Thursday, 10 January 2013
He tossed and turned again, the sound of the cat - helplessly meowing in the chilly night - it was hurting his ears. Then it grew quiet outside. Just as he almost reached the threshold of deep sleep it started again. It pained him to be able to hear the cat. He wished he could turn a deaf ear but the meowing kept haunting him. He opened the window and squinted as his ageing eyes tried to find a cat probably stuck under a car or something in the empty night.
He put on a woollen cap and went into the kitchen closing the bedroom door behind him & turned on the light in the kitchen. He turned around to check that the light was not by any chance lighting up his room, waking up his wife. She hated to be disturbed while sleeping. He took out a plastic bowl, wide but shallow and a half full bottle of milk.
When he reached the door, she crept up behind him and said Pappa where are you going at this time. He smiled like a little boy off on an adventure and said come with me I'll show you. She ran into her room quickly and wrapped her blanket around herself and came out.
Together they left the house stealthily like thieves in the night. They went down three flights of stairs and came upon the main road just in front of the building. His eyes squinting again as she looked at him surprised beyond wonder. Pappa it's so cold - what are we doing out here- the excitement evident in her voice. Ssh he whispered can you hear a kitten? She nodded no her brows almost colliding into each other as she strained her ears, closing her eyes.
And then as if they had called out to the kitten it mewed. They followed the sound across the road to under the pile of cartons someone had thrown from their balcony. He handed the bowl and bottle over to her and quietly lifted the big cardboard boxes one by one and voila - there was the feline damsel in distress. She looked barely a week old. He cautiously moved his hands towards the kitten as his daughter held her breath in anticipation. The kitten had been separated from its mother too early to understand how to judge the people's actions - Just a scared little baby out alone in the big bad world. Her heart felt sorrow for the kitten as she tried to claw at her father's hands. But he picked up the kitten despite its fruitless struggling and motioned to his daughter to follow him. Can you carry a small carton with that bowl princess? He whispered to her. Why she questioned but didn't wait for an answer- her own excitement was rising high. They crossed two more roads in the silence of the night and reached a little vegetable shop. He asked her to put down the cartoon and placed the kitten inside it along with the bowl. Why here Pappa? She asked in a whisper - because speaking out loud felt like invading the silence of the night (and because nobody speaks loudly on secret adventures - you have to be discreet). Life insurance for the cat he winked as he whispered back to her. The owner of that shop loved cats more than his own life - he would be incapable of letting go of a weak lonely kitten and he would certainly take good care of it. She smiled as it all made sense to her tired little sleepy brain. He was still staring at the meek kitten - she shivered in the cold. He took off his woollen cap, picked up and placed the kitten inside it and then set it down again. They waited a couple of minutes until the kitten warmed up and instead of staring at them started drinking the milk. They had just walked a few steps away when the kitten mewed again - they turned around to see the kitten standing up staring knowingly in their direction - and like offering a solemn thanks she nodded and settled down again in the cap.
By now the drowsiness took over her and she almost dozed off while standing. Her father picked her up and wrapped the small blanket tighter around her petite form and carried her home. All the while she was contemplating how heroic her dad was - just like the valiant kind generous strong knights in the books - who gave compassion and humanity more value than their own comfort - the kind her second grade homeroom teacher had said didn't exist anymore - only she now knew they did. It made her smile to imagine her dad like a knight - it would be funny in today's world. Nice dream I suppose - he teased her as he put her down carefully in her bed and she half opened her sleepy eyes and kissed him goodnight for the second time tonight, holding his rough hand in her two small ones and said Pappa this is why I love you.
His heart soared into the heavens as it did every time he heard those words, those sacred words spoken with innocent intensity. For moments like these-for those butterfly kisses, for that smile on her beautiful face - he would slave away at that dreadful office, for his daughter to have all the happiness in the world - he would put up with his devil of a boss.
For every jolt of joy he receives when he sees his daughter rise up, for every time she shows her childlike maturity, for the tide of emotions that drowns him when her eyes light up with laughter, for every silly prank she plays, for every single time she reminds him of himself, for every time she becomes an image of her mother, for the pride that illuminates his heart when she comes first in her class, or when she takes a decision or even when she learns something new, for the grief that kills him when he sees tears in those big curious eyes, for the fear he had never known before but feels so strongly now when he sees or hears about the evil in the world, for the responsibility that overcomes him when she holds his hand while crossing the street, or climbing the bus or when her expectant ever-curious eyes search for answers in his, for the moments between the minutes when he winks at her and she giggles, for these kind of secret adventures they have - for that feeling of contentment, for that peaceful beating of his heart in the knowledge that he has been the world's bestest father as she likes too put it, to always remain the bestest father in the eyes of his princess - he would do any thing, he would move heaven and earth if he could for her. He would fight all the demons within, he would never slip into his past, for her he would be a better person ,for her he would give his all.
In that one second he is burdened by all that he feels, experiences - but like the weight of the wings - the burden lifts him - allows him to fly.
And that is why he loves her. But instead of telling her all that - he plants an affectionate kiss on her forehead and says may all your dreams come true. His every isolated heartbeat- a prayer for her.