She cried despite the comfort of her dad's lap and strong arms.

She wanted to br eak into a flurry but broke down instead. She was 5. She had been through this e ven last year. Her dad sang the lullabys longer than usual, wiped off the tears while she shamelessly cried and howled, cajoled her with her favourite candy flo ss, whispered promises into her ears until she dreamt and finally slept. She loved the candles. They brought her hope and many warm memories. Every night she would light one and say a small prayer. The dad would wait patiently at her door, listening to the "prayer of wishes". Sometimes he would smile, sometimes just stare at her earnest face and sometimes pray along with her. They had learnt to live or lets say they had to learn to live. One year without the lady of the house had not been enough for either to cope with the loss but h e woke up to life and surrendered to practicality because he knew he had his dau ghter to take care of. Every day of the last one year had been trying for him. He had two roles to perf orm. He had to wake her up in the morning and take her to the loo, help her brus h, put her on the commode, help her with the routine, wait until she was done, f ill her bath tub, undress her and let her play while he ran inside the kitchen t o make their breakfast, run back to her, dry her, dress her up, feed her and wai t with her until the school bus took her away, come back, eat in a hurry while t rying to dress up and rushing into the busy office hours. The evening were just as busy. He had to help her with the homework, answer her endless questions while he readied dinner for both, sing her lullabys, tip-toe o ut of her room to finally relax, undress and cosy up inside his bed, with though ts of past and one lingering question: 'How could she manage it?'. Only if he knew, only if he could find her, only if he could answer her little g irl. He had tried hard to locate her and had failed miserably. He had slowly sta rted believing that it was his fault why she wasn't with him anymore. He conjure d up a million reasons why she had walked out on him. He had found comfort in co ndemning himself. Where else could the comfort come from? He knew he would never experience bliss again because bliss was with her. He knew he had a daughter to take care of and he couldn't afford another life, hopes, cries and misery. So h e lived on, raising his li'l one with all the love and selflessness. One year had gone by but not without realisation. It was days and months collate d together by memories that were attached to every corner of the house, every pl ace in the city, in pictures, in talks, in his daughter's eyes and laughter. Today was her daughter's birthday and like last year she had waited for her mum to turn up and give her a surprise. Her innocent and anxious face gave one more reason to condemn himself. Afterall he was the one who had made her believe that mum was away, busy with work and would definitely come for her birthday. And li ke last year when she didn't turn up and his daughter demanded for her, he had n o answers, just lots of random gifts in a hope to compensate for her mother's ab sence. The daughter was stubborn. She bunked school and stayed home not wanting to miss meeting her mum in case she was away. Her dad missed office too and stayed back home to watch her wait. And when the evening came and her dad lit up the candle s on the cake, she felt a load in the pit of her stomach, the unknown unexplicab le feeling and the only way she could express was through anger and cries. He pi cked her up in his arms and sat himself on the rocking chair. He held her close while she weeped and complained. He recalled her last years birthday and prepare d himself for this day for many more years to come. He somehow convinced her tha t mum would be here for her next but at the back of his mind an ambiguous 'for h ow long?' trailed off...

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