb. May the fathers of the world remember and recall how much they loved and yearned for us before we were born.

Papa. That’s what we call the man who founded and raised this city. He’s not the first founder because there have been many founders. But he’s the one who founded and raised the city that I was born in. He gave birth to us all.

A few years ago, he passed away. I was living in Japan at the time, in Yokohama. My apartment was on top of a hill that I had to walk to and from come rain or shine. Somedays, there was a typhoon. Other days, there was a snowstorm. But still, I walked up and down this hill as I carved out and created my life in Yokohama.

I was lying in my futon when I heard the news that he had passed away. This father who had founded the city where I was born and raised. I saw the newspaper articles that spoke of his funeral. The sadness of the people. The respect and adoration that was accorded to him as he made the transition to the afterlife. And we remembered him–what he did for the country, how he raised the country, how he gave birth to a new way of being–and we all call him Papa.

King of Cups (2021). Artwork by Author and Artist Dipa Sanatani

Because to us, he’s like a father, even when we’re not related to him. And to us, he is that father that we would look up to–to guide us. Whose words we would read, whose words we would hear and whose wisdom we would draw upon. I never met him. But I know my grandfather did. There are some photos somewhere, but I haven’t seen them since my childhood. But I have seen them.

For me personally, there is no such memory. I only remember driving past his house as I made my way to school and waving at the guards who stood outside. Papa. The seahorse that fostered all the children under his care. He was a remarkable leader. When you flip through his books and you read the blurbs at the front, there are names there that are of extraordinary people who did extraordinary things–much like our Papa.

When it happened, I wasn’t here. I was living far away, living a life as an expatriate, as a foreigner, far away from home. Perhaps the umbilical cord that tied me to my homeland had not been cut. How could it ever be cut? It felt like a thread. It felt like I was hanging by a thread.

And I returned, as you do. I returned some years after he’d passed away. Did I find a new and different city? I don’t know, maybe in someways I did and in other ways it was still the same place where I was born and raised.

I must have been walking into a hotel room the first time I….

I was tired. I was very tired. And so I made my way to the hotel. I could sense his spirit. He had become an Ancestor of the Land. Those hills, those forbidden hills, was where the ancient ones once said was the Abode of the Ancestors and the Kings and the Rulers of this Land. And as I walked, I felt the spirits of the ancestors and of the kings who watched over this city and all its inhabitants.

So I went to my hotel room and watched a news item that said that Kamala Harris had become Vice President of the United States. It was a momentous moment in history. I closed my eyes and rested from my tiring and tired life. For I was tired of my life. And I was perhaps lonesome, not unlike a merman who resides at the bottom of the sea.

Papa was like a seahorse that incubates its young and that raises its young. You know, it’s hard to say what I feel because I’m not sure sometimes what it is I feel. People afraid to speak their minds. People afraid to speak what is in their hearts. And yet at the heart of this story, there was a man who was a father. And he was father who cared for his children. Was I one of those children? If I was, then maybe he didn’t know I was his child.

You know, no matter how lonely life gets or how old we get or when we stop being children; we become ‘grown ups’, we think we don’t need our parents anymore. I’m fine. I’m my own person now. Maybe at the heart of all those musings, there is a sense that we are all someone’s child. Be it a heavenly father or the man who founded the city. The ones who brought us into the world, the ones who brought them into the world… I mean… Where does the story even begin?

My grandparents’ generation had a different life, you know. I guess, when all is said and done, and the political debates and debacles are done, and when people have stopped arguing about politics; at the end of the day, I suppose if nothing else and if nothing more, maybe what he was, was a father.

Author’s Note: This story is a work of fiction.

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