“Momma!” li’l Roohi squealed with joy. “Look what I made!”
‘Momma’ was busy barking orders to someone on the phone.
“No no no no NO. That is NOT how you do an interview! You know what you did?! You gave him a free Prachar Sabha. Why don’t you join his party if you like his ideas so much? No counter-questions, meek acceptance of everything he said…THIS is why they call us PAID media. How much did you get for it anyway? Where is your next vacation eh? Speaking of vacations, I am on one. And you better not give me any more headaches or I will have your head for lunch when I am back.”
Tara Dutta stomped her way back to the arm-chairs under the coconut trees where her husband was watching the sunset with a contemplative gaze. The Kovalam beach in Kerela was at its serenest best that day.
He turned towards her as she was about to plomp on an arm-chair beside his. “What’s the matter love? You look upset.”
“Aah it’s probably nothing but it makes my head ache when the juniors mess up. It’s not every day that you get such a controversial candidate on your debate panel. And I was not there to cover it!”
“You’ll get better opps girl…don’t fret. See…Roohi is calling you since she started making the sand castle. These are the moments that matter…not the ones grilling electoral candidates”, he chided her affectionately.
“It’s not your fault Shekhar. How would you understand how I feel?Afterall all you do all day is sit with your laptop and TV remote. Your life revolves around your trivial columns and Roohi”, she said in a thoughtful condescending tone, almost as if talking to herself.
She realized she had literally thought aloud when she saw the look on Shekhar’s face. “Aww baby…you know I didn’t mean it…I am just…just exhausted. That’s it.”
“Never mind”, he gave a wry smile “I’ll go see what the li’l brat’s up to. She is getting sharper by the day I tell you!”
Tara got another call. She let it ring. She had had enough for the day. She was dying to relax on the inviting arm-chair.
Shekhar and Roohi were already busy giving the final touches to the castle.
“Nice flagpole. Where did you find it bete?” Shekhar was clearly amused by his daughter’s resourcefulness. on a beach where anything other than coconut leaves was hard to find, his daughter had found a perfect wooden rod.
“You’ll never guess Daddy”, she chuckled and tucked the flagpole neatly on her fort. “Now for the flag”, she neatly folded her kerchief into a triangle.
Shekhar was still marvelling at his daughter’s intelligence when there was a startling thud. DHADAM. A volley of curses blaming God for the miseries of life followed.
They looked in the direction of the trees to see a struggling Tara trapped in the wooden skeleton of the arm-chair.
“Damn these lousy hotel staff. I am gonna air this negligence on prime time news as soon as I get back.”
Shekhar and Roohi had doubled up with hysterical laughter. Roohi now rolling over on the remains of her fort as she had fallen down as an after-effect of the humour shock.
“Coming. I am coming over love…”, he feigned hurry as he walked over leisurely towards Tara.
Shekhar reached there and stood watching her. She was smug. “I am gonna sue these people”, she continued her tirade trying to get up holding an arm of the chair with both hands. “Arrrgh”
“Okay crusader, in that case, I know just the person you need to sue”, said Shekhar pointing to Roohi holding her flagpole, which was actually one of the wooden rods that held the cloth on the arm-chair in place! She was engrossed in tying the kerchief on it again. Tara’s eyes widened in disbelief.
“Anybody talk about suing? Banda haazir hai.” A tall geeky guy walked over from the nearby juice counter. He had apparently witnessed the fall and overheard the conversation that followed.
Shekhar smiled at him. “I am Shekhar Dutta. Freelance writer and weekend columnist at the Indian Express.”
“Anybody care to help me out?!” Tara intervened in the introductions.
“Aah yeah. Umm excuse me buddy…I need to take this one,” winked Shekhar.
He gently helped Tara out of the chair and kissed her on the cheek. “You gotta slow down love. We are all here for you…spend time with us, make memories. Shall we?”
“Make memories how?” asked a sullen faced Tara. “Mr. Perfection did not want to ruin his camera on the beach. All we’ve got is a stupid phone with a dying battery.”
“We can still get a picture…”, he pulled her towards the waves. “Roohi bete, come hold Mumma’s hand…”
Tara’s stern facade caved in. “You are a perfect husband Shekhar. And Roohi is the best daughter in the world,” she said with tears of joy. She wanted the moment to last forever.
She motioned to a girl passing by. “Excuse me! Can you take a picture for us?”
The girl held her fluttering skirt with one hand and took the phone from Tara. She struggled some more with her long hair. And finally managed to get the three of them in a frame.
She was an attractive sight with her fashionable anklet and neckpiece enhancing the beauty of her floral skirt and white blouse. She looked out of place – a native definitely, but had an air of urban finesse about her.
Tara, Shekhar and Roohi were posing with wide smiles; awkwardly waiting for her to click. CLICK. All of them rushed towards her to check the result of their hard work.
She let out an exclamation of dismay. “Oh nooo! The battery’s dead. I am sure the pic was clicked. Do you have another phone?”
“No worries miss. Thank you! We’ll probably click one tomorrow”, said Tara knowing perfectly well that they were supposed to leave that night. She joined Shekhar and Roohi in frolicking in the bouncy sea waves.
As the girl turned to walk away, she bumped into a guy heading straight towards the juice counter.
“Damn”, he looked sorrowfully at his spilled juice and then at the angry girl wiping it off her skirt. He made puppy eyes at her. “Please don’t sue me…”
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