All Stories, General Fiction

Daddy by Naga Vydyanathan

“Kausalya Supraja Rama Purva Sandhya Pravarthathe …” – the mobile phone whirred to life, blaring the famous verses of Guru Vishwamitra, scaring the wits out of the guileless night. Murthy shifted in his bed, extending an arm out to silence the phone. It was 4:30 am, a.m. brahma muhurtham, the time deemed ideal for meditation and yoga by the Hindu scriptures. In all of his sixty plus years, he had, without fail, adhered to the strict regimen of starting his day at the brahma muhurtham. However, the last few months were only making him increasingly aware of his growing age. What was once a disciplined routine, now required all his resolve to keep its tag.

As Murthy sat up slowly, rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands, he glanced at the opposite side of the bed – the side which had been Leela’s. Even now, her favourite pillow was propped up there, with her razai with beautiful lavender flower prints neatly folded under it. He had been insistent in preserving Leela’s presence around the house all these years – her side of the wardrobe still held all her brightly hued kanjeevaram and silk cotton sarees, lovingly maintained and arranged by him, her bookshelf still filled with her treasured collection of classics. This was his desperate attempt at freezing time in the hope of continuing to sense her companionship in his life’s journey, that sadly still had some way to go!

Murthy smiled, remembering Leela’s scowling face at being rudely woken up at unearthly hours during their initial days of marriage. Over time, her body and mind had adapted to sleeping through the alarm, but he had relentlessly stuck to his routine. Spreading his yoga mat on the floor, he slid into the Padmaasana or the Lotus pose with ease – years of practice ensured that his limbs were lithe enough. Starting with Praanaayaamaa, he would then move on to do an hour of intense Hatha yoga and wind up with meditation. Day in and day out, it was the same – he never seemed to tire of it. Even the day after he lost Leela, he had stuck to this routine – the monotony gave him a sense of control, a feeling of normalcy. The daily routine became like a walking stick – anchoring him steadily at times, guiding him step by step at others, growing into a constant companion – it had always been so, just that Murthy realized it only much later.

Finishing up with his morning yoga, Murthy ate his customary fruit salad made of exactly one banana, half an apple and half an orange, and set out to the nearby park for his morning walk. “Vanakkam Sir!”, the watchman greeted him with a salute as Murthy walked past the gates of his apartment complex. It was a beautiful morning, the nascent rays of the sun caressing the world below, nudging it out of its slumber. Murthy always walked alone. He liked to walk alone. It is not that he was unfriendly or did not know people in the locality. His morning walk would be decorated with numerous nods, smiles, subtle waves, but hardly any exchanges. He was a quiet man who savoured his solitude.

A sudden barrage of barking startled Murthy and he barely stepped aside as a flurry of dogs, with a young man in tow, zoomed past him. “Sorry Sir!”, shouted the young man, making a quick apologetic turn, before being dragged along by the overzealous dogs. “Who is taking whom for a run?”, chuckled an amused Murthy.


“Rana….”, Murthy called out softly, sitting cross-legged on the floor of his balcony. His gaze was fixed on the majestic sunflower swaying gently in the breeze. An image of a tall, lanky child with a bright smile flashed before his eyes. Murthy’s thoughts went back in time to his days as a teacher. Not just Rana, there was Bhargavi, Arundati, Koushik, Sanjay and many more … small impressionable, trusting minds, lending themselves unabashedly to his classes. He had started his teaching journey as a primary school teacher and worked his way up to becoming the principal. Those were fulfilling years, thought Murthy with pride.

The garden, though modest, was diverse and pretty. Each plant, though confined to its pot, stood its ground, flaunting its unique aura – just like the kids he had taught. Murthy gazed lovingly at his babies. Every plant in his garden reminded him of an old student of his. He would talk to each one of them every day, sometimes for hours, reliving his life’s journey with a sense of deep satisfaction. “I had nurtured those young minds then, and these plants are nurturing me now in my lonely days”, thought Murthy. “And here again, the credit goes to Leela”. Gardening had been her favourite pastime. He had hardly shown any interest in it, while she was alive. She had had a green thumb, and it was only after her demise, that he had resolved to develop one – to make sure her garden thrives.

 “Ding-Dong!” – Murthy snapped out of his reverie. “Come in Krishna!”, Murthy said, welcoming in the young man at the door. “I will make some masala chai for you. Why don’t you sit and watch something on the TV?”.


Krishna walked at a brisk pace, often breaking into a trot, dancing to the whim of Arjun, Tara and Typhoon. He still had not gained the upper hand, though it had been more than a month since he had taken up professional dog walking to supplement his income. The dogs, however, did not take long to capture his heart! Krishna was a student of musicology at the local arts college and worked at the nearby restaurant in the evenings. He was also a bit of a shy loner – maybe that’s what made him seek out Murthy amongst the plethora of people hanging out in gangs at the park. No, actually, it was the dogs! They had dragged him to Murthy one day, insistent on sniffing at his ankles. And what started out as cursory exchanges soon grew into a stronger bond. Krishna often marvelled at this. He knew he was a loner and he guessed Murthy to be one too – he had never seen him stop to carry on a conversation with anyone though he seemed to know many in the park. Maybe it is this likeness that sparked their connection – each drawing comfort from the other’s non-intrusion, yet revelling in each other’s company and warmth!

Murthy waved at Krishna and the dogs from a distance. He sat down on the bench, waiting for them to catch up. This was a whole new experience for him. Never had he thought that he would actually look forward to having someone accompany him on his morning walks. Maybe it is the age catching up, or the loneliness, thought Murthy. But whatever it was, the blossoming of a new relationship did make his world seem brighter.

Typhoon, Arjun and Tara scrambled over one another, vying for Murthy’s attention. Murthy chuckled – all this attention after so many years satiated his ego. The last he was in the limelight was as the principal. “You don’t seem your usual self. What is the matter?”, enquired Murthy, frowning at Krishna. Krishna turned red, embarrassed at the scrutiny. Neither of them had ventured into personal conversations before. Murthy had never mentioned about Leela to Krishna and Krishna never spoke about his family or friends. Each fiercely guarded their veil of unfamiliarity and took care not to step on the other’s …until now. Krishna squirmed, unable to decide on his response. His bond with Murthy was strong enough to stop him from coining up a frivolous answer, while his urge to guard his privacy held him back from opening up. 

Murthy got up from the bench. “Let’s walk!”, he said, pulling playfully on Tara’s leash. Murthy and Krishna walked and trotted along, first in silence and soon engaged in their usual banter. “I broke up with my girlfriend Sir….and I feel terrible about it”, blurted Krishna, his face flushed with pain, embarrassment and relief.


“You are obsessed with either the dead or the non-humans!”. Krishna gave Murthy a last defiant glare before storming out of the house. Murthy plopped down on the sofa. He was amazed to see how calm he was. A confrontation like this, in his younger days, would have made him fume – in fact it did – so many times, some of the wounds from those, still raw.

Murthy viewed Krishna as the son he never had. The boy had dragged him out of the shell he had locked himself in, after Leela’s passing. And the beauty is that, this happened organically, thought Murthy. Both of them were recluses in their own way, neither wanting to step into the other’s world. They still didn’t…for the most part. Except for the moment when Krishna had shared the reason for his heart break. But that was about it. They had discussed no further. But they both looked forward to their quiet fellowship and their joint walks, or rather, trots, with Tara, Arjun and Typhoon.

However, in the last few weeks, Murthy had noticed a slight possessiveness creeping in on Krishna. In the beginning, it was so imperceptible that Murthy was quite unaware of it, until he connected the dots much later. Frustrated glares when Murthy was caught in his own thoughts, impatient grunts when he turned up late for the walks – all these went unnoticed. It was only when he spotted Krishna scowling when he was talking to his green babies, that Murthy got the first hint. He had brushed that aside too – in fact, it made him feel wanted – and that was invaluable in his lonely world. Then, he had seen Krishna get upset on seeing Leela’s things around the house. That had made him uncomfortable. And finally, Krishna’s outburst that day.

Murthy was pensive as he tried to fathom a solution. He was able to appreciate Krishna’s clinginess. Krishna had never mentioned a word about his family or friends, nor had he seen anyone call him. In such an isolated world, it was not hard to see jealousy creeping in on the one relationship that was so near, so real.  Murthy’s eye fell on Krishna’s wallet lying on the side table. “Aaha! I know what needs to be done! Scrambling to his feet, Murthy feverishly raided the wallet, trying to get a lead to Krishna’s girlfriend. And he did. Clutching the photo of a handsome young man, Murthy plopped down on the sofa, this time, shocked.


The day started like any other ‘concert day’ for Shakthi – he was the lead drummer in the band, ‘The 7 Notes’ and his wife, Thrisha, was a singer. Concert days would be taut with rehearsals in the morning, stage setup and acoustics in the afternoon, followed by makeup and costumes and finally setting the stage on fire!

Shakthi’s phone buzzed, when he was in the middle of a song rehearsal. He put out a hand casually to decline the call, when he caught sight of the caller. Shakthi froze. It took a few seconds more for the silence of the drums to permeate the band.  

A criss-cross of emotions tore Murthy apart as he stared at the photo in his hand. Flashes from his past seized his mind, boring deep into his heart. “Please dad! Try to understand me! This is not my mistake!” … “She is after all our child Murthy. If we don’t stand by her, how will the world?” … Tears streamed down Murthy’s cheeks. Those words, those pleas hadn’t moved him then. He had been blinded by his ego and his rigid notions. He hadn’t budged, not for his child’s sake, not even for Leela. With frightening conviction, he had banished his daughter from his life, his mind. Or so he thought, until today.

“Life is like a roulette wheel,”, introspected Murthy, “that at times hands out the same numbers. Even though the numbers are same, our perceptions of it sometimes change!  Then, he had been unable to understand or accept his daughter as she was. He had pushed her into a lonely abyss, rather than hold her hand when she needed it most. Now, was he any different?”

Murthy scrambled around, frantically trying to find something amongst Leela’s books. He had always suspected that she secretly kept in touch with their child. Running through a small diary, he finally found what he wanted. With steady, eager hands, Murthy dialled the number on the page. “Shakti…my son! How are you kanna?”. There was a painful silence that felt like an eternity. “Appa! ….” – the tremor in his son’s voice sliced through his heart. He glanced at Leela smiling down upon him from the wall.  I wish I had stood tall before you then, Leela!

Naga Vydyanathan

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10 thoughts on “Daddy by Naga Vydyanathan”

  1. Naga–
    In what you’ve stated to be your first published longer piece, you have presented something of great depth and subtlety. It raises questions–the good kind of questions. You continue to impress me with your growth as a writer.


  2. Hi Naga,
    You have set quite a high bench-mark for yourself, but that is all good.
    This is an excellent piece of writing.
    All the very best.


  3. The story’s got a gentle tone, and is clearly and skilfully written, with the theme of connection or lack of it, and of loss, everyone is in his or her own place of loneliness yet we can choose whether or not to reach out. These moves are often risky. I like the way Murthy changes his perceptions, with the arrival of Krishna and a kind of friendship developing between the two, representatives of the older and younger generations.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As others have said this is a beautifully gentle, poetic piece of writing with excellent word choices. What particularly stood out for me is how you use verbs to describe movement and how well it puts the reader in the action.


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