Her magical embrace

My daughter was barely two-years-old when I bid a fond farewell to my family.

It was November 1999 and everyone was excited about the arrival of the new millennium. I was working as an engineer at a leading automation company. I was deputed to install and commission a new robotic welding machine at a customer’s manufacturing facility – this customer was a sheet metal part supplier to one of the leading car manufacturers. The customer hoped that the state-of-the-art robot supplied by us would become a showpiece of his facility.

My daughter was barely 2 years old at that time, and I bid a fond farewell to my family, fully expecting to be reunited with them in a couple of weeks time. Little did I know what was in store for me!

Things started going wrong from the beginning. The customer’s factory, which was located in a remote location in rural Haryana,was not ready when I reached the site. The walls were open, which meant that the icy winter winds blew in, making us numb with cold. There was dense fog all through the day and I hardly saw the sun during my stay. We worked day and night to commission the robot – many a time I had to skip my lunch and dinner.

One day, I was summoned in the middle of the night by the customer’s plant manager. The robot had broken down, and if I didn’t come immediately, the car assembly line would halt next day, surely damaging our customer’s reputation. I got up groggy-eyed, my heart pounding and nervous, while cursing my fate and wondering what the problem could be.

At the plant, fortunately, I found out what the problem was, reprogrammed the robot, and sat in the customer’s factory the whole day – unshaven,unbathed, tired and hungry – to ensure that the production ran uninterrupted. Thankfully, the robot worked without any more problems that day, and gradually, things stabilised and the customer was able to supply parts consistently to his client.

Finally, on the first day of the millennium, the senior management team of the car maker arrived at the plant, saw the robot producing parts flawlessly, and congratulated our customer for having successfully introduced new technology, and declared that he could look forward to getting further orders from them. On hearing this, the face of the customer broke out into a broad smile and he looked at me with gratitude.

My company said that I could return to Bangalore. It had been almost two months since I had left home, and I look-ed forward to being reunited with my family. It was a late night flight from Delhi to Bangalore, and was past midnight when I reached home. The house was dark and I let myself in with my spare key. My wife and daughter were fast asleep. I didn’t want to wake them up – I would speak to them the next morning.

As I crept into bed, my little daughter stirred in her sleep. Her eyes fluttered open and she looked at me – at first, she didn’t recognise me, but when she realised who it was, her little face broke out into an angelic smile. She cried out ‘Appa!’ and put her arms around me. At that moment – with my daughter’s tiny arms around my neck, her face snuggling my shoulder and the sweet smell of her hair – made me forget all the troubles that I had faced  – the misery of the winter cold, the tension and anxieties during my assignment, the long working hours.

Everything seemed to melt away in that magical moment. I felt like I was the luckiest person on the planet. That mom-ent will remain with me as long as I live.

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