I’ll take care of her. I announce. With a swagger that you could possibly put on with an ignorant arrogance laden brazenness, only if you host an arbid news debate in one of India’s omnipresent news channels.
But that’s a different story.
You see, the missus has been invited to a function at a neighbour’s place. An artistic one at that. The daughter could potentially put my hard earned savings at jeopardy by swinging her hands freely and finding an ancient Chinese vase or a some silly ‘work of art’ come in the way.
“I’ll take care of her”. I announce. The missus hesitates. I change my tone and say “I said, I’ll take care of her”. Unstated there is this: “Come on she is my daughter. I can take care of her better than you do”. Unstated. No married man dare mouth such thing and live a peaceful life. So.
Have you heard of the tourist in a national park who ignored the warnings of the rangers, and jumped out of the steel meshed 4X4, only to look into the glistening eyes of a hungry tigress. If you hadn’t heard of it before, you just did. But on all of that, later.
The missus says ‘bye’. The daughter lifts her sleepy eyes from the piece of cloth that she is paying intense attention to. Almost like a mad scientist being told that that Pizza delivery boy is at the gate, while he was at the verge of a scientific breakthrough.
She looks up. Says ‘bye’ to the missus. Half in a trance. A mountain of attention is devoted to studying the circular patterns on the piece of cloth she is playing with. The Peek-a-boo cloth. The missus slips out of the house. The daughter continues to be engrossed in the cloth. I dive into the Sunday papers with gusto.
Life is good. For precisely 30 seconds. Or less.
She suddenly walks up to me and says ‘Papa’ in a voice that can melt all of the ice in Antarctica. Before you could say ‘global warming’ she climbs on to me and says ‘kaanom’. (One of those words that she’s picked up. Roughly translates to “I can’t find it”).
I assume she is talking about the missus.
I give her all kinds of explanations to let her know that her mom will be back soon. Of course, three quarters of the explanation is not in English or any other language anybody would know. It is in gibberish with a strange assortment of sounds, razzmatazz action with two hands two legs and twenty fingers and one nose. All to indicate that mommy will be back soon and she ought to be a good girl.
‘Kaanom’ she says again.
‘Kaanom’ she says yet again.
And yet again.
I point her to her toys. She overturns the toy basket in no time. Stomps over the toys. Turns around and says ‘Kaanom’
I get a strange feeling that this is going to be a rough time. For me. Have you been through times when the weather bureau reports come true precisely after you chose to disregard it and went out shopping without an umbrella? And then you heard rumble in the skies. And then you turn around to see the neighbour walking by with two umbrellas and a raincoat to boot. And then he waves at you.
It has an indelible quotient of fear tinged anxiety quoted with a sense of loss! That’s the feeling that envelopes me.
‘Kaanom’ she says again. Loudly. And this time, very pronouncedly too.
Maybe she isn’t asking for the missus. Another ballet performance follows asking her what she is looking for. What is kaanom? She is singularly unimpressed. Vaguely looks at me and says, ‘pho’.
Ah, the young lady is looking for the phone. My phone, that is.
At this stage, alarm bells are going bonkers in my brain. I give the phone to her, very rarely. And only as the last resort. IF NOTHING ELSE WORKS. And that too, for a very short time. In that short time she has done an assortment of things that I haven’t ever done on any phone. Including dialing the choicest of numbers ranging from 100, 101, 102 and of course, my boss.
So, when the phone is demanded as the first thing, the rule is I don’t give. But today seems to be different. So, I lock the keypad, check twice if the lock is working and hand the phone over.
Peace returns. She is so happy. A Santa like picture of evergreen cheer. I kick myself why I don’t think of such lovely solutions that work like a charm, on time.
I decide to get on with the day’s newspapers. I am immersed in it. I don’t know how time flies. I move to the centre page. The editorials. This is when I notice that there are new sounds coming from the hall. I put the paper down with mild trepidation and go out to inspect. I notice that its been about ten minutes since I handed over the phone.
Every single hair on my head stands up. For the hall that I see in my own home isn’t the hall that the missus left behind. Some fifteen minutes ago.
The Set top box’s chord is yanked. And as I run to fix it, I realise that the table lamp is shaken. The cushions are on the floor. The shoe rack with shoes that I only recall of wearing in my previous birth magically hog the the centre space. Like a deity in a temple.
I look at the daughter. She is still fondling my phone. My locked phone with the keypad lock intact. A picture of peace, serenity and tranquil happiness pervade her face.
I tell myself to retain calm. And survey the home. Have you seen the Prime Minister survey flooded regions from a helicopter? That way. I notice beads of sweat form a pattern on my forehead that could have spelt ‘YOU ARE FINISHED”. I put my below par computing powers to above par usage. I figure it’s going to take me at least an hour to put things in place. I think. And the missus will be back in 40 minutes. Apocalypse will strike twice over if she finds the house in this state.
I dive into putting things in place. First things first. I decide. The shoe rack goes back to its place. The cushions get back on the sofa. At least, she is not being naughty now and is engaged with the phone I think. And then, a doubt creeps in. The tranquil happiness on her little face appears again on my mind.
James Bond movies would have scenes where 007 walks down a road and suddenly something strikes him about the necklace a lady was wearing or the drink some guy offered or some such inane seeming thing. He would then jump off buildings, knock of buses and kill a few people, because, he would have figured that the nerve centre to the plot revolved around that inane little thing.
It suddenly strikes me that the tranquility, has a deeper mischief hidden beneath. I run to the other room.
Like agent 007, I dive through furniture. Leap through soap bars strewn across the hallway which could have put a minefield in Bosnia to shame. And even manage to duck a teddy bear that come from nowhere to reach the study. From where I am hearing new sounds.
The daughter sits atop the fat Webster’s dictionary, purchased at a time when spell-check didn’t exist and word power meant a huge bit. A couple of biographies, the World Atlas and a manual for operating the phone lie around the room in barely recognizable form.
She looks at me. Says ‘papa’ and jumps off the dictionary. I give her a ‘YOU LITTLE DEVIL’ cold stare. She says ‘papa’ ever so sweetly again. I give her a ‘YOU LITTLE DEVIL DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR MOMMA WILL DO TO ME’ stare. She says ‘papa’ again, sits down and opens the dictionary. Trrrrrrrrt. The first page comes off. I jump. I assume I have a decent rib cage. For otherwise, the heart would have popped right out.
And lift her right up. ‘Kaanom’. She says. Again.
I don’t know what to say or do.
“Where is the phone?” I ask her. In the same song-dance-kung fu routine. ‘Kaanom’.
I pick the landline up and dial my mobile. I can hear it ring somewhere in the house. She is all excited. We both run to the bedroom. The phone lies, nestled under some age old stuff. Under the bed.
I try and salvage the situation. But it is rather late. In a few minutes, the missus comes home. And looks at the home. The daughter runs up to her, says ‘mamma’ and clings.
You must have seen the Oklahoma tornadoes that heaped destruction. The President of the US and the whole world stood by to support the people in the midst of all that destruction.
I stood alone. Sans the swagger. Sans the storm. Sans everything.
The rest is an internal family matter! Ok?
Kavi dabbles in writing, reading, traveling, photography, long distance running amongst other things. He and Shanti have their hands full with their adorable toddler, Kayal. In-between all of this, he gives an arm, leg and everything else to earn a living. Usually accomplished by punching keys, attending meetings and trying to sound profound. He blogs at http://kavismusings.blogspot.com & tweets @kavismusings. Just in case you are intrigued enough to know more about him please head to http://about.me/kaviarasu.