Short Story: Nascent Innocence

In Fiction by Abhinav KaiserLeave a Comment

This is an inspired story based on certain incidents in my life. I have exaggerated some parts to make it relevant for a fictional piece.

People say that I am egotistic, and anti-social. They say that I don’t like to mix with the crowds as I am suffering from a complex of superiority. I know what they think. I have overheard some of the conversations, and I have sources in my organization who like to see my reaction when they tell me about the bitching that take place behind my back. I generally shrug it off.

In reality, I am just busy. I am a general manager in the sales department. I am in charge of entire South East Asia. I have targets to meet every week. And, on top of that, I have daily meetings with my bosses who sit in the US and Europe. Yes, I said bosses. I am a poor third world country manager reporting to two snobs working out of different continents. So, in short, I don’t have time to socialize. I just don’t talk to people because I don’t find time to talk to them. As my colleagues believe, I don’t have superiority complex but have a complex work structure which ensures, for the most part, that my time with my family is at a minimal.

I just came back from a sales conference in Germany and it has been a week since I saw my daughter and spoke to my wife in person. I decided to take work home for a day. When I announced that I would work from home, I expected to see glee on my wife’s face. Instead, she twisted her lips which resembled my colleagues when I make eye contact with them. I waited for my wife’s further reaction, she gave none. “What is it?” – I prompted. “I have a kitty party today at Yasho’s place. I didn’t know that you were working from home. Why do you take such drastic decisions without consulting me?” – She admonished.

Drastic decisions? I reminded myself that the perspective on decisions taken was highly subjective and acceded with my wife that such life changing circumstances would not happen yet again. She had plans to take my daughter along, but since I was around, she felt it fit to leave her with me. The decision to leave my daughter with me was unilateral; I was merely informed – and not consulted. It seemed to me that leaving my daughter behind was a drastic decision which will definitely impact my targets, as I was supposed to working from home and not babysitting my daughter.

Right, she went, I sat down to work while my daughter started tearing the cushion apart. Rekhi is three years old and she is the most active one among the kids I have seen in my family – which is not too many. But, I have heard my wife mutter about all the complaints she receives from Rekhi’s teachers along with the usual adventures that she had to endure when Rekhi romps over her in the house. The truth is that I have never cared, well, let’s just say that I don’t have time to care about Rekhi’s mischief while I find just enough time to hug and kiss her. I secretly believe that the more mischief you make, the greater you become when you grow up. My mom always told me that my younger brother was far more mischievous than me while growing up. The fruit is in the pudding. My brother has started his own consulting business and was recently interviewed by a leading IT magazine and was conferred the title of most promising talent in the IT industry. Truth be told, he is far more successful than I am. Being mischievous is everything. If I had known the secret, I would have at least tried to break a few toys, pulled my mom’s hair whenever I had a chance and peed in the kitchen.

I just received a nasty mail from the CEO of my organization about a salesman in Thailand misbehaving with one of the existing customers. While I start to digest the facts, my phone starts to ring. It is my European manager who asks me questions as though I was standing right behind the culprit salesman. He is marked on the email just as I am. I know as much as him, maybe less, as he did not let me take in the information that our CEO had put in. I disconnect promising him that I would gather further intelligence on what really went down. I call the sales manager to find fodder for my European boss. The sales manager starts to narrate the story while I hear a loud clink from the other room. I then realize that I was not alone in my house, and my daughter is nowhere to be seen. With my cell phone glued onto my ear, I steadfastly walk to the source of the sound and I find my daughter sitting happily in a pool of castor oil. She is rubbing both her oil dipped hands onto the floor. I get closer to the mess only to find out that it is more than oil. Beneath the oil on the floor, I could see my wife’s most precious earthly collections – whitening cream, night cream, hair removal cream, acne cream and three others that I could not recognize, maybe they are different variants of the creams that I mentioned.

My daughter started to apply this weird mixture onto her hair and face before I could react. Well, I couldn’t react as I was supposedly conversing with the Thai sales manager and I know from brief experience that my daughter screams when interrupted. Alternately, I stooped down to my daughter’s eye level and gave her an evil stare. She didn’t even bother to look at me. I moved my hands vigorously to get her attention, and when I did, I showed her how round and big my eyes can be when I get inflamed. She looked at me for a second and without a notice, stood up and started moving about in the room – spreading this concoction of creams and oil on a wider expanse of flooring and to my horror, she got onto the bed. I was burning and furious. I wasn’t hearing what the person on the other line was saying, I didn’t even know if he was still talking, or waiting for me to talk. I disconnected the call without thinking and rushed to my daughter. I held her left hand and gave it a firm squeeze. When she didn’t cry, I thwacked her hard on her arm and shook her as a clothes dryer does – she finally started to let out a faint cry. I felt the need to do further damage, so I grasped her tiny thighs between my fingers and pinched it until I could feel my fingers touch each other. She let out a loud cry of twinge. I thought to myself that the cry of pain is the acknowledgment of learning that comes from a kid – a learning that distinguishes right from wrongs.

While I looked around at the muck, my phone started to ring. It was my European boss again. I had nothing to tell him but I had to answer the call. I picked up the call with the intention of telling him that I was trying to make contact with the sales manager. He said – “It seems that you had a bad telephone connection. The sales manager from Thailand called and apprised me. Some things are better handled by self than delegating to chain of command. I just wanted to tell you that I will reply back to the CEO and you can stay out of it.” Without a bye or giving a notice, he disconnected the call with a grunt. I became agitated again and pushed my daughter who was trying to reach my wallet which was placed on the bed’s side table. She fell on the floor and cried some more. I didn’t care. I shouted threats at her that if she did anything like this again, she would get a far worse beating. And, I would leave her for the ghosts to take care of her the next time. That freaked her and she held me tight. I did what a good father does. I cleaned her first and then the debris. I damned my situation while I cleaned, and swore never to work from home again.

My wife came home with a bounty of gifts while I tried to rest my sore back from the overload of cleaning. She didn’t ask about our daughter or how I fared with Rekhi. She was like a bull inside a pen, waiting to get her gifts and girl secrets out. I listened patiently and when I thought that she had exhausted reliving her past three hours, spoke out – “Do you know what I had to endure?” And then I narrated everything, including the pain and swearing Rekhi had to go through. She didn’t have much to say, in the form of condolence – for me. Her final parting words before she headed into the bathroom were – “Now you know what I go through every day.” Women, amazing creatures, I thought. They don’t show any emotions when your world has turned topsy turvy but expect great warmth when minor disturbances like spotting a spider bechances them.

I wanted fresh air to clear my mind. I wanted to put today’s entire episode, including my wife’s cold reaction out of my mind. I had learnt something new though – encountering a spider is definitely a catastrophe of sorts than getting treated to schmuck job that left your professional credibility at stake and having to spend an hour and a half stooping and cleaning. I had a presentation to prepare for tomorrow’s meeting and in this frame of mind, I was not in a position to do so. I changed into a T-shirt and shorts and was about to head out to a garden when my wife cried out – “Why don’t you take Rekhi along? I am getting a headache. I need to sleep to shoo it away.”

I strapped my daughter in the backseat and started my car. I need to cross a major intersection to get to the garden. While I stopped at the intersection, I saw the countdown for the red to turn to green – it said 189. My daughter was peeking out of the window and saying something to me. I turned around and she seemed excited at the colors on the bus standing behind my car. I felt that I had to engage Rekhi in a conversation, so I asked her the question which popped into my head involuntarily – “Rekhi, do you know why I beat you today?” She turned at me and nodded her head – “No daddy I don’t know.” My eyes welled up with tears. I clarified – “Do you remember that I beat you today?” She said yes. I asked her again if she knew why I beat her. Her answer was the same as before. She had no idea why I did what I did. Tears started to trickle down my cheeks as I heard the bus behind me honk. The color had changed and I had to move on. I was wrong about the whole damn thing. I shouldn’t have beaten Rekhi. She did what came to her naturally – act on the mushrooming curiosity. I have been frustrated. Over my job, my brother’s success, my bosses, my wife, my wife’s absence and a whole lot others that I had no hold on. I vented all of it on my lass who was defenseless, and more importantly didn’t know what she did to receive the brutality. I am a monster, I called myself and balled until I stopped at the next intersection. My daughter’s nascent innocence sparked a new meaning to relationships in me, and I felt that I knew her better than what I did an hour ago.

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