Too Late For Atonement – Chapter 5
“Mom are you again not going to attend the sports day?”
“Sorry darling, I can’t leave the photo shoot, something urgent has come up.” said Tara, desperately looking for a way to end this oft repeated drama, without a meltdown. She tried to be free for Roohi’s important day….but….
“Mom are you there?” said Roohi in a flustered tone
“A ….yes, listen Roohi… don’t be sad sweetheart, Daddy is going to be there to cheer you and he will be making a video too, so I won’t miss anything really”
“I am sure, this time too you’ll win the race.”
Just as Tara was about to wish Roohi good luck, she heard the call end. Tara knew Roohi was upset and she will have to make it up to her soon.
Heartbroken, fuming with rage Roohi threw the mobile on the bed and began sobbing on her satin pillow.
Tara reacted no differently. She slammed her phone on her desk almost cracking the glass of her workstation.
It was times like these, when she hated her work the most. What good was this success and money going to yield, when she couldn’t be there with her family when they wanted her around.
A tear formed in the corner of her eye when her phone buzzed and she was back to business.
“Mom loves her work more than me and dad seems to be smitten with his PC. Nobody cares about how I feel, what I want in life.”
Roohi broke into loud sobbing that attracted Shekhar’s attention. He walked up to her room and gently knocked at the half open door, before stepping inside. One look at his princess and he knew what possibly could have gone wrong.
He gently stroked her hair tied in ponytails that eased her sobbing. In no time she hugged Shekhar. An understanding silence filled the air, where the hearts of a doting father and a hurt daughter wished the pain could vanish magically.
Shekhar’s creative mind was frantically looking around the room for inspiration on how to console her daughter, just when the digital photo-frame came to his rescue.
“Roohi, you look so pretty in your mom’s shoes.”
Startled, Roohi lifted her head from Shekhar’s chest to follow his gaze and they both burst out laughing. Shekhar had meant it literally, because Roohi and Tara had the same shoe size. It amazed everyone as to how a 9 year old could have a foot as large as her mother. But nature had designed it in her favor. Her shoe size gave Roohi the freedom to flaunt her mom’s exquisite shoe collection of Jimmy Choo, Caprice, Gerry Weber and more like a diva. While giving them both the liberty to quote that they had walked in each others shoes to know where the other was coming from.
The picture had Roohi crowned ‘Miss Universe’ in the school fashion night, where her beauteous elegance showered her with admiration and compliments galore.
Shekhar suddenly felt in control of the situation, but at the back of his mind he knew, he had to do some serious talking with Roohi to guide her emotions.
“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” introspected Shekhar.
“Roohi… why are you so upset? You should be excited for the race later in the day”
“Dad… mom is again not going to make it to school, she keeps finding excuses to not be with me”
Shekhar bit his tongue to resist telling Roohi that it was not the case.
“Roohi, look at those pictures, see Tara is with you in most of them, isn’t she?”
Shrugging off the idea of another long lecture, disapprovingly Roohi muttered, “So what dad?”
“You aren’t getting the depth of what I have been trying to show you. If you look closely at these photographs, you’ll see mom has been with us, with you, as often she could”
“But dad, all my friends have their moms around all the time, they accompany them to school on all PTMs and are there to cheer for all practice sessions, when I am left craving for my mom”
Tears trickled down Roohi’s eyes piercing Shekhar’s heart like spears.
“Honey, if your mom isn’t around, I always am. Ain’t I?”
“Do any of your friend’s dads accompany them for practice sessions? Do they bake yummy cakes like I do? Best of all, does any of your friend’s dads take their daughters for shopping dresses and shoes like I do? Hmmm…?”
Roohi’s face lit up with the mention of cake and shopping, she was already feeling better, but her mind was determined to rebel.
“No dad, that is all that you do for me, how does that bail out mom?” retorted Roohi
Shekhar knew this was the make or break point. He had to score a win today, to have his little darling come to love the life she’d been gifted.
“Haven’t mom always come racing to your rescue when your pranks have led to serious trouble?”
Shekhar could read that Roohi was beginning to make sense of what he was saying, he continued, “Like you crashed Rohan’s computer last week and had pushed Mrs. Juneja in the pool in the party……remember?”
Roohi looked happy reminiscing the joy those pranks had brought to her. Shekhar could see realization dawn on her face.
“Look there Roohi, has any of your friends been to Disneyland for a vacation?”
Shekhar eyed Roohi to read the impact. Her eyes were twinkling with joy as she looked at her picture with Minnie Mouse, but she didn’t look convinced yet.
Without waiting for her to find a way to break the spell, Shekhar continued;
“Does any of your friends have had Ranbir Kapoor….’The’ Ranbir Kapoor wish them personally on their birthday?”
Roohi’s heart melted. The mere mention of Ranbir was enough to make her forget all grudges.
“Dad…” muttered Roohi, blushing and holding Shekhar tight in a bear hug.
“Now… without wasting a moment, get ready for the race. You’ve got to welcome mom home with a medal, don’t you?”
Roohi nodded an enthusiastic yes, before darting to the bathroom.
Shekhar thanked Ranbir for saving his family yet another time. Had Tara not been shooting for an ad film with Ranbir on Roohi’s birthday, this life-saver magical moment wouldn’t have happened.
A smirk rose to Shekhar’s lips, as he thought of the Disneyland vacation he had just mentioned to Roohi. Roohi thought her mom had fixed the trip, Tara thought, Shekhar’s clients in US had organized it, but only he knew where the money flew in from.