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“You know some of my friends tease me that it’s always an either-or situation with me – either you attend or Papa. You aren’t like other parents. How do you guys manage?”
To those in the advertising world, Mira Sen was a force to be reckoned with. She had started out at the age of 22, and with a career spanning over two decades, Mira had carved a niche for herself. With a stellar career, a thriving business, an equally successful husband and a wonderful family, Mira seemed to have it all. Everyone probed ‘how’ and only Mira could answer that!
Mira’s phone began buzzing frantically in the middle of her Tuesday meeting. One glance at the phone and she knew she had to take it. Three calls from her teenage daughter warranted an emergency.
“Hi Beta, everything okay?” she asked as she stepped out into the lobby.
“Hi Mom. I can’t find it! I had kept it on my bed, and I need it for my performance today evening. Huh… I’m so certain Sushma kept it somewhere and has now forgotten… as usual. Mom, what – what am I going to do?” Mira chuckled softly. These situations were all-too familiar.
“Beta, was it the dress because that may have been sent for ironing?”
“No, No! It was the orange paper lantern. I need to light the lantern on stage. I can’t be holding a candle.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll speak to Sushma.”
“Also, mom?” Mira instantly sensed a bit of hesitation and knew what was coming, “I’m going to see you in the evening, right?”
“Of course, beta. I’ll be there.”
Two phone calls later the matter was settled, and Mira headed back to her meeting.
The rest of the day passed quickly, and Mira headed out to her daughter’s play performance. She wanted to reach a little early and grab a seat closer to the stage. As she waited for the play to begin, she saw a message from her husband. He was on a business trip on the other side of the world; and it was on special days like this – when their baby daughter was performing – that Mira missed having her husband next to her. She also knew that Vivek felt the same. However, it was a choice that they both had opted for with consent.
The play began and Mira was mesmerized by her daughter’s performance. Thankfully the lantern had been found, she thought inwardly.
The play ended and as they got in the car, Mira handed her phone to her daughter. She listened intently as the father-daughter duo engaged in their everyday banter, pulling each other’s leg. She was taken aback when her daughter suddenly exclaimed, “What are you saying? I don’t believe it!”
“Mom, Papa is saying he watched my performance. How is it possible?”
“Is he now? Ask him how he watched it?” Mira asked sheepishly.
“He’s saying you video-called him as soon as I came on stage? Really ?” Her daughter’s face was a mirror of shock and disbelief. “Did you really do that?” she prodded.
“Is it really that hard to believe? I do know my way around a video call.”
“No, I mean yes… but it’s so cute of both of you to do this!” her daughter said as she leaned in for a quick hug.
As she regaled Vivek with her behind-the-curtain play scenes, Mira’s heart filled with joy knowing how despite not being together, today had been a day to remember.
As they neared their house, Mira’s daughter asked, “Mom, can I ask you something?”
Mira could sense the discomfort being masked behind the innocent question. She took her hand in hers and said, “You know, when I started working, it was always difficult for people to accept a woman in the field and somehow that fueled my desire to work even harder. And then I met your Papa and he was one person who was not surprised by my abilities. In fact, he did the opposite and supported me to excel even further. I still remember that on our first anniversary, I came home early and made an elaborate dinner. You know what the best part was? Papa got held back for an unavoidable client meeting and came back at midnight. That was the first of many encounters that both – your Papa and I went through. And you know what changed?”
“You, my darling. You came and that day we promised each other that no matter what, we will be there for you and for each other, always. Even if it has to be on a video call. You know what time it is there? 3 AM. But Papa remembered your performance and insisted that I take him on video call so that he doesn’t miss out.”
“But don’t you feel sad that you don’t see each other so often? I mean, we hardly go out to celebrate. Sometimes I am just scared at what this means.”
Mira cradled her daughter’s face in her hands and looked deeply into her eyes. “You know somewhere it stopped being about those singular days, but more of the journey together. When I was young and newly married, I would look forward to flowers and dinners and drives. But maybe as I got older, I began to see beauty and love where I least expected it before. It was spending time and doing things that mattered to us.
I doubt there has been a single day when we have not wished each other first thing in the morning, even if sometimes it is through a text or phone call? That’s our way of saying that we are thinking of you and each other. And you know why it’s either-or with us? Because neither of us want to miss any of the time we spend with you. So, we ensure that one of does that and makes certain that the other one doesn’t miss out. More importantly, I want you to know that you have nothing to worry about, sweetie!”
With unshed tears glistening in her eyes, Mira’s daughter gave her a big hug and whispered, “I’m really thankful to you and Papa. Though I’m surprised he remembered the performance. Also, sorry for creating a havoc in the morning.”
Mira kissed her daughter’s forehead, “Well it was certainly important. You couldn’t have floated a candle in the air, could you?” Mira waited by the bedroom door, watching her gently sleep.
For the world outside, Mira was the embodiment of success. For Mira herself, her life had always been about choices – choices as simple as picking up her daughter’s phone in the middle of her meeting and knowing that it was their journey together that mattered.
This story had been shortlisted for our short fiction contest Muse of the Month December 2020.
Image source: shutterstock
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