My 7 year old Achu...
I hurried down the stairs. I saw Meera, my sweet(??!!) wife, sitting in the couch giving breakfast to my 7yr old daughter Achala. Both looked happy, watching TV. I got confused at the whole scenario. I came running down, expecting some kind of earthquake, but instead here everything was in place. I looked at my wife & daughter. She smiled at me back. Now, I more got confused, what’s happening here? Am I in a dream?
‘You called me. In fact yelled.’
‘Yes. You are right!’
‘Everything is fine here right? Why you screamed like that then…’
‘It’s ‘cos it’s going to be 8am now.’
I couldn’t understand what she was trying to say. Is she playing some kind of prank? Is this the time for all these? I have to be in office by 9am for a meeting.
‘Yes. It’s going to be 8am.Right! So…?’
‘Rajesh, don’t tell me, you forgot…today is 27th ‘
‘Don’t tell me you don’t remember?’
Meera gave me an ‘I’ll kill you’ look. Is it her birthday? No it’s somewhere at the year end. Is it my daughter’s? No no , we celebrated last month only right. Got it. Should be our Anniversary.
‘Hey Meera, How will I forget our Anniversary…’
Got it. It’s not our anniversary. Before I get killed…What’s w/ 27th. What ?? what?? Come on Rajesh!! Think. Nothing hit my mind. I looked at my daughter for a clue. She turned her face away. What’s with all women? Why can’t they be straight forward & say things. With so much work pressure, how on earth I am supposed to remember all the dates?. If I say something, then Meera will pick up a fight, and I will miss the meeting, my whole day will be gone. I made up my mind to surrender.
‘Meera, Sorry, I don’t remember. This medicine I am taking for cough, Something happened..my memory is deteriorating ..What’s today?’ Meera doesn’t seem like buying that excuse from me.
’Meera, please tell me’ I asked in a pitiable tone..
‘Rajesh..You don’t remember at all?’ I moved my head left & right meaning NO. I kept my face like I am a patient suffering from ‘amnesia'.
'Rajesh, As part of annual day celebrations, today is 'Daddy's Day' in Achu's school. I have been telling you for the past 3 weeks. Now don’t tell me you forgot. You already promised that you will go with her to her school'I couldn’t believe that I accepted for something like that. 'Meeraa..did I??''Yes. You did'‘at what time it starts..?''By 8:30am and ends at 1pm'.Gosh!! 9am!! I have such a critical meeting. How I will attend all these.
“Meera, you could have reminded me yesterday right?’
‘Oh I didn’t remind you? Great. I didn’t call to your office. Or remind you in the evening and before going to bed’
Might be I wouldn’t have heard it. Or slipped out of my memory. What ever!!
'Meera! Can’t you attend all these. Why should I??'"Rajesh. It’s Daddy's Day!...DADDY'ss!!!!!''Oh yeah....but...''But what????...''errrh....might be some other day...''What? You want the school to postpone the function?''No..No…actually..what..I am saying is..''What Rajesh??? What?? Tell me. You promised Achu and are you going to disappoint her? 'I stood there totally helpless. I looked at my daughter. She was all dressed up and ready to go. She looked like, she will cry any time. I saw Meera. She gave me a murderous look. I thought for a moment and my mind raced with many calculations. Important meeting. I can’t miss for sure. Half a day is too much. So many deliverables will get affected. I can’t face Meera again if I don’t go. Might be I can postpone the meeting by an hour and for name sake visit that function and escape to office.
'Meera, I will go, but I can spend only 1 hour..''No...that’s not..'Before Meera finished the sentence, Achu rushed to me 'Thanks daddy. 1hour. Mom, 1hour is enough mom. Please don’t fight mom. Daddy, get ready soon..' she nudged me. ‘Do you know her school name and the route for the school or you want me to tell???’ Asking that Meera threw me an angry look and left the living room. I rushed up, got ready. Called my manager & told that I got stuck in traffic jam and postponed the meeting to 10am.
I took Achala to her school. I felt somehow entering the school, ‘cos it’s the 2nd time, I am entering her school. In fact 1st time. I once dropped her outside her school gate. The school had a big playground, Small Park with all kids playing equipments. Some stalls were put up. So many kids with their fathers moved around here & there. Suddenly I felt some one touching my hand
‘Are you achala’s daddy?’ – A small kid asked. She had curly hair and bubbly smile.
‘Yes,,,My Daddy..…’ – Achala responded in an excited tone. And some kids ran towards me and Achala started introducing everyone.
‘Daddy! this is Rohit, this is zakir, Anis, Sylvia, Divya..’ – I told hello to everyone.
‘Daddy, Daddy, Zakir is my best friend.’ – I smiled at that cute blue eyed boy.
‘Uncle, Achu told that you have so much work and you won’t be able to come. She told she won’t come in today. You don’t have work Uncle?’ – Zakir asked me.
I suddenly felt very bad on how my daughter has understood me. ‘No Zakir, I don’t have work’
‘Daddy, they are calling for the games. ‘ . Zakir ran to his father and waved his hands at me & achala. I took achala by hand and walked towards the stage. They were announcing the 1st game. Fathers will be given a sheet containing questions about their kids. Fathers have to fill about their kids which will be verified with the kids response.
Achala was all excited about the game and she was all set to go. But I felt shivers. I looked at my daughter. Suddenly, I felt very far from her, and the reality hit me, that I don’t know anything about my very own daughter. I blurted out ‘Achu..we will attend the next game..This one ..’ She gave me a deep stare. I thought she is going to cry or shout or do something. But instead she pulled out a small paper from her jeans pocket and gave it to me. Completely baffled, I opened the sheet.
My name is Achala. My birthday March 21st. I am 7yrs old. I like butterfly. Superman. Dairy milk. painting. dancing. I am in 1st standard A section. I like Dora. Mango. Apple. Fried rice. Jelly. I don’t like banana. I drink boost.. I like yellow color. My nick name is ‘Honey dew’
And the list went on with small, small spelling mistakes. I looked at Achu. ‘Daddy, read it, I know they will keep this game. So I wrote it 2 days back itself, to give you if you come. If they ask anything about me, write there. Ok Now go & attend the game’. Most of the things, my daughter has written & gave me, I never knew anything about it. I suddenly felt a lump in my throat. I went to the stage waved my hand to Achu and got the question sheet. Since Achu gave the sheet, I came to know about her & I answered almost all the questions. Then they asked Achu on stage and asked the questions to her. We got the 2nd highest mark in that game. Achu came running towards me and hugged me. They gave a ‘toy guitar’. Everyone congratulated us. Thou’ I won that game, I felt like a loser. I know, I don’t deserve this. I don’t know anything about my daughter.
She looked very happy showing that guitar to her best friend, zakir . What a kid she is. Understanding that her dad is totally hopeless and don’t want to let her dad down, before others she prepared that sheet and gave to me. The lump in my throat started getting bigger and my heart became heavy. I caressed her hair. What a beautiful smile she has and such big eyes. Does she miss a wing to get qualified as an angel? I have never admired my daughter or even watched her in all these years. She has that cute dimple of Meera’s as well as her eyes. Does that curling lip edges when she smiles, is mine? How I missed all this in my life.
Achala pulled me to the stalls there and I got some eatables and ballons for her and zakir.. She kept talking about the next game and suddenly my mobile rang. Oops!! Is it already 10am. I looked at Achu . Suddenly her face became dark. She looked totally upset and asked in an low voice ‘Daddy! You have to leave now?’
I looked at my mobile. My manager was calling. It’s already 10am. I looked at Achu. I looked around. All those happy kids with their fathers. I thought about my school days, where my dad used to come for all sports day, annual day, sit with me, cheer me up. Every day morning, while dropping me to school, he will wait near the gate until my head disappear. Evening, he will come & pick me up in his cycle, and I will be telling him all the stories that happened that day in school.
I saw Achu. How many untold stories my daughter has kept in her heart to say me? I thought about all those days, where I yearned for a girl child and I wonder, how much of my time I gave her.
I pulled her closer, gave a kiss on her fore head ‘No Honey! I am not going. I will be here only…we will attend all games and roam around whole day.ok?’
‘Really?’ – She asked in an unbelievable tone.
‘Thank you Daddy!’ – Achala kissed my cheeks and ran to her friends. School teaches you something or the other always. This time, ‘back to school’ has taught me a wonderful life’s lesson. I called my
manager & told that am running high fever and can’t come in today. I know, I can handle things tomorrow. Today my daughter needs me more than anyone can need me in this world. With a lighter heart, I got up; ran towards Achu, lifted her and gave her a big swing. She erupted into an uncontrollable laughter. The lump in my throat started melting away.