Team: Alphabet Soup
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Shekhar couldn’t sleep the whole night. The words of the
novel kept coming in front of his eyes. It was morning but he couldn’t get
himself up from his bed as the sleeplessness of the previous night had given
him a bad headache. Tara had called him saying that she would return home only
in the morning. Shekhar was scared and made up his mind that he wouldn’t agree
to Roohi’s wish this time. It hurt him to disagree to what Roohi had to say but
then his daughter’s life was more important to him than fulfilling her wish of
going to the temple festival. A few new toys and a trip to some other location
of Roohi’s choice would make her forget about the temple festival and Kerala he
thought. He would speak to Tara about it when she returned and hoped that Tara
would understand his concern for their lovely daughter.
Engrossed as he was in his thoughts, he lost the track of
the time. The clanging sound shook him. Was it the big gongs of the temple? Was
he dreaming? Was he already in the temple? Was he thinking too much? Just as he
was about to pinch himself to ascertain where he was, he saw from where the
sound came from. It was Roohi standing near his bedroom door and banging a
steel plate with a big steel spoon!
“Wake up, Shekhar! You have become so lazy. Roohi is already
awake and look at you. You are still sleeping!” Roohi was back to imitating her
mother. Shekhar got out of his bed with a start. He kissed Roohi on the cheek
and said “Good morning Darling!”
She smiled and said, “Yay! No school for Roohi today!”
“And why is that?”
“Look at the time Papa. Oops! Shekhar”
And that was when he realized that Roohi would be late to
school that day if he didn’t hurry up.
“No missing school Roohi! Go brush your teeth and have a
bath. I will make a quick breakfast for you.”
“Please Papa! I want to stay home for a day. Please.”
“You are a good girl Roohi. Please get ready. Papa will give
you whatever you want.”
“Is that a promise Papa?”
“Yes baby. It is.”
“Then let us go to Kerala!”
“Hmmm.. okay”, Shankar hesitantly whispered as he didn’t
want Roohi to miss school,
“Okay”, she said and ran towards her room.
Shekhar rushed to the kitchen and quickly prepared breakfast
for Roohi and packed her lunch box as well. Roohi was ready and had her
breakfast. Just as Shekhar was about to leave to drop Roohi to school, Tara
entered the house.
“Good morning baby. Sorry Mumma couldn’t cook for you today”,
“Good morning Mumma. Don’t worry Papa took good care of me
and Papa don’t forget to ask Mumma about Kerala. Bye Mumma!”, said Roohi as she
ran down the stairs to reach the car before Shekhar.
When Shekhar returned home after dropping Roohi to school,
he saw that Tara was sleeping and decided not to wake her as she would be tired
after the long hours of work that she had put in. He wanted to go back to the
novel but was scared about the thoughts that kept coming to him. He decided to
have a cup of coffee for his headache and settled down with the newspaper. He
didn’t know when he fell asleep.
“Seems like my darling hubby was also working hard at night”,
said Tara and woke him up.
“Wake up Shekhar, I have some great news to tell you!”
“Wow! That is nice Tara. What is it?”
“I just got a call from my office. I have trip to make!”
“But what is so special in that Tara? You often go on trips
in your job.”
“The special thing is that this I get to take both Roohi and
you along with me Shekhar!”
“That’s great. I was just planning about going on a family
trip in the morning. Where are we headed to?”
“Kerala! There is a temple festival going to be held there.
It happens once in seven years. There are lots of myths to be uncovered and lots
of mysteries to be unravelled”
Shekhar’s face fell. The fear came back to him. “What?
“Yes Shekhar. Aren’t you excited? Isn’t it surprising that
Roohi mentioned about something about Kerala this morning? What was she talking
“It is nothing Tara. And we are not going to Kerala
especially to that temple festival you mentioned about.”
“But why Shekhar? The company is paying our expenses. Plus Roohi
has holidays the next week. Will it not be a nice trip for the three of us?”
“It isn’t about the money Tara. I just do not want to go
there! The three of us could go elsewhere on a family trip. You don’t have to
bring in your work there.”
“Oh! Now I get it. It is about my work, isn’t it? Where is
that supposedly supportive husband of mine who promised to support me at every
step of my career?” She was angry now.
“Tara, why do you say so? Have I not stood by you all these
years? It isn’t about the work. You may
take this trip to Kerala like you have always been doing all this years. But
Roohi and I can’t come with you.”
“Give me one good reason why Roohi and you cannot accompany
“You want the reason right? Then here it is. I have read
about the temple festival that you are talking about. And the last time it was
conducted a little girl died there under mysterious circumstances. It has been
14 years since then. The festival was not held all these years.”
“So? That is the mystery that I want to unravel Shekhar. And
that is why we are going there.”
“Do you always think only about your career? Have you even
thought of Roohi? A little girl was killed there! How can you think of putting
our daughter’s life in danger?”
“Shekhar! I do care for my daughter as much as you do! She
is our daughter! I am just taking her there. We have the entire crew with us.
No harm will befall our daughter.”
“But I am still not convinced Tara. She is daughter and I
don’t want her to be in trouble.”
“Shekhar, will you please come out of your imaginary world?
There may be mysteries surrounding that festival. But not every time does a
child die there! Now stop talking like a mad man and get ready to go to Kerala!”
“I must pick up Roohi now! Bye” he said and stormed out of
Shekhar’s mind couldn’t rest. This was really scary and he
loved his daughter and well as his wife. He couldn’t go against their wishes. Roohi’s
ride back home wasn’t as cheerful as it used to be. She kept wondering what had
happened to her Papa and why was he so serious. No amount of jokes or pranks
made him laugh that day.
When Shekhar returned home with Roohi, “Roohi baby get
ready! We are going to Kerala next week!” Tara announced.
“Yay! Papa kept his promise”, Roohi clapped.
“What promise?”, Tara enquired.
“Papa had told me that he would take me to Kerala if I would
go to school today! My friend Meera told me about a temple festival there and I
want to go there. Papa told he wouldn’t take me there yesterday but today he
promised me he would”.
Tara was surprised but was happy that Shekhar finally
agreed. Shekhar on the other hand was regretting the moment he made that
promise. He was silently praying that this journey would not end up being a
journey through hell.