“Unexplored Paths” has been edited by Sheeba Mammen
It was one of those regular mornings where Shyam was fumbling a little in making Anjali, his 10-year-old daughter’s ponytail, but somehow managed to get one right. Dropping her off at the bus stop, she informed, “Daddy, today is a half day in school, so you will have to come and pick me up.” “Sure beta, don’t worry.”
Shyam returned home. He started preparing lunch. Feeling exhausted, he dozed off as soon as he hit the couch to get some rest. Suddenly, a foul, bitter smell roused him from his nap. Rushing to the kitchen, to his horror, he found the rice totally burnt. The vessel has turned into an ashy black colour from its bottom. Turning it off, he instantly turned off the regulator and was about to clean when he noticed the time. “Oh shit! Anjali,” he expressed.
Hastily, he dashed out of the house and drove to her school hoping to see Anjali there. He was half an hour late. Somehow, despite traffic being a major hurdle, he reached school. Anjali was nowhere. Panicked and aghast, he could think of nothing. Calming himself after few horror-struck moments in his mind, he asked the staff.
“We tried calling your cell but it was out of reach, so we called your wife. On her suggestion, we sent Anjali with one of her classmates,” one of the staff members informed. At the very moment, he recalled that his cell was lying in silent mode in the bedroom. Though he wanted to hit himself, he was relieved. At least, Anjali was safe. While picking her up from her classmate’s home, Anjali seemed a little annoyed. He knew that this time, it would be for a longer period, and a sorry won’t work.
Reaching home, he checked his cell to find the number of missed calls. He called Mira saying, “I am so sorry,” and began to explain. Cutting him amidst the sentence, she said, “It’s okay, Shyam, relax. I am not mad at you. I was, at first, but now, it’s all good, and yes, I’ll be coming back within two days. For now, I got to go. I will call you tonight. Take care, dear.”
He called out to Anjali but got no response. When he went looking, he found her playing with her legos. He sat beside her and asked, “So, what are you building?” “Nothing.” “So, are you still angry at daddy? Let’s see. What can I do to see that smile? Oh, how about this?” and he started tickling Anjali filling the room with laughter. As the ambience eased, Shyam excitedly spoke, “Today, we will go and have your favourite, dosa, and then, a pastry or an ice-cream. It’s party time!” Looking up, Anjali giggled. “Daddy, I know the food is burnt.” “Oh no, the secret is out,” he said, pretending to be aghast. She chuckled, and soon, they indulged back in her legos.
Mira returned after the work trip, and after freshening up, she waited for Shyam to return home who had gone to pick Anjali up from her tuitions. “Mummy,” Anjali plunged onto Mira as soon as she opened the door. “Hi there, my little angel. Oh, how I missed you.” “And what about me?” asked Shyam, winking. “Of course, I missed daddy, too,” giving him a long hug. At night, she tucked Anjali in the bed and went to the balcony where Shyam was sitting on the chair with a drink.
“So, how was your trip?” “As usual, hectic, but strangely interesting only because I could explore few places there. Leave that. You know I can rant about work all night. Now, you tell me how you are keeping up with this new role going for you,” she said while sipping from the glass. “Well, for starters, my cooking needs a lot of help. Anjali is an angel. She hardly complains about my cooking skills. Talking about daily chores, I am getting the hang of it,” he said confidently. Their conversation continued all night with no fence built around. Jumping from Shyam’s innovative idea for handling home, and commencing an activity on the side which involved his passion for art to Mira’s some bizarre, imprudent colleagues. They laughed, agreed, teased, and argued a little. They transcended into the world of bliss.
“Thank you, Shyam. Thank you for understanding me and not letting the general ego of a husband come between us. Your decision is unconventional; to resign and become a stay-home dad. I know many have taunted and made fun of this type of arrangement, yet, you cared for none but us. A toast to my brave husband,” Mira said. She raised the glass and placed her tender lips on Shyam, and they kissed away under the silver moonlight, merging their souls in one.
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