He was a shippie. Six months on two off. A lot better than the days when his father was a shippie. Then it was twelve on two off. And the ship had Internet. And a satellite phone. A big ship whose masters paid him big bucks. Big bucks to take cars from Japan to America. Wheat from America to Africa. Once they even loaded iron ore off Goa. He could speak to her on his cell phone. Every day, for the three days they took to load up. Sometimes thrice a day. The big bucks were useful for buying the flat. The day he put down the down payment, he proposed. Yes yes yes. Three voyages and the money her grandfather had left her paid for the wedding. Honeymoon in Bali. Three days back home and the company wanted him to join a ship in Australia. No honey I can’t take you on ship with me. Only first officers and captains are allowed that. I’ll be first office next year. So he checked his email at the end of each watch and before the beginning of the next. It was raining back home. The BEST had gone on strike for a day. The parish priest was transferred. The new guy was a Keralite. He came home from that voyage and the party lasted sixty days. Back on board the Phillipino cook was trying to learn how to make Biryani. It just wasn't the same. She was sick. Go to your Mums house. You can't be by yourself. Not sick , sick. Morning sick. What? You heard me "Daddy. " He wrote to the co. Immediately so that he,d be there for the delivery. The only thing they stuck to a signoff schedule for, births and deaths. Eight pounds of heartbreaking smallness. As much hair on her head as he had on the back of his hand. Two little eyes that smiled at you, two little ears that .... And one big voice that raised hell if she wasn't fed or changed within three seconds. No honey, children below three aren't allowed on the ship. How can we leave her with Nana. The planning for the first birthday started via email three months before D day. The building had never seen a celebration like this. The whole compound walll was covered with pink balloons. Even the watchman got Biryani for dinner that night . Officially. Unofficially he got some beer. Another voyage, another ship, other ports. It's either her birthday or Christmas. Christmas. We'll celebrate her birthday next year. So Christmas it was with the dance at the gym and the Christmas bazaar where everyone who was linked to Bandra by a thread showed up. Where he stood in line with her on his shoulders to get her gift from Santa. Where he dried her tears when Santas ho ho ho set them off. He wasn't there for her first day of school. But she cried only a little bit she said. Master . That entitled him to family accommodation. The company schedule and the school schedule were at odds. Ok next voyage. Honey I'm sick. Yes yes the good sick. Can't talk now have to take Kim for her dance class. The Doctor says September. Too many large whiskies at the new years dance in Jan and you become a daddy in September. This contract finished in June. Two off meant he'd have to resume inAugust. Don't worry I'll manage. Mummy's here to help me with Kate. A boy. He didn't haul the first officer over the coals for the shoddy docking at Shangai. Damn He should have been there for the delivery. The school wants both parents for the admission interview. It's either that or her first communion. The dentist recommends braces. Forty-five thousand bucks ? Are they made of gold ? Shhh. Don't play the TV so loud . She has school tomorrow. Can you take them out for dinner You,ll laugh so loudly. Even the neighbors would get up. No we can't go to Goa in May. Kim has her piano exam then. Ok you go. Yes I know you work very very hard on the ship. Yes I know you need a holiday. The kids exams are in two months. The teacher says if we don't take it seriously now the kids won't take them seriously later. Ok. I'll be back late. He walked his little girl down the aisle . He knew where the time had flown. And she thought her daddy was crying for her.