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Stories. 
The Beast
by Ramendra Kumar
 Ten year old Preeti looked at the computer screen. She had received an email from the editor of the site ‘Just4kids’ informing her that her story had been accepted for publication. The editor wanted to create Preeti’s home page and had sent her a questionnaire asking Preeti to list her favorite things.

The very first question was - who is your favorite person?
Without any hesitation she typed out - ‘Mr. Rajeev Kumar, my papa’.

She looked at her papa who was busy reading a newspaper. Yes, there was no doubt - he was her favorite person. He was tall, fair, with a not very thick moustache, a sharp nose and bright, intense eyes which crinkled up when he smiled. He looked much younger than his age and to Preeti he was as handsome as her favorite star Hrithik Roshan.

Though Preeti was very fond of her mother she found her papa a lot more fun to be with. He told her stories, took her out for jogging in the morning and even played table tennis with her. He had a great sense of humor and was always pulling some one’s leg and making Preeti laugh.

But there was one quality she didn’t like. He had a vicious temper. He didn’t lose it all too often but when he did, it was terrible. His eyes would become two narrow points breathing fire, his nostrils would flare, and his face would turn red and his two ears scarlet. He would start breathing rapidly, as if he had run a mile, and his hands would start shaking. Anger made him a completely different person. She had read a story called Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Well her father too would transform from a sweet and adorable person to a furious......she didn’t want to use the word even to herself, but she knew it was the truth ....he used to become a monster.

This was the only time when she felt terribly uncomfortable with him. Otherwise her papa’s company was truly the best.

~*~
One evening Preeti and her papa were watching TV.

“Papa.”
“Yes, sweetheart.”
“Is Nayak uncle a bad man?”
Sarath Nayak was her father’s colleague.
“No, of course not. Why do you ask?”
“That day you were saying that drinking is very bad. And in Seth Uncle’s party I saw Nayak uncle drinking?”

“Oh that!” He laughed, throwing his head back and pulling her close. He switched off the TV and said, “Yes, I believe drinking is bad. It is harmful for health. But more important many people, without quite realizing, often drink a little too much. And when this happens they lose control over themselves. In that state they are no better than the beasts of the jungle. I would never like to reach that stage that is why I don’t touch alcohol.”

 “Papa, Nayak uncle is your best friend. Why don’t you ask him to stop drinking?”

“Listen Preeti, I consider alcohol bad and that is my personal belief. He does not agree with me. I told him a couple of times but he laughed it away. Doesn’t matter really, to drink or not to drink is a personal choice. I won’t allow that to come between me and Sarath.”

~*~
A couple of months later Preeti and her Papa were going to the club in their Maruti for swimming. It was to be Preeti’s first day in the pool and she was very excited about it.

They were a few kilometers from the club when suddenly a dog darted across. To avoid hitting it, Rajeev swerved a little to the left. A jeep was coming from behind at full speed and trying to overtake the Maruti from the wrong side. Its fender scraped past the Maruti and the whole car shook. The driver of the jeep, without even glancing back, raced ahead at break neck speed. Preeti looked at her Papa. His face was livid and his eyes were blazing.

“You scoundrel, you.....” he screamed using words she had only heard her servant’s children utter. He pressed his foot on the accelerator and the car shot ahead. Priya gripped the door handle tight her knuckles turning white. A minute or two later they had reached the unmanned traffic lights. The signal had turned red and the jeep was standing. Rajeev drove right next to it and jumped out of the car. As Preeti watched in horror she saw him yank the driver of the jeep out of the car and smash his fist into his face. He was a young man. As he fell against the jeep two other men, the same age as the driver, got down and attacked Rajeev. Preeti screamed and fainted.

~*~
Preeti opened her eyes. She was in bed in her room. Her mother was sitting beside her. Her eyes were red. Her papa was sitting in a chair. There was a band aid strip on his forehead and bruises on his cheeks and chin.

Later she came to know that the brawl had turned really ugly. Though a crowd had gathered no one had bothered or dared to interfere. Luckily their neighbor Inder Singh had happened to pass by. He, with the help of a policeman who had just then reached the spot, had managed to extricate Rajeev from the mess and get father and daughter safely home.

~*~
The next day was a Sunday. Rajeev was sitting on the lawn reading the morning paper. Preeti sat down on the stool beside him.

“Papa,”
“Yes, da’ling,” he looked up.
“Papa that day you were saying that when one gets drunk he often loses control.”
“Yes, that’s true.”
“And you also said that when one loses control one becomes a beast.”
“Yes, Priya.”
“But Papa yesterday on the road, you also lost control then ...then were you also....” she stopped and looked at him.

His face turned red and she thought he would shout at her. He stared at her for a long time. He then pulled her onto his lap and gave her a tight hug.

“Yes, my child. I did behave like a beast. Anger does bring out the animal in me. I probably knew it all along but I think, little one, it is you who made me realize it.”

“Papa when you get angry I feel terribly scared. I start shivering with fear. Last night I couldn’t sleep. I had nightmares. You had killed the driver of the jeep and ......and......” Preeti started crying.

“Come on, sweetheart I’ll try.....no I will not try, I’ll simply do it - I’ll control my temper. And if you ever find me getting angry show me a mirror, or if there is no mirror available ask me to look into your lovely eyes and I’ll stop.”

“Why?”

“I’ll see myself turning into a beast, that’s why. I’ll imagine horns coming out of my head and a tail emerging from my backside,” Rajeev said and laughed.

Preeti too burst out laughing as she planted a kiss on her papa’s handsome face.

~*~

That evening Preeti was in her room reading an Enid Blyton when Rajeev walked in. He was carrying a bouquet and a card.

“Come Preeti, we are going to Himayatnagar.”
“Why papa?”
“The driver of the Jeep, Irfan lives there. In our fight I broke his jaw as well as his arm. This bouquet and get well card are for him.”
“Papa, that is very sweet of you and I am sure Irfan Bhaiyya will feel very happy and forget his anger too,” Preeti said jumping up and giving her father a hug.

Image (c) Gettyimages.com
15-Aug-2010
 
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