“I wish I could touch a life.”
The taller of the two girls, nine year old Anu, was watching her friend Asha serve tea. They had been best friends since many years, and though her brother made fun of her tea parties, she still continued to play it with Asha, who was two years older than her.
“Asha di, did you hear what I said?” she persisted, thinking her friend was ignoring her.
Asha laughed, and gave her friend a hug.
“There. You touched a life – me. Now stop sulking.”
“But that can’t be it. I hug dad every night, give him a kiss goodnight even if he smells terrible, I touch his life like that. But I heard him tell mummy that he wishes he could touch a life, make a change. I too want to touch some life that way.”
Asha looked at her friend with amazed eyes.
“Your dad told that? You are lucky. He at least wishes to do that. You know something else? I’m sure he has touched a life yesterday.”
“He has? Whose? Did you see it, Asha di? Tell me na. I’ll tell him. He’ll be so happy.”
Pulling her younger friend close, Asha tells her the secret.
“Oh. That’s so nice. I’ll tell him tonight when he comes home. You’re so smart, Asha di. Tell me how to touch a life too. Please.”
Asha ponders a while, and then tells her another secret.
“Don’t tell him tonight if he smells too much, Anu,” she says, gently massaging her own wrists.
“Why not, Asha di?”
“Just. I think dads aren’t too friendly when they smell.”
“He’s smiling. I think it’s safe to tell him now.”
Taking small steps, Anu goes toward her father, and stops a few feet away. She then takes a step back.
“Hey kitten. Why are you going back? Come talk to daddy.”
“Umm… I’ll tell you the secret tomorrow, Daddy. It’s not to be told when you smell so much.”
She runs back to her room.
A few hours later, her dad comes to her room.
“Okay kitten, Daddy took a bath and doesn’t stink. Now you can tell your secret.”
He sits down beside her on the bed.
“Daddy, I know how you can touch a life.”
Her eager tone surprises her father, who looks at her sternly.
“Did you eavesdrop on Mummy and me, li’l kitten?”
“No daddy. You were so sad yesterday; I could hear your wish from my room. I even heard you crying. Don’t be mad at me.”
The confession floors her father. He can’t help but smile.
“Daddy’s not mad at you, honey. Now tell me how I can touch a life.”
“Well, Asha di told me you already touched a life yesterday.”
“Is that so? Whose wonderful life did I touch?”
Seeing her father smile, Anu smiles too, her fear that her he was mad at her easing.
“Well, you touched my life Daddy. You made me want to touch someone’s life too.”
He stops smiling, for a moment lost to that thought. Then he smiles again.
“So I did. I’m glad I touched such a sweet heart, kitten.”
She smiles, seeing him happy.
“I knew you’d be so happy, Daddy. I told Asha di too.”
“Now since you made me so happy, I want to make you very happy too. What’d you like, kitten?”
She thinks for a minute.
“Well, I want you to help me touch a life too, Daddy.”
Running his hands through her hair, he gives her a hug.
“Of course, kitten. How can Daddy do that?”
She looks up at him, and he can see nothing but love there.
“Daddy, please stop drinking now. It makes you sad, and seeing you sad makes Mummy sad, and me sad too.”
He looks at her, stunned by her reply.
Giving her a half smile, and a tight hug, he goes out of the room.
“Daddy must be hungry. It’s nearly dinner time,” she says to herself.
But her father isn’t at dinner that night. Her mother tells her he’s slept early.
After breakfast the next morning, her father drops her to school. Giving her a hug goodbye, he smiles at her.
“Daddy won’t drink anymore, kitten. I promise.”
“Pinky swear, daddy?”
He laughs, and they shake on it.
“He never ever breaks a promise to me,” she says happily to herself, as she goes inside her classroom.
“Anu, you are an angel.”
Asha smiles as she enters the room. Lifting her young friend, she spins her in the air.
“Why so, Asha di?”
“My daddy came today and told me he’ll never drink again. That he wants to touch my life just like your dad decided to touch yours. He even flushed out the two brandy bottles he had in the house.”
Anu looks at her friend, who can barely contain her joy.
“You are a real darling. In two days, you touched three hearts. You changed three lives. Your dad’s, my dad’s and mine. And who knows how many more you will later. I’m glad I have you.”
“Asha di, don’t be a crybaby.”
Wiping her tears, Asha hugs her.
“Now, if only I could touch a life like you have.”
(January 23rd, 2013)