As I climb up the stairs, feeling fatigue grip at every muscle of my body, I hear my daughter’s voice, “Papa is coming home! Papa is coming home!”. I start grinning; it is strange how little things can turn your mood around. I reach the door and ring the bell. “Mumma, see I told you papa is coming”, after 4 thuds on the door (my five year old kid’s unsuccessful attempts at opening the door by jumping as high as she can to unhinge the bolt on top), the door finally opens.
I see her eyes gleam with happiness, “papa”, she screams and hugs me tight. My wife unmindful of all the noise at home calmly declares, “Why do we need a dog at home when we have dolly? All that she does since evening is guard the door waiting for your arrival”. Dolly has a sheepish grin on her face, I pull her close, give a peck on her cheek and whisper, “You know mumma is just jealous right?” within seconds she is back to her usual happy self.
Dolly, being the drama-queen that she is, climbs on the sofa and announces that she has a fancy dress competition at school. My wife gives her “the look” to get off the sofa and then we start discussing the potential options she has, since at 9 in the night we didn’t have enough time to go for something very elaborate.
“Miss India? Miss Universe? Princess?” my wife asks her, she sticks out her tongue, complaining that every second girl in the class was planning on it. She wanted to be something important. “What about being a politician beta?” I asked, she nodded in disapproval, we bombarded her with choices like actress, police woman, singer, dancer, teacher, new reporter , she had a single answer to all of it ‘It’s not important enough’.
While we were having dinner, dolly suddenly came up with what she wanted to be. “Shantabai!” she shrieked, almost like she had hit jackpot (Shantabai is our local grocer). My wife shot me a puzzled look. Unable to think of any other option we decided to go ahead with it and my wife took up the costume designing in her expert hands.
The next morning while I was reading the newspaper, my daughter called out for me, her voice almost a squeak. I pushed aside the newspaper to find her peeking through the door. “Come on in”, I told but she didn’t budge, she hid behind the door and continued giggling. My wife nudged her to go forward and then I saw her, dressed up in a little red sari with a hint lipstick, a bindi on her forehead and a huge smile on her face, a string of pearls on her neck and half a dozen of bangles. She carried a tokri filled with spinach on which rested her mobile phone and purse.
At that instant I didn’t care if she would win, I was thankful that she didn’t go with the crowd and be a princess though nonetheless she looked like the princess of grocers. What mattered was that she did what she felt was right and was happy with her decision and I would always want her to be this way.