The very first question was - who is your favourite person?
"Mr. Rajeev Kumar, my papa," she typed out on the keyboard without any hesitation.
She looked at her father who was busy reading a newspaper. Yes, there was no doubt - he was her favourite person. Tall, fair, with a not very thick moustache, a sharp nose and bright, intense eyes which crinkled up when he smiled - he looked much younger than his age and, to Preeti, he was as handsome as her current favourite, Indian film star Hrithik Roshan.
Though Preeti was very fond of her mother she found her papa a lot more fun to be with. He told her stories, took her out for jogging in the morning, and even played table tennis with her. He had a great sense of humour and was always pulling some one's leg, making Preeti laugh.
But there was one quality of his that she didn't like. He had a vicious temper. He didn't lose it frequently, but when he did it was terrible. His eyes would become two narrow points breathing fire, his nostrils would flare, face would turn red and ears would go scarlet. He would start breathing rapidly, as if he had run a mile, and his hands would start shaking. Anger made him a completely different person.
Preeti had read a story called Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, in which a decent doctor at certain times suddenly gets transformed into a violent, monster-like man. Well, during his fits of temper her father, too, transformed from a sweet and adorable person to a fearsome... She didn't want to use the word even to herself, but she knew it was the truth - monster.
This was the only time when she felt terribly uncomfortable with him. Otherwise her papa's company was truly the best.
One evening Preeti and her papa were watching TV.
"Is Nayak uncle a bad man?"
Sarath Nayak was her father's colleague.
"No, of course not. Why do you ask?"
"That day you were saying that drinking is very bad. And in Seth Uncle's party I saw Nayak uncle drinking."
"Oh that!" he laughed, throwing his head back and pulling her close. Switching off the TV, he explained what he had meant. "Yes, I personally believe drinking is harmful for health.
But more important, many people, without realising, often drink a little too much. And when this happens they lose control over themselves. In that state they are no better than the beasts of the jungle. I would never like to reach that stage. And that is why I don't touch alcohol, he said."
"Papa, Nayak uncle is your best friend. Why don't you ask him to stop drinking."
"Listen Preeti, I consider alcohol to be bad, but that is my personal belief. He does not agree with me. I have told him a couple of times but he has always laughed it away. Doesn't matter really - to drink or not to drink is a personal choice. I do not allow that to come between me and Sarath."
A couple of months later Preeti's father decided to take her to the club for a swim. It was Preeti's first day in the pool and she was very excited about it.
They were a few kilometres from the club when, suddenly, a dog darted across the road. To avoid hitting it, Rajeev swerved his car a little to the left.
The Beast [Stories for kids]
By Ramendra Kumar; Illustrations by Anup Singh
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