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Today I dropped Mithi at the day care centre. She looked at me with a gaping mouth. Her eyes were getting moist. She couldn't believe it. Her mother does this to her, not Baba.
She will have to stay here for the next six-seven hours till her mom comes and rescues her. Mithi is just two and a half.

It is a crime upon her, millions like her, who have to leave their parents and get caged in an unknown place. Here they are not pampered, here they are not special. They are one among many, and they must behave. It is a crime and a crime for which the parents should not be forgiven.

We, as children, never had to face this. We were all very secured children. Happy kids. Our fathers worked from morning to evening, they were strangers. Our mothers stayed at home to take care of us. Mothers were our personal heroes and trusted friends. Mithi's generation, at least a sizeable chunk of it, are not that lucky.
Us parents deserve harsh punishment for this negligence. Mithi, my love, may you remain guilt free if in our old age you refuse to recognize us. We must get punished and may the punishment be severe.

We all are running like rats in this city. And we all have our ambitions and aspirations to fulfil. My reason for going to office is to keep the kitchen fire on. Then there's the question of career, hidden ambitions and other intrigues for which I have thousands of fake justification. My wife’s aspiration is to build an identity of her own, have an independent career, have a life outside the familial boundaries. Currently, whatever she is earning is much less than our outgo on the day care and the conveyance towards that. It is unaffordable for us, but I cannot expect my wife to stay at home and take care of the baby. That is another crime. My wife is well educated and a graphic artist who I respect. I can see that she has a great future. However, I know her earnings would never be enough for me to sit at home and be a nice baba to my Mithi.

As I turned around for the elevator, Mithi started crying. I know this tone of cries. Like a cat, she has different patterns of cries. This tone was of betrayal. I have betrayed her trust. She was not expecting me to take her to the day care centre. She thought we were going on a nice trip together. She will never forgive me.

I am not sure how should I face her when I go home tonight. I reach there at 11 pm. By that time Mithi is half asleep but waits for me to come. She sits on my lap and pretends I am her long lost lover. She rubs her cheeks to mine, strokes my hair, speaks in a language that only we two can understand. And then she gets down from the lap and sits on the floor and cry at the top of her voice. There is no tear, her lips protrude and eyes check my reaction from the corners. I have to then take her again on my lap and apologise for all the crimes that I have never committed, but must admit to be guilty of. I should scold her mother and all those imaginary people who have done injustice to her throughout the course of the day. And then I will have to offer her two biscuits. If my tea comes by that time (I generally request my wife to make tea for me after I reach home), Mithi will dip the biscuit and pretend that she is now a little less angry with me. By the time one biscuit finishes she pretends that she has forgiven me.

I will have to let her relish the tea biscuit and the second one she prefers to eat dry. I will then take my cup and enter the other room to have a cigarette beside the window. I will lock the room, but she will bang on the door and cry till I let her enter.

Looking at my cigarette (I know I should not smoke near a kid) she will cry “Happy Birthday, Baba”. She probably thinks a cigarette is a kind of a candle. I will have to say, “Happy Birthday Mamma.”

I will then stub the cigarette and take her in my arms. She will narrate me her entire life in her language before we come to our favourite game – tickle tickle.

When I eat, she will sit on my lap and eat, or soil her hand with my food, throw rice all over the table, or just feed me. Whatever she fancies.

I am concerned today. Will she choose to shower her love on me like this again? Will she forgive me?

I am, after all, the closest person who betrayed her.


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