Deepak works from home. Around 1pm, he heard repeated but faint knocks on the door possibly from the adjacent apartment followed by shouts of “amma, amma”. He opened his door and saw a five-year-old girl with a bag on her shoulder on the verge of crying. Evidently there was none at home.
“Come inside and sit on the sofa. As soon as your amma comes, you can go. We will keep the door open so you can see as she comes. Meanwhile you can watch TV,” Deepak said softly.
“Amma will not come. Roja will come,” she replied haltingly.
“That is fine. You can go after Roja comes. Is it okay?”
Nodding her head, she entered and sat gingerly on the edge of the sofa opposite the door clutching the bag in her hand. Deepak kept the door ajar. He had nothing to give her to eat except couple of pencils to make her feel at home. Luckily the maid Roja came running within five minutes and took the child after profuse apologies. It transpired the child’s mother comes at 4pm and Roja takes care of her during her absence as there is none else at home.
The next day, somewhat curious to see whether Roja was available at home when the child came, he was looking for the arrival of the child. The child came promptly at 1pm and saw him. Instead of knocking her door, she came running inside with a large smile on her face. “I took your pencil to school today after telling amma that you gave me. She sharpened it for me. Do you have an eraser?” she asked innocently.
“I am sorry. I should have given you the one I have yesterday itself. What is your name?” Deepak asked as he gave her the eraser along with a bar of chocolate
“Deepika is my name, but amma calls me Deepu.It looks like a boy’s name but she will not change. Amma told me I should not accept things from strangers especially chocolates, cookies and cool drinks. You keep the chocolate as she will get angry otherwise.,” said the child.
“Oh, ho. Tell her that I am no stranger but a good neighbor. Keep it with you and eat after showing it to amma. What is your appa’s name?”
“I have no appa,” she said sadly when Roja came and took her away abruptly.
The child came straight to his apartment frequently if the door was open and after small chat about her school, her teacher and her amma, she would go invariably with something to eat.
One day she told Deepak “Amma asked me whether you are an old man. Do you know Hritik Roshan? I told her you look like him and amma laughed uncontrollably. I tell her what all we talk and she will listen with interest. If I forget someday, she will remind me and ask what did uncle tell you today. I think she also likes you as I do.”
“We have been friends and we are called by the same name. I wish to give you a gift. Here it is but open the wrapper at your home. Be careful not to drop it, “ he said
“Can I open and see here itself,” she asked. When he nodded, she unwrapped to see a large red mug with a picture of heart on it and words ‘With love to Deepu’
“You bought it for me?” she asked
“No, it was given me by a very dear friend of mine, I have given you because I like you” he said
It was a Tuesday and Deepak was watching TV. He was surprised when he heard the soft knocks on his door. Thinking it must be Deepika, he rushed and opened the door to find her standing with her mother. He stared at her mother in great surprise unable to believe his own eyes. She had not changed much except for a little flab and looked more beautiful than Ashwini he had known. They loved each other from college days and moved intimately after deciding to marry each other within six months. A small incident where no one was at fault magnified into a great misunderstanding of Deepak’s fidelity to her that led to separating in rash anger with ego standing in the way of rapprochement. All his attempts to contact her failed with her moving out of the city. Left with no option and highly dejected, he went abroad. She had moved to Bangalore.
“Do you recognize me, Ashwini? he asked
“How will I not, Deepu, when you are always in my heart and mind? I suspect you deliberately gave the cup I gifted you to my daughter” she said with a mischievous smile.
“Nothing deliberate except that we carry the same name. Infect I was hesitant to part with that precious memento, but I love that child very much. I never knew she was your child I was foolish and in rage when you scorned me. I had to leave without an opportunity to explain only to regret in leisure. I have not been able to forgive myself and never married,” he said
“I am very sorry. I was a big fool. Kindly excuse me,” she pleaded.
“Belated realization. You seem to have married. Who is the lucky father of Deepika?”
“No, I did not marry repenting for my mistake.”
Deepak looked at the child in a confused way.
“Don’t you see your image in her, Deepu.It is your child that I carried when you left,” she said
He wasted no moment in hugging her and smothering her with smooches much to her embarrassment and the amusement of Deepika.
“Stop it, Deepu” she said in mock anger as she freed herself when the child clapped her hand in joy in having found her father.
“What a coincidence. It is Valentine’s day today! Let us celebrate our reunion in a befitting manner,” said both in chorus.