The words still reverberated in Nishka’s ears as she remembered her last day at home.

‘Gosh! It’s been 5 long years’ she said to herself. Like she did every time her memory pulled her back into the past.
Nishka Kapoor. Young. Beautiful…correction….Gorgeous. Supermodel. Based in Paris.

She was 19 yrs old when she secretly submitted a form entering a ‘Model Hunt Contest’ without her father’s knowledge and with the excuse of visiting an Aunt, she traveled from Delhi to Mumbai to participate in the same.

When Arjun Kapoor saw his daughter being crowned ‘The Face of The Year’ on the 9 ‘o’ clock news, wearing a slinky gown that was being held up only by God’s grace and little else, and air-kissing the current heart-throb Farokh Khan, who had his hand around his daughters waist, he was livid.

Before he could react any further, congratulatory calls started pouring in and when at last Arjun got through to his daughter on her cell phone, she was too drunk to talk sense.

He was on the next available flight to Mumbai and at his sister’s house demanding an explanation.

‘Since Smriti passed away, you are too strict with Nishka, Bhaiyya’, said Jayati his sister to him.

Smriti. His lovely wife. Nishka’s mother.

She passed away suddenly in a freak hit-and-run accident. She had called him in the morning to say she was going to pay the telephone bill and an hour later he got a call saying she was dead.

Just like that. Suddenly. Without a warning.

Nishka was just 12 yrs old when she came home from school to find a crowd of strange people in her house. Bewildered, she didn’t know what was happening. Only when she saw her father standing at the far end of the room did she relax a little. Her father looked at her and opened his arms, and she ran to him, not knowing what was wrong, but definitely knowing something wasn’t very right.
After that day Arjun became both, her father and her mother. Yes. There were relatives who were around initially, and his sister Jayati who stayed with him for some months.But after that father and daughter were on their own.

Although very, very difficult, Arjun thought he was doing a good job of bringing up his only daughter.

Until Nishka turned 15.

She became sullen, withdrawn and all she ever said was ‘Gimme some space Dad!’, a concept very alien to parents of teenagers worldwide. She locked herself in her room the moment she came home from school. Answered in monosyllables, and talked to her father only when she needed something. Confused, Arjun did not know what to do. Until her found a couple of cigarette butts in her toilet.
He took charge immediately.
Curfew. No pocket money. No telephone-calls after 8 p.m.
And Nishka withdrew even more.

The chasm of silence between father and daughter grew and grew till it was too wide for either to cross. They just ‘existed’ separately in the same house. They didn’t ‘live’ there.
A year later, things started improving gradually.As she started college, Nishka changed. She became more responsible and got a part time job.Arjun knew she still smoked but it was never mentioned.

As she entered her senior college Nishka spoke to her father about her dream of becoming a model.A flat NO was the answer she got.She tried to convince him in many ways but he was adamant. Nishka never spoke about it, and Arjun was glad she had changed her mind.

‘Bhaiyya, don’t be so harsh on Nishka’ said Jayati getting her brother a cup of tea.

‘Where is she? I want to speak to her’ asked Arjun.‘She’s not yet home Bhaiyya. The organizers of the event have put up all the contestants at a hotel. Nishka will be home later in the day’ Arjun didn’t know what to say. No words came to him. He left the room abruptly, seething with rage. He showered and changed and was about to sit down to lunch when Nishka walked in.

She hugged her aunt, showing her the crown, the trophy and chattering nineteen-to-a-dozen.She saw her father at the table and stopped mid-sentence.

‘I can explain Papa. I really can’ she said to Arjun, walking towards him.

‘I’ve been wanting to do this for sometime…I knew I had it in me…it’s been my dream for the longest time ever… and I finally see it happening…I mean Papa…look…I won this contest and the organizers are grooming me and I am being sent to Paris!!! I mean…can you believe it Papa??!!! PARIS!!! They told me I am a natural and I’ll be a big hit on the Parisian modeLling scene! Gosh Papa! I am so, so excited!!!’

‘You are not going Nishka.’

‘Paris Papa!!!! I still cant believe it I am going to be living there for a year…what? Excuse me!!! What did you just say? I am not going???!!’

‘Yes Nishka, you are not going. I shall not allow my daughter to go and live alone so far away. Modeling is a profession I do not think highly of and if you remember, I was always, and still am against it. Besides, you still have to complete your Graduation. So it’s ok that you won this contest. I couldn’t do anything about it, but that’s where it ends. The only place you are going right now young lady, is back home with me’ Arjun had given his final verdict.

‘You cant do this Papa!! You know how much this means to me!!!! You can’t do this!!! I am sorry I did this without your knowledge and permission but please Papa I beg you, don’t do this, I wont get a chance like this again!! Please, Papa, Please!!!’

‘Pack your bags Nishka. We are going home’ said Arjun and walked away.




Said Nishka, to Arjun’s retreating back before he closed the door on her.

When he came out to leave for home sometime later, Jayati told him Nishka had left.

Too stunned and angry to react, he slumped on the sofa, not knowing what else to do. They tried to call her on her cell phone but she did not take their calls, they called up her friends, trying to get through to her, but they were no help either. They found out where the contest was held and went there but no one would help them.
Late in the evening when one of her friends found out hotel that Nishka was being put up at, they drove there as fast as they could, to be told that the entire entourage had just left for the airport.

At the airport too they drew a blank, because security wouldn’t let them get past the gate.

Dejected, tired and still shocked, they made their way home.

A week later Jayati received a brief mail from Nishka saying she was all right and very happy here. That’s it. Emails sent to her were never answered.

A few months later they saw her picture splashed everywhere, being heralded as the ‘New Super Model’.
They tried contacting her in every possible way, to no avail.

Occasionally she did drop in an email to Jayati, and that was it. She never asked about Arjun and never replied back.

As Nishka blossomed in her new career, Arjun withered away. He worked longer and longer and withdrew from everyone he knew. Always a man of a few words, he stopped speaking altogether.

‘Five years is a long time’ thought Nishka to herself, on her flight back home.

As she achieved all that she had set out too, her childhood memories pulled her closer to home, and now she could no longer deny them.

Her anger and resentment towards her father was slowly abating, and somewhere deep inside she did have regrets at the way she had behaved. Not keeping in touch with anyone at all for so long…how would they feel when she walked in to surprise them?

Dear sweet Jayati Bua. She regularly emailed Nishka about the goings on, whether she replied or no.
‘Little did Bua know how eagerly I awaited those mails no matter which part of the world I was in’ smiled Nishka.

Her timing for a surprise homecoming was perfect. In her last mail some weeks ago Jayati Bua had mentioned that Papa was in Mumbai on work and would be here for a while.

As the wheels of the aircraft touched the tarmac, Nishka couldn’t wait to leap out of her seat.

She urged the cab driver to drive faster and generously tipped him when he got her to her destination in record time.
She ran up the stairs to Jayati Bua’s home and kept her hand on the buzzer till someone opened the door.

‘Bua!! Its me!!’ she hugged a surprised Jayati, who was looking at her as if she had seen a ghost.

‘Where’s Papa Bua? Wake him up! Tell him I am here!!’ grinned an exited Nishka.

Jayati stood mutely and when she stepped aside, Nishka saw her Papa.

A picture on the wall with the garland around it still fresh.

‘He died 4 days ago Nishka, of a broken heart, all he asked for was you’ said Jayati.

Nishka walked towards the picture, all her memories flashing back to her, including those of the last day, and feeling her Papa’s face with both her hands through the cold glass, she said the words, which she hoped, would erase these 5 years.

‘I love you Papa, I really do’

‘I love you!’

‘I love you!’

‘I love you!’

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