If Ranjeet had learnt one lesson in the last two years, it was that being single was better than being a single father.
What a world of difference it made to have a child to take care of. He had not foreseen it. He had imagined an easy life for himself. He fell in love, got married, they had Sejal and the family felt complete. Then it all fell apart. The arguments began to turn into dirty quarrels and once in a while one or the other had a visible proof of it.
She asked for divorce. He asked for Sejal. They contested and he won on the grounds that she had no job and hence no source of income to take care of their child. She cursed him while signing the divorce papers.
May you rot in hell.
You too, he had replied. They were handed over the decree copy and that was the last time he saw her. He moved to Dubai with Sejal. He heard after a year or so that she remarried but didn’t think much about it. He had serious issues at hand. Sejal’s diet, her school homework and her routine visit to the mall every Friday. She loved to race cars. Daddy’s girl!
He thanked God that he had his own business. He could afford to take time out for Sejal when required. It was a sacrifice he was happy to make. Some days, a sadness would dawn over him. Like morning haze over Sheikh Zayed Road. Sejal was only five years old. She needed someone’s attention all time long. He couldn’t rely on the maids all the time. The maids could tell her anything and she would end up believing it. How difficult it would become for him to recondition her mind, to tell her that whatever maids told her about him or her mother was just a lie and that a person has several layers of characters, added on to him every time he deals with a storm in his life. He had dealt with a storm too and that is why he was the way he was.
Sejal herself was no less than a storm, demanding his attention all the time, making him do stupid things for her leisure. She had the power of a boss over him. She was growing up through the phase where in she could dictate him to do anything and he would have to abide by it, lawfully. He had fought for her, how could he ever say no to her? Even if he could, he wouldn’t dare.
‘Why can’t we go to the mall today?’ Sejal asked on a boring Thursday evening.
‘Because today is not Friday’, Ranjeet replied in a depressing tone, as if sharing the pain with Sejal about a Thursday not being a Friday.
‘So, when is Friday?’
‘When you wake up tomorrow, it will be Friday!’
‘I don’t understand this. How do you know it is Friday?’
‘Because it is mentioned on the calendar Sejal, after every Thursday there comes a Friday.’
‘So, you mean there can’t be two Fridays together? Ever?’
‘Nope!’ He said, chuckling.
Sejal made a sad face and began scratching the back of her hand with the other one.
‘But there is no one stopping you from going to the mall on a Saturday as well. The mall is open everyday, you know,’ Ranjeet said.
‘Yeah that’s okay, but I really like it when I race on Fridays. Also, I have never raced on a Saturday, so I don’t know if it works the same way on a Saturday as well.’
‘It does, trust me.’
‘Then it should work the same way today as well no?’
Ranjeet was caught off guard. He thought hard for a while and replied, ‘Of course, it does, but they don’t allow kids into the mall after sunset, so we will have to wait for tomorrow only.’
‘Hmm, sometimes it seems as if you are lying to me,’ she said.
‘Yes, I am lying, next to you,’ and she broke into a laughter. He laughed with her, as loudly as her, making her laugh louder. To him, all was well if she ended up laughing like this.
Next morning, she dressed up in her pink shorts and black t-shirt with ‘STUPID’ written on it in bright gold. He loved watching her trying to put on the seat belt. She would always get it wrong the first time, slap her hand on her forehead, twist it over and flash sixteen teeth to him when it made the sweet sound of the perfect click.
‘I want to play longer today ok!’
They reached the mall and the trouble knocked instantly.
‘Dad, it’s happening.’
Stunned, he looked at her. He never thought about it. This couldn’t be happening today, not in the mall atleast.
‘Can you handle it alone?’
‘Can’t we get a maid here?’
‘Let’s go back home.’
‘I wanna race after potty!’
‘We’ll come back.’
‘No! It will get dark before we come back! You take me to the potty hole!’
But the question was, which one?
Male? He knew he won’t be allowed to take a female kid of this age inside a male toilet.
Female? As much as he would have loved it, it wasn’t going to happen.
‘Wait wait wait! Let me think!’
‘No no no! Do not think!
He walked up to the security guard standing in the distance and tried to explain his situation.
‘You wanth thu thake a feemale keed inthu dee male thoileth? Noth bossible! Seind her weed a woman. Someone weel dafinately helb you.’
Ranjeet had no guts to ask any woman to go with Sejal into the toilet and clean her up after she’s done. Why would anyone do it? He looked at Sejal, she had a worried expression on her face.
‘Did you do it already?’ he asked.
It happened in a split second. His holding her hand and directing her towards the mall lift and picking up a bunch of tissue papers from the coffee counter near the lift. He pressed parking level, rushed up to his car and took Sejal behind it. He placed the tissue papers on the floor and said to her, ‘I am going to go up and get water bottle, you don’t make any noise, just sit here and do potty ok? It’s safe, this is our car right? Nobody will come here.’
She simply began to open her shorts.
He ran towards the lift, pressed Level 3, grabbed a big water bottle, some more tissue papers and a carry bag from McDonalds. Sejal was standing near the car when he reached back in the parking level.
‘I told you to stay behind the car Sejal!’
‘It’s smelling back there!’
He picked her up by the shoulders and took her behind the next car, ‘Stay here.’
He put all the tissues over her potty, picked it up and put it inside the McDonald’s carry bag. Then he rushed to Sejal, handed over some tissues to her and opened the water bottle, ‘Sit down and clean yourself.’
She did so.
They came back into the mall. He dropped the carry bag in the dustbin next to the lift.The security guard saw him doing that, Ranjeet showed a thumbs up to him, he gave him a broad smile and showed a thumbs up too.
All the time while racing, Sejal kept looking at him once in a while and laughed. It was a laugh of sharing a secret, of knowing something that nobody else did except both of them, of doing potty in the parking lot of a mall. Ranjeet learnt another lesson that Friday.
Sometimes, being a single father was much more fun than being single.