Dad & Daughter

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On the following day, all children of air force personnel, going to the central school assembled near the children’s park, just near the guard room, to board the school bus. They kept moving around exchanging pleasantries. As the bus was not within sight, they started commenting on the efficacy of the drivers and blamed for late coming and then speeding up to reach the school on time to avoid complaints from parents.

Navin moved towards his close friend of Vinay and inquired why Riya was looking morose and unhappy.

Though Vinay hesitated for a while, he thought of opening his heart to share feelings with the friend. Before opening the topic, the bus was within their sight, and decided to postpone for the breaktime. Inside the bus, they sat together. Though Navin provoked him to continue, Vinay asked him to wait for fear of others overhearing and spreading like wildfire.

After reaching the school, they found time before the assembly.

“My daddy is in some trouble.” Vinay opened the topic with a distressful face.

“What?” Showing surprise, Navin asked.

“He had done some mistake knowingly to help out Khanna uncle,” Vinay explained everything, in short, to convey what had happened afterward. “Riya is too upset of his uneasiness thinking of our future.”

They saw everyone moving for assembly to the ground and joined them. Many students cast their gazes towards Riya wondering why she was with a heavily clouded face which was seldom seen. The talkative girl was found keeping head down with a melancholic face without even looking at others!

“She is too much attached to daddy,” Vinay said. “Even a cold striking him will upset her. She is like that.”

During lunchtime, Vinay explained whatever he knew about the court of inquiry and the statements made by the witnesses. “Daddy likes Khanna uncle very much and never expected him to palm off entire responsibility on his shoulders. Even on the other day, uncle Khanna had assured him of shouldering the entire responsibility. But, he retreated from his stand and is trying to make daddy responsible for the whole.” He paused. “That is what pricks daddy much.”

“This Khanna uncle is like that. He will take all help from others, but will never help anyone. My daddy knows him very well right from earlier days. A few years back, they were together in Chandigarh. I was told by daddy that that uncle took many bits of help from him, but did not help him when needed. Once daddy came back from annual leave a few hours late as he could not get the connecting train. He tried his best to convince Khanna uncle to condone considering the circumstances for the late arrival, but he never bothered to realize that and put him on the charge. As you might be knowing, the late arrival from leave in service is a great offense. He was tried for the charge and the Commanding Officer awarded him Severe Reprimand: a red ink entry in service document. My daddy always says that this Khanna uncle spoiled his career by making a red ink entry in his service records. Otherwise, he too would have become a commissioned officer like your daddy.” He grunted. “Here also, Khanna sought help from daddy. Daddy told him that he will only go as per the service rules. When daddy put an application for few days casual leave, he refused to ask to postpone citing reasons for the shortage of manpower in the section.”

Exhibiting surprise, Vinay said, “from his behavior, none would visualize an evil mindset in him.”

“In that accounts section, none of the airmen likes him. They are all waiting for a chance to trap him. He never helps anyone. Doesn’t grant leave as per the requirement.” He paused. “That is why, knowing about the game he intentionally played, that application was sent directly to the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, in Command Headquarters. My daddy knew about that. It seems, though that was not a great crime, as the matter was bought to the notice of the top boss in the Command, none can just ignore. That was what daddy told”

“What?” Vinay gapped his mouth. “That information was conveyed to the Command by your daddy?”

Navin tried to dilly dally. “No. Not by him. But, he came to know of that later.”

Vinay could read the imbecility of inadvertent admission on his face. It has to be by him only, he thought. “Or he knew about that, much earlier.”

“My daddy said, your daddy being the paying officer, no blame would be attached to him. Approval of the application was done by Khanna sir.”

The bell rang and they left for their classes.


Back from school, Navin was curious to know, who would have informed the Command Headquarters of the wrong payment. Without even changing his school uniform, he went to his father and asked. “Daddy, were you aware of the information passed by someone to Command Headquarters about that payment of leave advance?”

With raised brows, he looked at son wondering what made him so serious about that. “I knew only after that was sent by post. What had happened now?”

“You know daddy? Khanna uncle has blamed Vinay’s daddy for taking that amount to meet his commitment. In the statement to the Court of Inquiry, he said that he did not know anything about that. Now, Jayaprakash uncle is worried about the consequences.” Moving close to him he asked. “Will he be court-martialled? If so what punishment he would get?”

“I don’t know son. These are all news to me.” Thinking he said, “Khanna sahib is capable of doing that. He is ruthless and discourteous. His diabolic acts will put down everyone who helps him.” He chuckled. Running hand over Navin’s head he said. “I will never do any harm to anyone even if someone tries towards me. In this case, I came to know of this only after that was sent to Command by post.”

“Who did that?”

Shaking head, he said, “I will not tell that.” He grunted. “In this case, nothing will happen to your friend’s daddy. He might have to engage a good lawyer. If he wants, he can make this Khanna sahib weep.” He grinned with a grunt and headshake.

The encouraging words were rejuvenating and Navin wanted to convey his father’s opinion to his friend without delay. He pedaled down to Vinay’s house.

Riya was the one to respond to the call bell and Navin entered the house and moved to Vinay’s bedroom. Vinay who was busy with his homework got up and welcomed his friend and made him sit by his side. Excusing himself, Vinay continued his work to finish and got up to go out with Navin.

Standing by his cycle, Navin said. “I spoke about the problems being faced by your daddy, to my father. He says Khanna uncle is such a character who will make others do as per his wishes but will refuse to support when problems crop up. My father also had a rub with him in the earlier station and also here.”

Vinay had nothing to comment than to nod.

“My father says, if the matter flares up to a level of a court-martial, a good advocate will be able to solve the whole to a great extent.”

Vinay looked at him with apprehension. “Will that be that serious?”

“I don’t know. I hope sincerely, it should not.”

When they saw Riya approaching, they changed the topic.

“I heard what you people were talking about,” Riya said holding the cycle.

Navin chuckled and said. “Your friend Maya’s father, Gupta uncle, is a leading advocate. He practices in the supreme court. If required, he could be approached for help.”

Riya heard him and said, “he will be beyond our approach. He charges lakhs for an appearance.”

Vinay said, “Maya being your friend, why don’t you just mention this to her.”

Riya agreed and nodded with a grunt. “I will talk to her.”

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