The Road to Home
Pari watched him in awe as he was sawing wood and measuring the planks with a scale. He had to make sure that her princess would fit inside. Every day, they would come down to the basement of his house to work on the castle. Pari had even picked out a shade of purple for the castle. She had seemed a little distant and scared in the initial days. But today, it felt like they’ve been together from the day she was born.
After four years of not even laying eyes on his only daughter, Vedant was very surprised when his estranged wife called him a month ago. All these years, he had tried convincing her that he was sober and begged to meet his daughter. But Shakti always waved the custody papers in his face and that used to shut him up. He might have been a lot of things when he was drunk. But when he was sober, he was the most chivalrous gentleman. He kept his distance and pined for his daughter silently.
His wife spoke of the thing he had always dreamed of hearing. Pari wanted to meet her father. She had vague memories of a man in her life and friends at school had been bullying her for not knowing who her father was. Mother dearest caved when Pari showed no signs of giving up. Shakti tried to look beyond the fact that Vedant was an alcoholic when the divorce came through. Perhaps it was time to let the father and daughter bond.
So it was with great joy and excitement that he brought Pari home last month. She talked to her mother every day and kept her posted on the things they did, people they met, places they went and the movies they saw. Vedant finally had a chance to be the father he never was. He was glad he had the chance to earn his way to be present at her recitals and school functions. And Pari was blossoming under his protective care. She learnt to ride a bicycle and signed up for swim classes.
Vedant’s book on rehabilitation was doing very well and the publishers were hosting a party that weekend. After discussing with Shakti, he had his mother come over and watch Pari while he had to be at the celebration. No matter how things had turned out eventually, Shakti and her mother in law were always on good terms. So that was settled.
Vedant returned home at half past two. Disheveled, groggy and slurring, he wobbled through the living room. So used to being alone for years, he nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard a door open and Pari stared at him with horror in her eyes. She had never seen him like this. But the horror in her eyes reminded him of her mother and rage took over involuntarily. Grandmother hurriedly took Pari back to bed. He lunged forward to catch the girl and smashed into something on the table near the door.
Next morning, he got up with a splitting headache. As he recollected the events of the previous night, fear seized him. He walked to Pari’s room which was now empty. On the floor lay broken pieces of wood. They were painted a pretty shade of purple. There was a note on her bed that read, “V, that was your last chance at redemption. Pari will grow up knowing what kind of a man to not marry. Toward that effort, thank you. Thank God Maa was around. Go to hell.”
He walked to the wardrobe and found all of Pari’s things gone. He laughed bitterly when he caught sight of his book on a shelf. It was titled ‘The Road to Home’. It seemed ironical that he should have got drunk after three years of being sober, when he finally had the chance to make things right. He looked at the man in front of him and rammed his fist into the sullen face. Nothing changed. A thousand pairs of sunken eyes now stared at him from the floor. The mirror only spoke the truth.
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