Daddy's little Phoenix

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(I wrote this story as an entry for author Madhuri Banerjee, TOI Write India Campaign. Though its not a winning entry, it comes from my heart. I hope you like my story!)

It was the first thought that came to her as she woke up. He was gone. And, soon, this bedroom, the house in whose eastern corner it sat, and the tiny garden outside with its gnarled old red hibiscus and the half-grown mango tree they had planted together, all those would be gone as well. It was the strangest feeling ever. Nimisha stared outside the window, her head heavy. She hadn't got a wink of good sleep since a month ago... Right, it was this day of the last month. Her father had left for work only to never return. She had waited and waited, watching the sun go in circles around the earth. It was an accident. A truck had crashed into his car because the truck-driver was speeding. The next day a slurry of relatives had poured in, showing sympathy and sadness. They put a garland on her father's framed photographed in the hall and an incense stick in front of it. What went on for the next fifteen days was a blur. All she could see was her father's slim figure, pushing his specs back on his nose as he carried a book everywhere. All she could hear was his singing voice with which he taught at St. Mary's High School. All she could feel was the stagnant time. Nothing was moving forward. It was only when a certain person from a bank showed up that she broke out of her trance.

'My condolences, Nimisha, he was a wonderful person. But you can't help it...' He said in a pretentious soft voice.

'Help what?' She blinked. Her blurry state of vision was finally clearing.

'The home loan your father took is not fully paid for. This home he bought,' he flipped through some papers, ' He took a loan of thirty-five lacs out of which twenty he paid... But about the rest 15 lacs... what will you do? It's too big an amount for a college student.' He curled his brows in worry, making him resemble her relatives too much.

'Give me sometime...' Nimisha felt goosebumps erupt all over her skin. Every brick of that house, as it was laid, was overseen by her dad. The house was not only his dream, but her mother's dream too. Nimisha didn't remember her mother quite well; she was only ten when she passed away. Still, she remembered making castles on a beach with her. How she smiled, how she described it would feel like living in a castle as the wind gushed through her curly locks... it was still vivid. She could see those moments reel in her father's eyes while the house was being built. She had to save it somehow.

'But beta, all we can do to help you is collect an allowance,' said her uncle on the phone; an uncle who ran a decent publishing business. 'Everyone has agreed to pay two-thousand a month to help you- till you graduate and find a job.' he quickly added the later part. She still had a year and a half to graduate as an engineer. If she was her normal self, Nimisha would have snorted in disbelief and asked him to stuff his money in his spoilt brat's face. But she was numb all over, her heart was beating wildly.

'Don't give me any allowance, I'll work part time. Just save this house! All I'm asking is for everyone to collect three lacs. You are two brothers and two sisters. Can't you help me this little bit? For the rest, I will use every penny he ever saved...'

'Well, why don't you sell it to me in say... the amount due to the bank? I will give you an additional five. You can stay till you graduate and buy it back later.'

A strange feeling rose up near her heart, like a hurricane followed by a tornado, rumbling in unrest.

'This is what your elder brother built for his only child... You can pay the loan plus five lacs if I sell, not when I ask you for help? Don't you think I will repay your kindness with interest? My dad even helped you start your business...' Her voice was no more trembling. It was cold as ice. The man on the phone chuckled and muttered about tight budgets.

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