The Promise

<Revised version of ‘One Day in the Life of a Politician‘.>

The results of the general elections had been announced. He had
won. Now he was here, with his regular escort of fifteen government cars, returning
home after the press conference. As he watched the lights of the city night
crawl by outside his window, he thought about the speech he gave at the
conference. Nice speech, that one, and original too. Not by his secretary, as
they usually were. He had asked his daughter to check it once. She had commented
that it was ‘Rocking, Dad!’ He had
smiled. It’s not often that he wrote one of his speeches himself. He could
still hear the lines echoing around his head. Even in his mind now, the words
sounded sweet.

His car halted a few meters from the
apartment gate, a bodyguard opened the door for him. He walked out, through the
reception and into a waiting lift, accompanied by two armed guards.

The guards left him at his flat. The door
wasn’t locked. He opened it and entered, only to be greeted by an empty living-room.
Heated voices carried from his daughter’s bedroom. As he came to the bedroom door,
he was met with a complete mess.

His daughter was sitting on the bed, clasping
something to her heart and crying. His wife was standing over her, pouring out
an endless string of rebukes. The entire room was topsy-turvy. Clothes had been
pulled out of cupboards, a backpack lying on the bed was overflowing with
clothes, and an expensive china vase lay on the floor in pieces.

His wife turned, saw him, and thundered her
statement through the room.

‘A Muslim
boy! She is in love with a Muslim boy. Can you believe it? Here, I found a photo of the bastard in her
school books,’ — she yanked a photograph from the girl’s hands and shoved it to
his face — ‘and when I asked her dear, please
come to your senses. Dear, we love you,
she said she is going to leave this place for ever and started packing her
clothes, can you imagine! And she
accuses us of not understanding her point
of view.
’ — she spat the last three words with utter distaste, then stopped
and stood fuming at him with huge glaring eyes.

‘Let me handle this.’ he fumbled at last,
after taking a few seconds to take it all in. The girl looked up from her
sobbing, fear now etched clearly in her eyes.

After the wife had left the room, the man
turned to his daughter with the glint in his eyes that she had learned to fear
like the devil through her childhood days.

‘A Muslim boy, eh?’ he said softly, as he
always started his speeches.

‘A Muslim
he shouted. The girl started and
withdrew to a corner of the bed.

‘Tell me, a Muslim boy? Being a Hindu, you choose a Muslim boy? Answer me!’

The girl watched her father through teary
eyes, unable to speak. He was still in the Punjabi that he had left for the
conference in, and now it was wet and soggy with sweat, and revealed his underclothing.

don’t you ANSWER me?’
and he suddenly
came and grabbed her hand and yanked her to her feet.

She uttered some words amidst her sobs that
sounded like ‘he loves me’.

And then she only had time to look up and
catch another glimpse of that fire in her father’s eyes before being pulled
right off the ground, and thrown roughly to the floor. Her head went and hit
the wall hard. Her entire world jolted for a second, then everything became

‘Do you know what this will do to my
reputation? Do you have any idea?’  she heard him shout.

She reached for the place where the pain was
the greatest and could feel a wetness. Her ears were buzzing with a constant
monotonous sound. She watched hazily as her father picked up the photograph
from the bed and shred it to pieces. Then he shouted something more, but it was
all becoming garbled, but she thought she could make out ‘how much we love you’
and ‘no food for you tonight’. By now, however, she was too numb to think about
it. The last thing she heard was the bedroom door being closed, and the
unmistakable click of the Yale lock, the special Yale lock that her father had
installed specially for her bedroom. The lock was outside, not inside.

And then, in the few moments before going to
sleep in the wet pool of blood that surrounded her head like a red halo, she
remembered last night, when Dad had come to have his speech reviewed by her,
and she had admired his sentences more than usual for some secret reason, for
some reason that hid inside her school books and in the precious few minutes that
she could meet the boy each week, and in her heart. And now, before her senses
went to sleep with her, she thought of those lines.

And no
longer shall we lag behind, this I promise you. We shall move forth in mind and
work, eliminating the barriers of cast, creed and religion. We shall leave the
great burden of orthodoxy behind, for this is the age of change, of
rationalism, of accepting whole-heartedly the new generation. We shall not be
stuck in the past. We shall accept new norms and secure free will, free
decision and free life for all our people. Our children shall be given the
rights they deserve, the freedom of opinion, and the acknowledgement of their
importance in building our nation, for their decisions are just as important as
ours. And no longer shall our country be crippled by the menace of religious or
cast-wise discrimination. We shall step into a new era of broad-minded
acceptance. This I promise you.

And then the words became too heavy for her
tiring mind to trace, and she gave up and went to sleep.

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