Authors note: This is the first chapter in the "Game of Blogs" for the team "Bards of the Blogosphere." #CelebrateBlogging

“You know, she was really beautiful on that stage.”
He nodded as he looked away from his mobile and smiled. “Yes. She is my daughter, after all. Good looks run in my genes.” 
He leaned sideways, trying to avoid the punch he knew was coming. Instead, she just stared at him with an exasperated look that he knew so well.
“Don’t try that grumpy mama look on me, Tara.  That may cause shivers back at your news station but not here. After all, I am made of much sterner stuff than those newspaper boys who work for you. Ouch! Ouch! No pinching!”

She withdrew her hand but the glare remained upon her face. “They are news reporters, not paper boys! And look who’s  talking? You freelancer!”
He put on his best mean expression and turned towards her, one eyebrow raised in battle-mode. “Hey! Don’t mess with us freelancers! We are taking it easy on you and your newspaper boys. If we choose, we can take over the press with our awesome stories. You will be left running twenty five minutes of underwear ads with five minutes of news copied from us.”
She raised her hands to strangle him and he backed away within the chair once more. Any further violent event was halted however as a shrill voice shrieked while she bounded up the stairs.

“Daddy! Mommy!”
They both turned towards the little girl in a white princess outfit running towards them. Other parents seated beside them in the school’s auditorium smiled too subconsciously; it was a familiar moment for every parent and yet it always managed to kindle feelings of parental affection within them as well.
“Roohi! Baby, you were so amazing!” Tara said as Roohi finally reached their row and hopped onto her mother’s lap. 
“Did you see the way I turned and waved my wand?”
“I did. It was awesome. You made a magnificent princess.”
“And when that prince came, did you see how he made me wake up and dance?”
“Yes. My darling was brilliant. I did not know you could dance so well.”
“Daddy used to practice with me at home.”
Tara stifled a giggle and turned to her husband. She winked at him as she continued.
“Did daddy also dress in a princess costume while he danced with you, dear?”

That started off a fit of giggles from Roohi as mother and daughter both pointed at the man who completed their family. Shekhar played along, scowling at first before giving in and extending his arms towards her. Roohi jumped off her mother’s lap and moved over to her dad. He hugged her tightly, making bear noises as he pretended to squeeze her. This started a fresh bout of laughter from the little one as she struggled to break free.
“Daddy. You did not shave! I asked you to shave and come.”
Shekhar’s eyes bulged out in astonishment. He raised his arm and tapped his fingers across his bald head, mimicking a tabla  artist.  “What are you talking about? I did shave. See? Not a single hair on from my ears upwards.“
“No. We don’t like this French beard of yours. Shave that too.”
“We?” he said, his eyes squinting at her. Roohi looked guiltily at her mother who quickly turned away to stare at the other families walking up and down the aisle as they waited for the next program of the school day function to commence.
“I see!” Shekhar exclaimed triumphantly as he snapped his fingers, “So mother and daughter are conspiring to make me shave off this awesome goatee of mine!”
Tara turned back and stuck out a tongue at her husband. “Not goatee! It’s goat…eee! You look like one of those mountain goats with that thing. Have you checked carefully? I think crows are building nests in there!”

Shekhar’s reply was cut off as a young woman coughed beside him. The three of them turned to her as she stood on the aisle, smiling pleasantly at them. In her mid-twenties, she was dressed in a tee-shirt and a denim blue jacket that matched her jeans.  The huge lens on the camera hanging from her neck seemed almost lost amidst the 80s’ styled bead necklaces she wore around her neck. She nodded towards them as she spoke.
“Hi there. My name is Jennifer. Forgive my intrusion. Could I ask you a favour?”
“How can we help you?” Tara asked stoically.
“I came here for the function because my husband could not be here. I was planning on making an online album and sending it to him later today. To do that, I have been clicking moments and people in this hall all day long. If it is not too much of a bother, could I take a picture of the three of you as well? I had to ask. Your daughter just looks so adorable in that princess outfit.”
Roohi blushed and turned to her mom who smiled back at her and winked. Shekhar extended a hand and Jennifer shook it heartily.

“We would love to. Do we need to pose? Should I exchange seats with her? I mean, I always hear people say that my left side is more photogenic than my right… ouch! Why do the women of this family always pinch me?” he scowled.
Jennifer smiled at the playful banter and raised her lens. “Just be natural. It is better that way, I always feel.”
After she took a few photographs, she looked through the bunch and nodded. “You all have been most helpful. What are your names? Are you from around here?”

Shekhar nodded. “My name is Shekhar Dutta and this is my daughter, Roohi. I do not know who that lady sitting beside us is – okay, okay! No pinching! I remember! She is my darling wife, Tara.” he said, using his fingers to signal quotation marks in the air with the word ‘darling’. “We are originally from Bengal but presently settled here in Mumbai since the last six years.”
“Awesome.” Jennifer replied, showing a thumbs up to Roohi who returned the signal along with her trademark giggle.
“Is your child here too?” Tara asked, looking beside her.
Jennifer nodded. She pointed to a bunch of children at the other end of the row and without warning, let out a shrill whistle. Tara grimaced as many of the couples seated around to stare at them. The group of children too turned and Jennifer waved with a grin. Five of the girls waved back at her. She smiled and turned to the Duttas.
“That girl in the blue dress is my daughter, Caroline. She’s an adorable sweetheart. I really should get back to her. Thank you so much for your time.”
“It was our pleasure. Here, take my business card.” Shekhar volunteered, then stopped midway and turned to Tara. She sighed dramatically and reached into her purse.
“He leaves his wallet in the car. That way, I have to pay for food and snacks during such functions. Men, I tell you! Stingy buggers!” she said, as she took out a business card of her own and handed it to Jennifer.
Jennifer smiled. “Oh, my man is much the same. Anyway, thank you. I will mail the pictures to you on this e-mail address. Bye.” She waved at them, shared a wink with Roohi and walked on towards the group of children.
“What a nice lady.” Shekhar said as he watched her leave. “I should have said I was single. Maybe I would have had a chance with her. What do you think?”
Tara stifled a grin as she got up. “Forget single, try to avoid getting killed by me one of these days. Now come, before the queue at the cafeteria gets bad, let us eat lunch and leave. Roohi’s performance is over anyway.”

Shekhar complied and placed a gentle arm around his wife as they headed off towards the cafeteria. Three rows above them, a pair of eyes watched them as they moved through the crowd. The grin was no longer there as Jennifer stared at the business card in her hand. She felt a tug on her jeans and turned around. The little girl in the blue dress and her friends stood beside her, staring at her quizzically.
“Aunty, why were you waving at us from over there? Do we know you?”
Jennifer smiled as she placed a hand upon the little girl’s head and patted it gently. She turned back to stare at the Duttas making their way through the crowd towards the cafeteria and the smile slowly vanished from her face, replaced by a dark frown.
“No dear. I must have been mistaken. I have never seen you before in my life.” 

Chapter Two is now available online here

The team Bards of the Blogosphere comprises of Divyakshi, Priyanka Roy, Priyanka Victor, Arpita, Datta, Nupur, Sulekha, Maria and Roshan. To see the journey so far categorized by chapters, click here.


Beloo Mehra said…
Very interesting. Wonder where the story goes next. You have made me very curious now :)
sulekkha said…
What a great start to the game of blogs! Bards of the Blogosphere will definitely go through to the next level with this kind of amazing writing.
Nabanita said…
Ohhh...what happens next Roshan...? What does Jennifer want? You left me thinking..Come out with the next part soon
Anonymous said…
Very intriguing, Roshan! I can't wait to find out what happens next and where this goes from here.
PeeVee C said…
Great start! So glad to be part of this :)
Sunila Vig said…
Goshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh where's the rest Roshan, quick.....
You made me curious to know what comes next!!! It was of all smiles i read till it reach the end and Guess!!! now am imagining things!!!
All the very best for the team!! A great start :) :)
Thank you Mishra.. we have a few thoughts in mind. The story will pass on across blogs but links will be placed so that all can read them..
Need to keep our heads down and focus on making sure there are no weak loopholes in the story we have envisioned. Then, I think we can go places :)
Loving the bonhomie though between the members
hehe... this will be revealed in due course.. will be leaving updates on a page with all links which can be read as the story progresses..
Thanks Varan... we will be traveling, rest assured... not just across states but across blogs too :)
Thanks Priyanka... lets keep the momentum going.
haha... all in due course :)
There are a few twists left to come...
Thanks Anjali.. we are gonna need the luck part... got some very creative concepts in mind :)
Rajlakshmi said…
I loved the playful banter between them.. but what's happening!! ending don't look so happy happy... waiting for more.
Anonymous said…
Nice one Roshan sir..... I never liked Jennifer from the moment she entered the scene :-D
Now Im all curious to know the next part!
shoOOonya said…
Hi Buddy .... thats a very good start !!

All the best !!
divsi said…
Awesome start doc! :) well done!
Well done, Roshan. Great work. Hope I can carry the torch as well as you've just done when my time comes around.
haha... You astute fella :D
Next part arrives tomorrow in a different blog but dont worry.. am gonna link it so everyone can see it in one stretch
There will be a lot more twists and turns as the days go by...
Thank you... touchwood will keep it going.
looking forward to it... keep the team effort going.
Anonymous said…
Compelling narrative, Roshan. Can't wait to read next part:)
Thanks... the next part will be out shortly :)
Anonymous said…
Enjoyed the first part, Roshan! U always take care to bring in few mandatory laughs. Loving the rest story too! Atb! :)
Raksha Bhat said…
Loved the tete-a-tete between the husband and the wife :-D
Thanks... hope u like our effort in the days to come...
Anonymous said…
Team Bards of the Blogosphere! Superb beginning. :) And loved the tinge of humor that was weaved through. It is nice to read different versions of the family.
satchitananda said…
High voltage intrigue. Loved the ending. Off to read the next part.
Thank you... hope you enjoy it more as you carry on reading :)
Thank you Satchitananda :) Hope you love it..
Ruchi Singh said…
Aah... the lure of a good story! I will come back once I read all of them!!