That day dawned like any other day, with me racing against time to get ready for school, entertaining my sister so that she would eat, and tying my father's tie, a feat he couldn't accomplish though he was a grown man.
But unlike any other day, I never saw it coming.
Maybe it was in the eyes of my father when I brushed nonexistent dust from his suit, or maybe it was in my mother's poorly-hidden frown. My five-year-old sister was the only one, other than me, who had zero clue. But you could say everything literally went down the drain during dinner that night.
Let me tell you, parents and troubled looks were always a bad combination.
Going bankrupt was something that had never crossed my mind. Having genius parents and hardworking employees meant there wasn’t much reason for such thoughts. But no one was invincible, and that included my father. Foul play and pride... My father was in too deep before realising that it was too late.
In movies, the story of a construction company CEO who goes bankrupt because of the dirty moves of a rival company trying win the ultimate contract was a plot worthy of an entertaining drama. In movies, the bankrupt CEO would somehow face everything single-handedly and win against all odds and get his happy ending where he rides off into the sunset.
But real life worked differently.
In real life, getting bankrupt meant starting over again. In a new place, with a new job.
And that's when my dad's best friend, Vimal, came into the equation.
Some time in the past my father had helped him financially, and when he heard news about the bankruptcy, he offered to help, even though our relatives didn't even bother. But old habits die hard and even going bankrupt didn't make my father lose his pride. He wasn't a freeloader.
Parents and troubled looks were always a bad combination.
Just like going bankrupt and asking to dress as a guy were a bad combination.
One offer. I had to befriend Vimal-uncle's major partner’s lone kid who studied in Vimal's school, find out if he was using drugs or other depressing stuff, try to redeem him, and then get out of the all boys school without being caught.
I was willing to sacrifice my gender in return for my father working under his best friend with “dignity.” This was a stupid deal to start with. And let's not even think about the consequences.
But when push turns to shove, and you know your father well enough to understand that he's that man who would do anything to have his head held high, you'd find yourself arguing against your parents who didn't want you to sacrifice anything but who wouldn't take up a friend's offer because that meant taking advantage of their friend. You'd find yourself agreeing to cutting your hair short, wearing a vest to conceal your femininity, and trying to copy the mannerisms of a boy. You'd find yourself getting admitted in an all boy's school as a boy, assigned to be the roommate of someone who was nothing more than a mission.
Who should be nothing more than a mission.
But like I said, real life worked differently.
And before I knew it, I was in deep, too.