Image by sarahbernier3140 from Pixabay 

It is on a Saturday. 8-year-old Nimmy has woken up without being shaken awake unlike on weekdays. Because it is a day she anticipates with excitement for the eating out, shopping, a flick, long drives, etc. Like most kids with working parents, she is starved of the needed parental time during weekdays. Weekend joys however are now diminishing, and worse, threatening to vanish altogether with work odiously finding its way home as often as not. Nimmy's mom has left for work on an important and urgent assignment just as she had done two weeks back, over which Nimmy had cried herself to sleep. Nimmy is with her dad, who has ordered the breakfast. Her favorite food is on the plate. But she is seated at the dining table looking very downcast. She eats a measly amount of food perfunctorily and walks listlessly to her bedroom. The drawing book on the bed consoles her. She opens it and begins to draw a tiger. A smile adorns her sweet face as she completes the fairly impressive drawing. Jumping down from the bed she rushes to show it to her dad who is in his study. Hunched over the desk he is working his laptop screen into a riot of histograms and pie charts. She shakes him by the shoulder. He is engrossed in his work. Subconsciously she is elbowed away. Heart sinking, she walks away tearing the drawing into shreds. The tiger that should have remained with her for years and years is no more. It was killed just as brutally as her spirits. She gets into the bed, clasps her knees to her chest, and can’t help sobbing.

"What is the matter, Nimmy?"

"I don't want to talk to you."

"Aren't you my darling?"

"No, you are not my dad at all."

"Come on, Nimmy. Understand Papa's situation. Papa is doing it all for you."

"You are a bad man. Mama is a bad woman."

"Okay okay, just give me 20 minutes after which we will head for the beach."

Nimmy’s sobbing recedes.

The drive to the beach is punctuated with calls from and to her dad's phone.

Nimmy is all delighted as she stands on the sun-soaked beach. She releases her tight grip on her dad's index finger and frolics around in sheer joy with shrieks of excitement. They are on an isolated stretch of the beach. Her dad sits down and simply lets himself be absorbed in the phone.

"Papa...papa," her shouts go unheard.

"Papa -- " she shouts much louder and above the roar of the sea, but to no avail.

A middle-aged man jogging past her for the 2nd time laments, "Here is a child calling out desperately for her dad's attention, and here is me and my wife who have been calling out desperately for years and years to God to gift us a child."

Disappointment clouds her face. She had wanted her dad to partner her actively in the beach pleasures. Or at least watch her merriment and clap to it.

She becomes listless, and walks slowly, hoofing the sand in anger. She looks at her dad again. He only seems to have gone deeper into his phone. Her disappointment deepens.

Seated some distance away and observing this situation intently is an eccentric-looking man with unkempt hair, a long beard, and in jeans and colorful tees.

As Nimmy passes him he whistles and beckons her to him. She stops walking and nervously looks at him. And when beckoned again with an affectionate smile, she hesitantly moves towards him. He springs up.

"Come, let us run."

Together they run with gay abandon, his hand holding hers. Having run far, they take a turn and disappear.

Her dad, laughing over something he is watching on the phone, looks up from it. He then looks all around catching his breath. His little angel is missing! He gets up with a start. Frantically he runs around, sweating profusely.

"Nimmy -- "

"Nimmy -- "

He runs towards the sea, his hands clutching his head in sheer agony.

"Nimmy -- " he screams his head off.

The waves of the agitated sea come rushing. Not Nimmy.

Tired from his frantic run, he collapses to his knees and sobs with his hands covering his face. In some time a hand touches his shoulder from behind. He instantly turns back. A stranger is facing him. The eccentric-looking man. In his arms is his little angel. His face is awash with relief on seeing his grinning Nimmy. He grabs her away from the stranger.

"You thought your daughter drowned in the sea. Luckily, no. She doesn’t need a sea of your time. A small bucket of it will do which most parents can't afford today. It is dangerous, bro."

Spanning his index finger across the view of the sea, he continues, "Life has wonderful views to offer. But parents' ultimate view is of their child’s joy."

Her dad looks puzzled and embarrassed at him. The stranger turns around and playfully runs away swaying with his arms stretched out sideward in what seems an imitation of a bird’s flight.

"Bro -- "

He doesn't turn back and runs into the disappearance.

The sea has turned calm.

.    .    .