Dad & Daughter

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-11-

Jayaprakash had been keenly updating himself on the progress of the court of inquiry that had reached the Command Headquarters and the decisions taken on that. He was apprised by his friend working in the office of the Senior Administrative Officer, the topmost body in Command Headquarters for all administrative matters, that the matter was viewed very seriously, as the defense forces were not to tolerate fraudulence and was sure to be recommended for a court-martial. He is a person with responsibilities to bring up two children with proper education to make them eligible for a decent job, was too scared of the termination of all desires. A court-martial, if convened, would surely punish and he would have to bid farewell to the organization which he had been serving from his tender age, without any benefits. The horrifying thoughts made him get deranged frequently and he talked incoherently.

***

Riya was too concerned about her daddy’s predicament and frequent indifferent behavior cursing Khanna for his wilful damage to the future cast on them. Her friend Maya could read her mind. On persistent inquisitiveness, she confided everything about wiliness played by Khanna on her father and the way he had palmed off the entire responsibility on him. As suggested by Maya, Riya decided to accompany her to meet her father, Gupta, who was practicing as a lawyer in the Supreme Court.

On a second Saturday with no school, on an excuse of combined study with her friend inside the air force camp, Riya went out of the gate and took the bus to Maya’s house at R K Puram. That being the first time going out of camp without being accompanied by her daddy, she was obnoxious of her decision but consoled as that was to find ways to save him out of the pit where he was struggling for breath. She tried to hide her fear mixed with unexpected apprehensions and maintained a cheerful face throughout her journey. As she was in contact on mobile, Maya was waiting to receive her at the gate.

After offering cold drinks, Maya took her to Gupta’s office.

Gupta gave a patient hearing of the case and sat thinking. “If your dad is willing to do what I say, the things can be worked out with ease and the defending officer will easily be able to bring out the game played by Khanna.”

“Why don’t you be the defending officer?” Riya asked.

Gupta looked at her and smiled with a grunt. He kept looking at the beautiful innocent eyes and the red lips and adored the god-given gift.

Wondering why he had fixed his gaze on her with silence, she asked, “can you uncle?”

As if getting up from a slumber, he regained all his faculties and chuckled. “After hearing the whole, I don’t think, your higher formations will consider precipitating to that level for a court-martial. This might be disposed of with a summary trial. The parties involved could be warned.” He sat mute and continued. “Yes, if they want, it can be considered as a misappropriation. If so, it will merit a court-martial.”

“Ok. Fine uncle. If so, there is no sweat. But on the contrary, if the wind blows the other way, quite unexpectedly, your help is needed.”

He chuckled. “You know, I am a busy advocate. I hardly find time to spend on minor cases.” With a smile, he continued. “My charges are heavy. For each appearance, I charge a huge amount.” The unpalatable words he tried to table very cautiously, without inviting hatred.

She turned sullen. “Then, leave it, uncle.” She brought out a forced smile. “I approached you, being the father of my best school friend, with high expectations and positive outcome.” She paused with a pensive face. She cleaned her face with the back of the hand and said. “Leave it, uncle. My daddy will not be able to pay that much.”

Maya moved towards her father and whined. “I had promised her your help. She is my best friend, as she mentioned, daddy.”

Gupta chuckled. “I had attended a court-martial as a defending officer. That was a very serious case. Usually, I don’t undertake such minor cases.”

“Please daddy.” Maya moved again close to him and placed her hand on his shoulder. “You will be paid whatever they can afford.” She looked at Riya and winked with a smile.

Gupta could read their faces. He smiled with a nod. “I will assist. Also, if required, I will be the defending officer.” He looked at Riya as he was sure his soft words would mitigate her worries to a certain extent.

“Thank you, daddy.” Maya clung on him and kissed on his forehead. “I know you will never refuse my requests.” She moved close to Riya and said, “now, you can rest assured that he will find ways to pull your father out of this mess. At least he can rest assured of the assistance of an expert in the field of law of the land.”

Gupta felt elated and smiled looking at both girls.

When both girls got up to exit, he asked, “will your father be able to come and spend some time with me?”

“Why not uncle? He will be too pleased to come and meet you.” She suddenly became thoughtful. “I haven’t told anyone at the home of my coming and meeting you. I haven’t even told my twin brother about this.” She smiled. “I will make my daddy get convinced about the help you are willing to offer. I am sure, he will be pleased to get a defending appearance from your side if the need arises.”

Gupta grunted and sat thinking. “You are right. If the need arises. For all reasons, I am sure that is beyond the horizon.” He smiled. “Otherwise that can wait. I will talk to him later. For the time being, I will give you a pen. If you can convince him, let your father keep the pen in his front pocket and spend some time with Khanna. You said, he is very social and well mannered, isn’t it? They should meet in private. He can go and meet them at their home.” He paused. “During their conversation, your father must bring the subject of the inquiry and should make Khanna commit that he had made him do that adjustment to meet his urgent requirement. If that can be brought out, then your father could be defended easily.” He got up and opened the cupboard and took out a small box. Sitting back on his seat, he opened the box and took out a pen. “This is a video recorder. On the pen clip, there is a camera and the pen will store the recordings of hours. It is of high capacity.” He chuckled. “I hope, you understood. Otherwise, you may ask your father to come. I will explain it to him. But it is not required. It is so simple. After that, as you said, if the need arises I will meet him.”

Riya took the pen from him and examined. “Anything is needed to be done for recording, uncle?”

“Yes. Just press the cap like in any other click pens and then onwards the recording will commence. It is not necessary to press after reaching Khanna’s house. Before starting from your home, he may just click and wear this. It will keep recording. Once that is completed, just hand over that to me. I will do the rest. Once he commits that the whole exercise was done for meeting his urgent financial needs, the impact on your father could be reduced.” He smiled. “Ask him to relax. I will see that nothing serious will ever happen to your father. You may also relax.” He moved close to her and said with a pat at her back.

“After that, should my daddy come and meet you, uncle?”

“Not required now. After his successful mission, I will study the whole, and then, based on the action going to be taken by the Air Force, I will require him to come and meet me.”

“That means, after recording, I can come and hand over this to you?” She raised her brows.

He nodded. “This is a costly pen. Take care of that. After recording, this should not fall into the hands of anyone.” He warned.

“Ok, uncle.”

***

After getting back home, Riya sat with her daddy and opened the topic of the inquiry, and the probable harm the blame attached to him would cause on his career.

Though Jayaprakash was apprehensive of the repercussions to be quite unpalatable, he decided to play cool and hide the probable severity. “What can happen? I may have to lose a few years of seniority, at the most. Or else, they may dismiss me from service. Then with my qualification and experience of many years of service, finding a job in civil will not be difficult.”

“But, for what?” She soliloquized. “For no fault of yours, why should you be viewed by others as a criminal?” With hesitation, she opened the subject of discussion with advocate Gupta.

Jayaprakash could not control his anger and slapped her on the face and said at top of his voice, “why the hell you went out of the camp without my permission, alone?” Feeling sorry for slapping her favorite daughter, he hammered his hand on the sofa arm repeatedly and said. “To date, I have not caused pain on you physically. But, you going out, that too to plead help for me, made me lose my temper and I could not control my emotions.” He grunted with a head shake. Looking at her with concern he said, “Do you know, how dangerous is Delhi for young girls like you? There is no point in crying over spilled milk. We must avoid spilling.”

Riya had nothing to say to nullify his fear for the safety of his daughter. She mutely looked at him and said, “I went with a specific purpose.”

“Why didn’t you let me know before going out?”

“If I seek permission, I am sure, you will discourage me.” She sounded firm.

“Height of disobedience. I just don’t like this. You know how unsafe is Delhi for young beautiful girls like you. Had I known this, I wouldn’t have let you go out of the guard room.” He virtually shouted to express uncontrollable anger mixed with a scare.

“But daddy. I got back home much before sunset. They are very good people, daddy. That uncle, being my close friend Maya’s father, took interest to hear me and found solution, to solve with ease.”

They sat mute for a while. The uncontrollable fury had made him behave like an animal. He knew that was developed from the scare of a daughter getting into unexpected and unwarranted troubles from which retrieval was difficult. He moved close and caught her chin intending to calm her down. “Ok, what that uncle has said?” Jayaprakash tried to find out the result of her meeting Advocate Gupta.

Riya explained about the part to be played by him wearing the spy pen to make Khanna commit his wiliness, in any informal way.

Though Jayaprakash showed his reluctance with vehemence, Riya was smart enough to explain the advantage of such an act that would bring out the facts to prove his innocence. She had to make repeated efforts to convince him and out of sheer love towards the daughter, he had to accept whatever she had demanded and nodded with a smile.

***

In the evening Jayaprakash with Saroja proceeded to the quarters of Khanna, on his motorcycle. Parking the motorcycle, on pressing the call bell, Khanna opened the door and ushered them in.

“How is Mrs. Khanna?” Saroja inquired. “I was told that she is unwell.”

“She is lying with fever on the bed. Not fit to walk around. The antibiotic will further weaken one’s health.” Khanna said with his natural humility.

Both Jayaprakash and Saroja were taken to the bedroom.

Seeing the visitors, Mrs. Khanna tried to adjust her dress and wiped face to rid of the oily appearance.

Standing by her side, Saroja inquired of her present state of health and expressed her concern and wished for early recovery.

After some time, when both ladies got involved in certain culinary discussions, both gents withdrew to the sitting room and deposited themselves on the sofa.

Being extravagant in treating guests at home, without asking, Khanna moved to the chest of drawers in that room and fished out a bottle of whiskey and yelled to the maid to fetch ice cubes and some snacks. He gently opened the bottle and poured in both glasses and waited for the maid. When the maid came with a tray with all required items – ice cubes in a small bucket and water bottle-- he gestured her to place that on the center table. Khanna fixed the drinks for both and offered one glass to the guest.

Clicking both glasses with cheers they sipped the drink and expressed their ecstasy.

They got into the usual pleasantries and slowly slipped onto the topic of the Court of Inquiry which Command had taken seriously.

“I spoke to the Command Accounts Officer to know of the latest,” Khanna said.

Jayaprakash preferred to be a listener and leaned forward with great attention.

“The Command Accounts Officer has pleaded to the SAO to dispose of the whole with some administrative action.” He again paused. “Let us see what would be the final decision. If AOC-in-C desires, they will order a court-martial. Our present AOC-in-C doesn’t tolerate indiscipline of any order. He is very strict.”

“Let’s wait and see.” Jayaprakash sighed.

“I feel very hurt by the stand I took after taking all help from you and Biswas. Had I not taken that stand, the behavior towards me by the Command Accounts Officer would have been entirely different. Now I can plead for you, being my subordinate having a clean service record to date. And that is working out. I could buy their sympathy towards you.”

Jayaprakash smiled. “To date, I have not to sidestepped from service rules in any sphere of activities; be it financial or administrative. When you came and requested of your immediate requirement to complete certain house construction work before the bank releases the next installment, I was moved and agreed to do this. I did not think of the seriousness of this as Biswas sir also was convinced. Before giving the cheque to him, I had repeatedly asked him about the repercussions, but he did not feel that bad. When the inquiry came from Command, I was woken up worried about the aftermaths of the whole. Any penny taken out of the cash holding will surely be a misappropriation. And they can sue the concerned, especially me as I am the custodian of cash.”

“Yes. I too had a clean record so far. I never permitted anyone even to take more money than required for the local purchase of materials.” Khanna paused and sipped the glass. “In this case, I badly needed cash to meet its commitment. I had some backlog to be cleared with the contractor. He said, unless I cleared the earlier dues, he would not spend any amount on my house. And, as I said, I was more interested to complete the construction work before the promotion posting.” He chuckled. “When I thought, this was the easiest way I found. I thought, there was nothing to be considered as misappropriation as we were giving Biswas his salary in advance.” He chuckled. “But someone played funny with us and everything got jumbled up”

Jayaprakash lifted the glass and drank. “I was moved when I was told by the presiding officer of the court of inquiry that you had backed out leaving the entire responsibility on my shoulders, as I have wangled the amount.”

Khanna turned brood showing his sorrowful countenance. “Do you remember the evening we both went to the house of Biswas. After coming from there, while I was weighing various parameters, I thought it right to be on the other side of the coin to be on the safe side to get you both extricated. I spoke to Biswas on this and he conceded to my suggestion and he also gave the statement as per that, blaming you.” He drank the whole and gesticulated Jayaprakash to be respectful to the poured drink.

Jayaprakash emptied the glass.

Khanna filled up both glasses and added ice cubes.

“Still. I am of the firm belief that I have not pushed you to commit a crime. It was only a minor adjustment. We have given leave advance to an officer, that’s all. The only problem was that he had not applied for leave. Hence it can be considered as objectionable. And, during those days I was out on leave to supervise the house construction and you had to approve the advance as the Senior Accounts Officer.” Although he was trying to satisfy himself and his deputy, melancholy was widely reflected on his face.

Jayaprakash observed sudden changes. “What happened, sir?”

Recovering himself from the sudden gallop to an entirely different mood, he said, “Oh, nothing.” He wiped his face with the sleeve of his shirt. “I am sorry for pushing you to undergo mental tension on account of me. For no fault of yours.” He reiterated. “It was only due to my selfishness. I am sorry.”

***

Riya was happy her daddy could get all information, as required by Gupta, recorded in pen drive. Showing contentment of winning a war, she prayed for materializing the way clear, as she desired in proving her father’s innocence. Showing contentment, she took the pen drive from him and desired if she had a computer to hear the whole recorded conversation. She was confident of finding success as opined by advocate Gupta.

Jayaprakash said, “everything is inside as required by Gupta uncle. You can give it to your friend. Don’t take the risk of visiting that house without any accompaniment, especially during late hours. If need be, I will come with you. I too can meet him. You take an appointment with him. We both will go and give him.” He thought. “My mind says, nothing will happen as far as this case is concerned. But the inborn characteristic of mine, to worry over trivial matters, makes to get precipitated with various thoughts.” He tried to open out his mind. “Till everything is solved, I don’t think I can get back to the primordial state.”

“He will help out. I am sure of that. After my discussion with him, I have developed the confidence of getting at least a mitigation even if the entire case is not quashed up.”

“I too will come with you.” A spontaneous desire bubbled out in him.

Riya smiled showing satisfaction over him thinking on her lines. “Daddy, he is a busy person. Without finding his availability at home, there is no point in visiting that house. If so, I will ask Maya to get an appointment from him.”

“Ok, fix up an appointment with him. Or, you get me his contact number. I will contact him. I am sure, she will be too happy to meet me and discuss if any further information is needed.”

“Ok.”

She contacted Maya on her mobile and informed of the desire of Jayaprakash to meet Gupta.

Maya said. “I will ask my dad and let you know of a convenient time and date.”

After some time, Maya contacted Riya on mobile. “I spoke to my daddy. He will meet your daddy later. You just hand over that pen drive to me tomorrow. After studying that he will contact your daddy.”

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