Praveena woke up in high spirits. When she looked out the window, she noticed the bright blue sky, dotted with mild grey clouds. She smiled to herself as the wind brushed against her face.
She got ready for what she anticipated a tiring, yet rewarding day. Kamal was already at the dining table and he didn’t miss the skip in her step.
“You seem happy,” he observed as they sat for breakfast. He had made her favourite breakfast of traditional dosas and chutney.
“Hmm,” she responded her mouth full. She hadn’t expected such a treat. Her father specialized in every type of food that she loved and each day, Praveena ate extra-well, making up for all the pounds she lost in college. “Pa, this is so delicious!” she exclaimed holding up a piece of the dosa dipped in hot chilli chutney and smacking her lips.
Kamal smiled at her. Somehow, Praveena noticed he looked much bleaker than usual. His eyes had lost their colour, his skin had begun to sport wrinkles and he seemed a little moody as well. “What’s happened, Pa?” she queried, putting down the piece she had just raised to her mouth. Now that she properly looked at him, she realized that his forehead was wrinkled as if either tensed or worried. Praveena chided herself for not spending more time with her father. Ever since she had returned, he had somehow distanced himself from her and had become busy with work.
As Praveena looked at him expecting him to speak, Kamal shook his head. “Nothing,” he said continuing with his breakfast. “Eat.” he added catching her still staring at him.
Praveena felt the battle wage within her. Was it the right time for a discussion? ‘Perhaps not,’ her inner voice helped her decide. She heeded the advice, surprising herself.
Once Kamal had left for work, Praveena spent the whole of the day contemplating on how to tell her father about her plans to organize a self help group. It seemed like a good idea to her, but she also wanted to hear her father’s take on it. She knew he would have another perspective, and hoped he’d help get started with all the work. ‘This is going to good!’ she could hear her inner voice jumping in delight.
She spent the rest of the day reading, and despite her efforts to concentrate, her mind made plans all the while.
When Kamal returned that evening, she greeted him at the door as usual. He dragged himself through the doorway and slumped on the couch, worrying Praveena.
“Pa?” she spoke uncertainly.
Kamal heaved a sigh. “Hmm?” Seeing the look of concern on Praveena’s face, “Just another long day,” he sighed. Praveena smiled and went into the kitchen.
She handed him a glass of ice water and sat next to him on the couch. Kamal drank, and reached out to place the glass on the table in front of the couch. “That’s better,” he said as he made to get up. “So, what do you want for dinner?” he asked.
“Why don’t you go wash up?” Praveena suggested smiling. “I’ll take care of dinner.”
Kamal smiled crookedly, raising his eyebrows. He said nothing though. Smiling, he nodded and left.
Twenty minutes later, Praveena sat at the table with her father to taste the dinner she had prepared. Kamal watched in silent surprise, as she served him hot chappatis and gravy. She sat next to him and helped herself.
They ate in silence, but Praveena’s mind screamed for feedback. For some reason, she felt the meal had a great flavour. Maybe love was the secret ingredient, she appreciated herself. ‘Or maybe, it’s because you want to flatter your father,’ her inner voice spoke the fact, annoying Praveena.
“How’s is it, Pa?” she asked.
Kamal looked into her eyes, unflinching. “Well,” he said smiling, “it’s actually good — for a bribe.” He smiled broadly now. Praveena bit her lip, looking sheepish. Kamal laughed, loud and hearty.
“What is it? You’re in love with someone and you want my permission?” he almost snorted, raising his eyebrows questioningly.
“No!” Praveena exclaimed defensively, making a little frown replace Kamal’s smile.
“What is it then?” he asked more serious.
“Well,” Praveena hesitated. Kamal looked into her eyes and she felt a slight chill at the back of her spine.
“I — er — we — that is, Anil and I — thought of starting a self help group. For drug addicts.” Even as she spoke, she could see Kamal’s expression changing. He didn’t look inviting anymore. Praveena waited, expecting her father to say something, but he didn’t. She had expected him to be excited and encourage her to carry out her plan, but his look suggested otherwise. “So…” she dragged, trying to make her father speak. But as he remained silent, “wha’d’you think?” she blurted out.
Kamal rested his cheek on his hand and took a deep sigh. The silence rang in Praveena’s ears. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Kamal said at last.
Praveena was crestfallen. “Why not, Pa?” she pleaded.
“Well…” Kamal stumbled. He didn’t know how to say it. “It’s dangerous,” he managed weakly. And when Praveena looked at him incredulously, “I don’t want you associating with anymore drug addicts!” he replied with a hint of annoyance.
Praveena couldn’t digest his tone of finality. She sat stunned at what her father had said. “anymore” he had said. Her insides squirmed.
Kamal hadn’t waited for a reaction though. He rose and cleared the table as Praveena sat with her father’s words ringing in her ears.
Praveena didn’t know what to make of her father’s queer behaviour. She had never seen him act so rude, to her in particular. She stared at him in disbelief as he did the dishes, left the dining room, without even a “good night.”