Shyam Lal turned his eyes and looked at the jug of water placed by the side of his bed. He was thirsty and helpless as well. He had suffered from stroke a couple of years ago that left him paralyzed down the neck. All he could do now was to stare at the jug with thirsty eyes. Just as he was about to feel self pity, Nandini his daughter came in. She poured out some water for him as if she has read his mind. She helped him have it and adjusted his pillows as he lay down again. “You should have lots of water time to time Dad,” she smiled at him and checked her wrist watch. “I will make some porridge for you. You must be feeling hungry.” Shyam Lal kept looking at her with affectionate eyes till she vanished out of sight.
He felt proud to have a daughter like her. ‘But you were neither happy nor proud the day she was born!’ A tiny voice from within him bathed him with vitriol of sarcasm, leaving him filled with guilt. Shyam Lal’s face turned dark as memories clouded it. He was expecting a son as a first born. But when doctors told that it was a baby girl, he walked out of the hospital without caring even to have a look at his child. Two years later, his chest swell with pride when his wife gave birth to a baby boy.
He invested every penny he had to get his son Ashok admitted to the best school he could afford. While Nandini was admitted to a Government school. Shyam Lal felt jealous when Nandini outwitted Ashok in studies. He sent Ashok abroad for studying while Nandini got admission in one of the best colleges in the country on the basis of her merit. Once Ashok got a well paid job there, he got married to a girl of his choice without even caring to ask for his father’s permission.
Once he was married, he never ever turned back to have a look at his father. His cold attitude was too much for a Shyam Lal and he suffered from stroke owing to the shock. Ashok never enquired about his father’s health even when he was battling for life in the hospital. During such difficult times Nandini came forward to take care of her ailing father. Shyamlal’s eyes filled up as he thought of his cruel behavior towards Nandini. And tears of remorse rained down his cheeks as he silently watched Nandini taking care of him sincerely and affectionately.
He craved to shower her with all the affection he has ever denied her. But it was too late for it by then. He wished to apologise to her for his misdeeds but he had lost the ability to speak after suffering from stroke. He coveted to fall on her feet and beg for mercy. But it was too late for that also as he couldn’t move. All he could do now was to shed tears of repentance for taking too long to realize that only a daughter could be a daughter all her life.