“I’m sorry, mum,” said little Nancy. She apologised for everything from spilling the milk to forgetting to kiss her goodbye before leaving for school. Just the opposite of her father.
Sheetal smiled wryly as she remembered the day he said goodbye to her husband. “You are so arrogant. What do you think you are to possess such a Himalayan ego? You commit all kinds of blunders while dealing with people. You don’t know how to behave in a society. You make a fool of yourself in every party after taking the first drink....” It was endless list of omissions and commissions. “And you never apologise even if you know you committed the most heinous offence. Learn to apologise, that’s the least you can do!”
“Mum,” asked Nancy while the car was moving away from her father’s house, “what does ‘apo...’, ‘apol...’, ‘apolg...’ mean?”
Mum looked into her eyes for a moment and kissed her cheek.
She repeated the question a number of times in different ways on various occasions even weeks after they had started living in their new house.
“It means to say sorry, darling,” finally Mum explained to her the meaning of ‘apologise’. She used the word ‘sorry’ very generously after that as if her mum’s ultimate delight lay in that word.
“If dad comes and says ‘sorry’,” Nancy asked one day, “will we live together again?”
Nancy missed dad, Sheetal knew. Dad was very fond of her. He was her playmate in the evenings and on holidays. They would play with her toys. She would climb on him, tickle him, pull his ears... He would smother her with kisses...
Sheetal knew that Gaurav loved her too. But he could never express it the way he did it with Nancy. He was clumsy whenever he had to deal with adults. And he concealed his clumsiness by creating an air of arrogance.
The arrogance hurt most of the time. It was blatantly insensitive. He blamed her for everything because of that arrogance. His ego could never accept his own mistakes.
If he dropped the glass from his computer table, she was at fault for not taking it away after he had finished drinking the water. If the computer hanged it must be because she visited some “idiotic” site. If he trampled on her toes, it was because she came and stood in the wrong place.
“At least once, once in your lifetime, can’t you say ‘sorry’?” she asked him once. “I won’t talk to you unless you apologise.” He had slapped her when she argued with him over the school he had chosen for Nancy. She didn’t want that particular school which was meant for the upwardly mobile social classes who always loved to buy a better car than their neighbours. His view was that his daughter should be proud of her school. The argument started. On the meaning of pride. And ended in the slap. A slap is the last word of the person who is incapable of carrying forward even an argument, let alone a discussion.
The apology never came. But Sheetal forgave him, nevertheless.
Forgiveness has limits, however. She had reached the end of the tether when she walked out with Nancy.
She knew Gaurav would miss Nancy. She knew he wouldn’t be able to live long without her.
She was right.
Gaurav came one Sunday. With an abundance of Nancy’s favourite sweets and snacks. And a bouquet of orchids for Sheetal.
When Sheetal brought coffee for him, he was playing with Nancy and knocked the tray accidentally.
“I’m sorry,” said Sheetal as she tried to balance the tray in her hands.
“Oh no, it’s my fault,” said Gaurav taking the tray from her hands.
What! Did he say it really? Sheetal looked at him. Into his eyes. He was looking into hers. Did she see a new light in those eyes? She thought she did.