Not all of us are givers, but when it comes to giving advice, we are all full of wisdom and exhibit a willingness to share our two pence. On a funny note, you get the maximum numbers of advice when you are unwell, from your mother to your neighbour, everyone will give you advice, even your Rickshawala. But above all these bits of advice is one more advice that says, “Listen to all, but trust only a few.”

So here are my five advice, follow only if your heart allows.

One for Health.

“Drink lots of water.” Water is the elixir of life. It lubricates joints, helps form saliva and mucus, delivers oxygen throughout the body, boosts skin health, regulates body temperature, streamlines the digestive system, maintains body temperature, prevents kidney damage, and and and…saves you from a bad hangover. The best part I like is that it can be consumed in forms of yummy juices, delicious coconut water and other lovely drinks.

One for wealth.

“Always be a good steward of your wealth.” You may significantly have a secondary income apart from your principal salary but if you don’t manage your wealth well then you will be a pauper one day or other. However slim the possibility might seem, but there is always a chance you might lose your job, your business goes in loss, or your services are terminated. In such times you shouldn’t get into a hand to mouth situation or even worse than that. To make sure always invest in something that gives you a regular income, learn to save money before spending and be a good manager of your wealth. Do not be greedy but save for the time of trouble.  

One for Love

“When in love, just give, give and give.” I know it sounds very filmy and very preachy, but it will solve most of the problems you have concerning love. When love enters our life, it comes with passion, expectations, desires and happiness. But have you ever thought we want more from the one we love and think less about what we are doing for him/her? What they will give you isn’t in your hands, but what you will provide them with is in your control. Give them your time, your companionship, your care, your counsel. Just imagine if everyone follows this simple rule, no one will be left needing and wanting, everyone will give, and in turn, everyone will get.

One for Happiness.

“Don’t share all your secrets.” Most of have someone we trust more than ourselves. We have complete faith in them, and thus we share everything, A to Z with them. But beware friends. Know that you will feel ditched and cheated by that very same person at least once in your lifetime. Today they are your best friend, or sister or lover, but tomorrow they might have moved away from you, estranged from you, fought with you. Even a small misunderstanding can turn friends into enemies, and that one time, you will regret sharing your deepest secret with them. So be on your guard and keep your deepest secrets with yourself and carry them to your grave.

One for Life

“This too shall pass.” In this one life, we go through many bright patches and many dark phases, but the truth is, they are just phases, spots, they will pass. Time never remains the same for anyone. It changes because change is the only thing constant, and we should embrace these two truths as soon as possible. Only then we will be able to evolve with ever-changing times. So whenever you are happy to look in the mirror and say out loud, “This too shall pass,” and whenever you are sad to look in the mirror and say out loud, “This too shall pass.” I promise you, this mantra will keep you rooted when you are floating in the air, and it will keep you uprooted when you will think you can’t stand life anymore. 

So I have done my share of advising. Now the ball is in your court. Go ahead and live healthily, live happily, live wealthy, live content and never regret.




Freedom of speech is under peril and suppression is on the rise. This has been a constant fabrication for centuries. But today’s risk is not only being incited by tyrants and sovereigns, as was the case in the past. Rather, it is being stoked up by the very people who are thought to protect this principle: democratically elected bureaucrats, artists, and journalists.

Article 19 of Human Rights declares that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression”. Yet, this right is unquestionably not certain because of the basic components of language.

Words, sentences and passages release impacts. They provoke sentiments in audiences and users. Language is never unbiased.

But far too often it is the case that analysts and diplomats give rise to unrealistic and absurd social aspects through the means of their platforms. They post, tweet and share to turn the tide of public opinion in or against sensitive matters, using inception and inducement to their personal cause.

Grievously, these radical viewpoints are not just limited to the boundaries of society. Rather, they are part of the game for governments in the mainstreams. At times of elections, these governmental bodies themselves hints that the right to freedom of speech is being used for worthless, adverse and evil purposes. This leaves us with a bigger problem, how to make sure there’s no obvious abuse of one’s right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

Owing to the heedless exercising of our right to freedom of speech, the decree to reduce the liberty of viewpoint and effect is, regrettably, growing powerful. It is an extremely saddening reality that general theory of common man infers that the circumstances are worse enough that they want their governments to resolve to forbid such speeches and therefore propose degrees of censorship.

Though the aim of forbidding people from making an attacking comment is good, it nevertheless serves as a catch-22 situation because it would deliver the governments with way too much authority in selecting what is or isn’t offensive. With power comes duties – and in this singular context, one’s duty includes not invoking disorder, chaos and mayhem. It is hence obvious why people would want to back governmental impose of censorship upon the manipulation of freedom of speech.

Only and only by using language for the right causes can we secure the liberal right to freedom of speech. However, like I always say, this isn’t a one-way road. Well-known figures, shouldn’t use blasphemy or profanity in a manner that justifies extensive monitoring and restrictions of our speech.

To sum it up I would like to recite Voltaire’s famous quote: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.


Arnold Schwarzenegger, did it I spell it right? For once, Yes. So he became my first favourite Hollywood star, why? Because he was The Terminator, the perfect Cyborg from future we all wanted to see, one that would be perfect, that what do things beyond human capabilities, that would answer most complicated questions, follow orders without question and kill without remorse. Yeah, I too cried in the end scene when he goes down the molten lava pit, but before that, he said something unforgettable, “I now know why you cry, but it is something I can never do.” and we knew that even though we love everything about a robot, it can never simulate human emotions and replace humans.

Who doesn’t love Technology? Everything from our phones to our fridge is getting smarter by the day, the brighter, the better. We enjoy the privilege, it eases our workload, our stress but would we tolerate technology replacing us? In schools as teachers, in hospitals as doctors, and kitchens as the chef. Wouldn’t that take out the element of uniqueness and surprise out from the equation. God made billions of us, each one different from the other, can we achieve that diversity? Every two writers have a different set of readers, why, because of their uniqueness. Can bots provide that connectivity, make us root for a character and cry for it? If a bot learns your mothers’ recipes and makes them the same way, would you be satisfied, won’t you be missing the loving touch of a mother?

Today everyday 3 million play PUBG, including myself. What is so addictive about the game? The answer is a human-like simulation, but the keyword here is LIKE, they can only kill, they can’t love unless we programme them to do so. The other day I was playing with my friend, and he was in the opposite team, I wanted to shake hands with his character, but I could only wave, that is how the characters are programmed, I was a bit disappointed but that was not all, he was on the other team, that meant I had to kill him to win the game, but I didn’t want to kill his simulation. I was thrown out of my team for bringing real emotions in a game. It’s fine until it’s all fun and games, but we know that in some part of the world, someone is using this technology to turn a man against man, to create the ultimate weapon and that won’t be fun like PUBG.

I have also played the famous The Sims game, and I know what it does to people. We vicariously try to fulfil our unfulfilled desires through our simulations, exacting revenge by naming our Sims by our foes names. We enjoy being God and what cruel Gods we prove to be. But at some point we realise, that my Sim can’t lie down next to her lover and have pillow talk, they can’t share the same meal from the same plate, they stand for each other through thick and thin.

I have seen movies like AI, Her and Bicentennial Man, each one made me cry. They all portrayed Robots turning an emotional leaf, feeling things like human beings, but the Human-Bot relationship never had a happy ending. AI was woven around a robot who was a child and had child-like traits, but they programmed him to imprint on the human mother like a real child. Later in the movie, when the mother had to abandon him, his search for his mother and the yearning to feel her love was heartbreaking.

Slowly, eventually, we are wrapping our minds around the idea of AI in our daily lives through various means. We like it or not, the coming generation will take to robots like fish takes to water.

All these examples when seen through juxtaposition prove one thing in common, Robots should remain limited to our gadgets, for the good of their development and safety of the human race. Their intervention with the real world can end up in a catastrophe. Phlegmatic like Simulation from PUBG or impassioned like Samantha of Her, they will never be able to know right from wrong like human beings.

You can teach a robot that theft is wrong and thief should be punished, but who will preach them that a child stealing sweets from the kitchen isn’t theft. You can train them to be great doctors but how will they learn that you can’t tell a dying man he is dying to his face.

We are a creation of God; we are a complex species with an amalgamation of good and evil, love and hate, vice and virtue. We have been given immense power, and that power is free will, and like all powers, this power too comes with a responsibility. The responsibility to make the right choice. And no matter how hard we try, our creation can’t beat his’.

Hasta La Vista Baby!


This winter was proving to be the hardest winter of her life. All Meera could do now was wait. Wait for the embryo she was supposed to carry which would take more than a month, and then it was all luck. It will take another ten days to confirm if she got pregnant. And if all went well, they would bring her Sia to her then. It meant at least 40 more days. She closed her eyes and murmured, ‘Just a little more time Doll. Hang in there. Just a little more patience, Mumma will come to get you.’

Meera was put on meds and injections from the next day, hormones and chemicals her body needed, to prepare itself for the pregnancy. They were making her body receptive for the transplant. Meera was told that commercial surrogacy was illegal in India now, and thus all the paperwork clearly states that this was all altruistic surrogacy and no money was involved. She laughed at the irony. But Mr Mehta very clearly told her few things, ‘You will relinquish the baby to us and have no legal rights over it. You will never even try to visit the baby. And you won’t get any more money after this.’

She wanted to tell him; she did not want their child, she had one of her own but kept quiet. The day finally came when the procedure was carried out, and she was implanted with the embryo. Now it was a matter of few days that it was confirmed she’s pregnant. She knew she was, even before the reports came positive. Mother’s instinct was starting to kick in.

The Mehtas were ecstatic. The first thing the Mehtas did was to distribute sweets in the whole hospital, and the next was to bring a small briefcase of money to the hospital. He gave a hefty bundle to Dr Nair, and Dr Nair gave a part of it to Sushma. Sushma’s greed made her look uglier than she was.

She was leaving with the money when she turned towards Meera. Meera could tell there was no remorse in her.

“Thank me Meera, for bringing you here. Giving you this golden opportunity and changing your life for better.” Sushma said with brazen audacity.

Meera smiled, “Thank You, Didi. You truly are my guardian angel. May you too get lucky enough to lose everything else and end here like me.” Meera said with cold sweetness. Sushma huffed and left without another word. Meera thought she heard the words ‘Ungrateful’ and ‘Selfish‘.

The Mehtas then gave her the money that was her share. They thanked Meera over and over for her kindness. But she didn’t touch the money; she had only one thing to say, “I want my Sia, Now!”. The Mehtas decided it was only fair enough now to bring her girl to her. She was giving them their child; they must give her the daughter for whom she’s doing it all.

That evening Mr Mehta drove down to Trinity Orphanage. He had located the place a week ago. He pulled into the driveway and felt queasy to see the empty grounds and dark windows of the small building. He went to the door that said ‘Administration’ but it was locked. He went around the building to the church adjacent to it; two labourers were hauling benches out of place.

Mr Mehta stopped one of them and enquired, “Where are you taking this stuff?” He was perplexed.

“The tenants’ lease was over. The owner asked us to vacate the place.” One of the two labourers roared his voice echoing in the empty building.

“By tenants, you mean the Orphanage people?”, he asked, and the labourer nodded.

“Where did they all go?” He asked, desperation creeping up his spine.

The labourer stopped his work; he was getting vexed by the questions. He came closer to Mr Mehta, “Sir, we are movers. We don’t know who’s the owner and who was the tenant. All we know is that it was an Orphanage next to this church, and they all have left. If you want more info, call our office and ask them about the owners who might have info on tenants.” He said with finality and went back to his work.

Mr Mehta was less concerned about a labourer dismissing him and more concerned about the consequences. What will happen when he tells Meera about this. She wouldn’t stay back to carry out the pregnancy if she knew he had lost traces of her daughter.

“When was this place vacated?” Me Mehta asked.

This time the other one replied, “three days ago, and outside is our truck, it has our company name and number, you can take it down.” He said carrying two benches outside.

Mr Mehta took down the number to the movers and went back to his car.

“Just three days ago.” He signed to himself, cursing his luck. He knew the address of this place, Meera gave it to him long back, but he chose not to come till he had his good news. Feeling fretful he drove back to the hospital.

Meera was waiting anxiously; she saw Mr Mehta approach and her eyes were searching around his feet, to see Sia wobbling with him. But her face fell and lost its pallor when she saw the man was alone. Her eyes instantly brimmed with tears and betrayal.

“Where’s Sia?” She yelled.

Mr Mehta had prepared his defence. He needed to buy time. “Calm down Meera; it’s not good for you.” He said patronising.

She blinked the tears out of her eyes and spat back, “To hell with goodness!!! Where’s my daughter?” She demanded.

Mr Mehta faltered, “I…went looking for her. But because of extreme cold wave this year, they have shifted the kids to a warmer city, and I don’t know where yet but…” he added before she could talk, “but…I wouldn’t wait for them to return, I would keep looking. You have to gimme some time.” He told earnestly, and Meera sobered up. So Sia was okay, she was in a warmer place.

Her patience was running out, and she warned, “if I don’t get my child, you won’t get yours either.”

Her warning shook Mr Mehta; it would be devastating if she decided to go to the police or even worse, harm their baby. He gave strict instructions to the hospital staff to make sure Meera isn’t leaving hospital premises and is watched 24\7.

That evening he dialled the number he had got from the movers, but no one picked, he realised it was a three day weekend. He phoned three days later, and a tired, dragged voice came over the call.

“Hello. Bags & Baggages, Move It, Move It, Move it!. What can we do for you?” Came the practised query following the advertisement.

“Hello there, I need some help. A few days ago you moved the furniture from Trinity Orphanage, can you tell me where they are relocated.” He said in one go “Please…” he added at the end, wasn’t he taught that a ‘Please could open closed doors for you’ back in school.

“That stuff was all sold for resale. It wasn’t moved out. We dumped it at a used furniture shop.” The man at the other end informed.

“By any chance do you have the contact number of the tenants or the owners of that place?” Mr Mehta was losing hope by the minute, “please”, he said once again. He wasn’t used to being humble usually, but parenthood was already teaching him humility.

The voice on the other end went silent, “let me check records” he said, and after five long minutes, he came back on the line. “We don’t have any information except that the owners live in the US and the tenants went to a city far enough where this furniture could not be hauled. And before you ask further, I have no contact number of either.” With these words, the call was hung up.

Mr Mehta felt a severe headache coming. He didn’t know what to do next.

He avoided Meera for the next week. She didn’t have any cellphone, and she was not allowed to leave her room to make calls. Radha was the one who took the heat of her anger.

“Ask Mr Mehta to come and meet me.” Meera shrieked at Radha for the umpteenth time. Radha had made calls to Mr Mehta and each time he told her to calm her down for few more days. But today Meera had denied taking any supplements of medicines. This could have consequences.

Mr Mehta came to the hospital and was confronted by a furious Meera. “When are you getting me, my daughter? You think you can keep me here, locked up while you just let her rot somewhere?” Meera’s eyes were burning. Her BP had been running dangerously high, and it worried the intended father.

“See Meera; she is completely safe where she is. They are taking good care of her. I have personally spoken to them, and they say they will be back by April end. We have to wait till then because even if I go to take Sia, they won’t give her to me. I am a nobody. Let them be back; I will take you to bring Sia with you. I promise.” Mr Mehta said buying time; he knew the first few months were important, once she entered the second trimester, she won’t be able to terminate the pregnancy as it would be a threat to her own life too and she wanted to live, for Sia.

Meera went through regular blood tests and scannings to see if the baby was growing fine while she waited with bated breath for Sia’s return. It was finally nearing the end of April, and she was waiting for Mr Mehta to go and bring Sia. He said he would go the very next day; she could hardly contain her tears.

Mr Mehta had planned it out; he would vanish for the next five months. He had paid the hospital a hefty amount to make sure Meera was taken care of, and she delivers a healthy baby. He wanted people to think it his wife was pregnant and that meant he needs to disappear from the city till he gets the news of the baby’s birth. He was on his way to Delhi from Manali with his wife. It was raining heavily, and his tyres were skidding on the wet hairpin turns of the mountain. It was a sharp turn, and his windshield went blind with water from rain. He was driving on sheer guesswork and experience of these roads when he saw headlights blaring his eyes, and he turned his wheel but the lights collided with him and all went dark.

Meera didn’t know what to do now. She was standing outside the hospital with a small bag in her hand. As soon as the hospital people got the news of the demise of both Mrs and Mr Mehta in a car accident they threw Meera out, calling her a liability. She was an asset one day ago. They kept her share of the money and dragged her out while she cried and screamed for help. She didn’t know where to go. She threatened to go to the police and they told her that if they went to jail, she would go with them, she was no less criminal.

She had lost everything now. Her daughter, the money, her body, and her job. The Job? Suddenly she remembered she was asked to come back on work in March. She forgot all about her past life in these few months. She was carrying a baby she could not risk terminating. The only place that would give her shelter now was her old employers. She climbed the bud to Kullu and made it to her employers home, where she spend some good time with Sia in servant quarters. The mere sight of the wooden mansion made her cry.

She went in and was greeted with sarcastic and hurtful comments from her old Madam. She was furious that she was not back there when she told her to be there on March 1st. Meera apologised and cried and begged and got her old job back. It was not out of mercy but because they had not been able to find a replacement yet and she was thankful for that. They enquired about Sia, and she lied that Sia was with her Aunt Sushma in Manali. It suited them fine; no Sia meant less hassle.

Two days later Meera felt weak and fatigued. She did all the housework single-handedly with no medicines or supplements anymore. And on the third day, she was washing the Verandah, and Hrishi asked about Sia. The thought of Sia wrenched her heart from her chest, will she ever get her girl back,? Will she ever see her again?

Meera was so overwhelmed with emotional, physical and mental stress that she fainted and the secret of her pregnancy was out. What followed was tired of blasphemy and profanity from her Madam. She called her everything, from characterless to prostitute and threw her out of her house.

And once again Meera found herself on the road. Helpless, penniless and hopeless.


(Note: In December 2018, after almost two years of debate, an Indian surrogacy law was passed that:

  • Made commercial surrogacy illegal
  • Only allows altruistic surrogacy for needy, infertile Indian couples
  • Requires intended parents to be married for five years and have a doctor’s certificate of their infertility
  • Restricts women to being surrogates only once, and only if they are a close relative of the intended parents, are married and have a biological child
  • Bans single parents, homosexuals and live-in couples from surrogacy)


Kamya and Samar were all smiles as their eyes went over the crowd of kids in all ages and sizes. Two boys were scuffling over a toy truck, a small girl was learning how to play the harmonica from a boy her age a, and a tiny baby girl was crawling between the beds. Kamya picked up the crawling baby girl and held her while the baby touched her cheek with his small hands. Kamya closed her eyes and pressed the baby to her bosom, ‘Oh! What joy it is to hold a baby.’ She thought while Samar beamed at her and nodded.

He ran a hand on the baby’s head, and she cooed, making babbling noises, and the couple couldn’t help but laugh. Mr. and Mrs. Shaw were watching this from the sides; this was not a rare scenario for them. Every couple who comes to take a baby home for adoption was the same, full of love, hope, and faith. How many have left happily with a baby, innumerable! Wasn’t it such injustice that their parents abandoned these kids while someone else comes to take them home. The Shaws had seen both sides of parentage without being a parent themselves.

While Kamya played with the baby girl, Samar gave her some space. A woman needs to be sure she has chosen the right baby to be a mother too. Samar was himself a psychotherapist and knew about feelings and emotions better than other people. Samar let his wife take her time while he strolled between the kids, observing them, smiling at their antics. And his eyes fell on Sia who was busy with her colouring book. He went on his haunches to see what she was drawing.

Sia stopped colouring when she saw the strange man kneel next to her and looked up, then eyed the Kamya and the baby girl with longing in her eyes. Samar didn’t fail to notice that.

“Hello, Princess! May I see what Her Highness is painting?”, Samar asked in a courteous, grown-up manner.

Sia smiled, her mother too called her ‘Princess’. She extended her drawing book towards him, and he took it with a ‘Thank you My Majesty’.

He flipped the pages; each page was a tale in itself. A tale of a family, of death, of estrangement. He looked at Sia with pain in his eyes. The colourful pages had a castle and a family and an even a funeral pyre. Samar gave her back her book.

“You too were playing hide and seek with your baby girl?” Sia asked with her eyes on Kamya. Samar turned her head in his wife’s direction who was busy getting accustomed to the baby.

He nodded, and Sia went on, “Would you keep one secret if I tell you?”, there was wonderment in Sia’s brown eyes.

Samar nodded, “My Mom too will come to take me. We too are playing hide and seek. I have to wait…” She counted the days on her fingers and added, “Eighty more days.” Sia told a stunned Samar.

Samar wanted to know more and probed with utmost care. He whispered to let Sia feel it was confidential. “Yes, she will come back. What’s her name?”

“I am Princess Sia, and my mother is Meera,” Sia told Samar.

Samar ruffled her hair, and she went back to her drawing. He was in the main office with The Shaws and was signing the legal contract for the baby girls adoption. Besides him Kamya sat with tears of happiness in her eyes, she was a mother now, officially. They named the baby ‘Muskaan‘ as she came in their lives like a smile.

When all the formalities were over, he broached Sia’s topic to Mr Arijit Shaw. “Mr Shaw, I have a rare, rather unusual request,” Samar said.

Arijit exchanged a worried look with Renuka, they both had made sure the couple’s background was good, practically and theoretically, and they had the baby, what could they need now.

Arijit cleared his throat and crossed his fingers on the table between the two couple and asked, “I am all ears.”

“That little girl…Sia, it’s about her.” Samar said and had made his wife look at him curiously along with The Shaws.

“She claims her mother will come to take her back in some three months time. And I want to take her with us till her return.” Samar said with confidence in his voice.

Arijit Shaw gulped and sighed, “Mr Verma I understand your concern for Sia, but kids spin all kind of tales to escape from harsh realities of life. Who knows if her mother is real or just her imagination? The child had a vivid imagination and already talks about castles and witches, so it is not unusual for her to spin a tale of Hide and Seek as a coping mechanism to deal with abandonment.”

Samar smiled, “Yes, exactly. I believe that too. You know I am a psychotherapist and know about these tendencies. I can bet my money that no one is coming back to take that kid back, but I have my hope pinned on her story, that her mother will indeed come back. Meanwhile, if you let us take her with us, we would be glad. She is waiting for her mother desperately and…” He paused rubbing his temple, “and I don’t want her to go to pieces when her mother doesn’t return to take her back. Who knows the woman is real or alive like you said.”

Renuka didn’t like the conversation at all. She fancied the opportunity to adopt Sia, and she doesn’t really want to lose that opportunity at any cost provided that her mother doesn’t come back to retake her ever. She quickly interrupted, And what if she does come back? For that reason, we can’t afford to allow Sia for adoption at any cost Mr Verma… I am really sorry.” 

“You can call me anytime in regards to Sia; I would come to take her with myself… but if we can…” Samar could not complete his sentence as Mr Shaw again interrupted as he felt the emotions of his own wife. 

“Alright Mr Verma, we will discuss that later… As for Muskaan, give us one day to think. Tomorrow you can come and take her with you, we need to tie the loose ends of the paperwork.” Arijit Shaw said, and Samar shook his hand.

While driving back to his home, he looked at Kamya who had tears in her eyes. He knew why she was so quiet. She too once was promised that her father would take her back, but he never did. He left her with a friend and never returned. She went mad waiting for him, and when she got a handful to tackle, her caretakers had handed her over to an orphanage. As she grew up, she was repeatedly raped by the men of the orphanage until she ran killed her rapist and was jailed. She was put under psychiatric care by the court, and he was her treating Dr He fell in love with her and cured her with his care and respect. But the men who exploited her innocence had rendered her infertile. And five years after their marriage he had convinced her to adopt a child.

He loved Kamya and didn’t want another girl to end up like Kamya.


Winters are Here!!!“, Exclaimed little Sia as she gazed out of her small room window, with her button nose sticking to the glass of the window pane. Her eyes were wide open in awe, as she saw nothing but white and fluffy snow cover the neighbourhood as far as she could see. Trees, cars, houses, lampposts, all were coated in white overnight, and it looked like Christmas Town from her crystal ball.

Mom, I will make Snowman and play with Hrishi after we make a snow castle in the yard.” She informed her mother excitedly and added, “And Dad and I will have a snowball fight once he is back.” She concluded as her mother picked the 5 yr old from the bed on her back like a gunny sack and prattled in the room. Little did Sia know that her Dad was never coming back, he was dead. Nor did she know that it was not a happy time for her mother. She worked as a maid in a household, and they had given her a room in servants quarters along with a scanty salary to her on the condition that she will be available 24/7. But the problem came when her employers informed her that they will be moving out of Kullu for about three months and will come back in spring and she will have to fend for herself meanwhile. That meant three long months with no job, no money and no place to live. Meera had not a single penny in the name of savings; her meagre earnings hardly left anything to save.

But Meera had two characteristics, she was tenacious, and she was a good liar. She had fabricated beautiful lies to keep Sia happy, telling her she was a princess like Cinderella and one day she will find her prince. She even lied to her employers and told them she would have no problem, that she had relatives nearby, that she will like this break, she needed no pity. She and her daughter have come this far; they will survive the winter too. But beneath all that mettel, she was scared to death. Her grit and courage turned to mush when she thought about Sia. Where will she take her? What will she feed her? Sia was already vulnerable and weak from the Pneumonia she had last year; she must not fall sick once again.

Doll, you know na you can’t play with Hrishi, we are going on a holiday.” She told Sia while stuffing all her clothes in a worn out bag and made her wear a thick sweater.

Meera!!! Meera!!!“, came the voice of her Madam.

Coming Madam!” Meera answered and ran out.

Her employer stood with her family, all carrying bags, loading suitcases on the hood of their SUV. Meera ran to them and helped the driver load the bags in the boot.

Here, keep this. Vacate the room and give keys to watchman“, her Madam said while sitting in the car and pressed a 500Rs note in her palm.

Be here on 1st of March. Okay!” She said, and Meera nodded. The car skidded away, and Meera sighed, watching the lone note in her hand as she made her way back to the room, all ready to leave.

She packed everything she owned, it all came in one bag and held Sia’s small hand as she locked the one-room home that had been her safe-haven for past eight months. She handed the keys to the watchman and made her way to the only place she hoped to find shelter. She took the bus to Manali, where her husbands’ sister and her family lived. Meera had her address on a piece of paper and located the small house that was over a local bar. She picked Sia up in her arms and went up the stairs as all the men in the bar eyed her. The door flew open, and she was face to face with the virago named Sushma, her Sister-In-Law.

The tall and broad built woman eyed Meera head to toe and moved aside to let her in.

Why are you here? What do you want now? You ate my beloved brother and now have come to eat me too?“, She barked at Meera.

No Didi, I need your help. I need a place to stay. Just….“, She wiped her brow and placed her bag on the floor, “Just for three months.” Meera said patting Sia’s back.

THREE MONTHS!!!” The domineering woman yelped harshly eyeing Sia. “That too free of cost?” She asked incredulously.

No, not free of cost. I will work for you. Help you with work. Do whatever you say. Ï need shelter in this cruel winter; then I will leave when my employers are back.” Meera said with a plea in her eyes.

Sushma seemed appeased and nodded her head. “Alright, come after me.” She took her to the kitchen and said, “We have no room for you, make do here, and behind the kitchen is a store, keep your stuff there.” She said, and Meera nodded with a sigh of relief as she sent a prayer heavenwards.

Meera was asked to come downstairs and help in the kitchen. She felt intimidated by the crass and bawdy gentry but has no option. She catered to the clientele and tolerated their vulgar comments and tawdry looks for the sake of Sia. Her brother-in-law told her to toughen up if she has to work here and she merely nodded.

At night she lay on a thin mat on the kitchen floor, holding Sia in her arms, covering her as best as she could with a blanket when she spun tales for her. “You know, we are like Hansel and Gretel in the chocolate house of the wicked witch, and soon we will run away,” she told Sia in an animated tone, and she would look at her with wonderment, asking innocent questions till she dozed off.

Meera worked from dawn to dusk, all for a place to stay and three meals a day for her and Sia. A week went by, by now she had learnt to ignore the loud and gross gentry of the small motel downstairs. That night she had cleaned the kitchen and came upstairs to check on Sia when she heard her cries. She went to the kitchen to check, no one was there, she checked the store, Sia was not there either. But the crying got louder, and Meera ran to her Sister-in-law’s room and froze to see the sight. Her brother-in-law holding Sia in his lap and was trying to take off her frock.

Meera screamed and slapped the man, pulling her daughter away from the demon. The monster held Meera by the hair and hit her hard, calling her colourful names.

You think you are some high and mighty queen and your daughter is a princess. I have heard the tales you tell her at night. Don’t give her false hopes. Thank me for keeping you beggars here.” He shrieked.

Meera could not believe her ears, Sia was crying loudly and she picked her up and ran away from the beast. She didn’t even stop to take her things, she just left with Sia, running, putting as much distance as she could between him and Sia.

It was an hour later that she stopped to breathe, crying bitterly, cursing her luck. She sat on a rock and cried as for as long as she could and then looked up at the sky. The night was a clear midnight blue, and stars twinkled. Sia loved stars, she said they are diamonds up there. Meera closed her eyes and prayed, prayed for a way, a single ray of hope. She got up and moved, just to stay warm, or her blood might freeze. She walked for another mile when she saw a church and a building next to it that read ‘Trinity Orphanage Home’. Meera read it twice and looked at Sia.

No, No, what is she thinking…how can she even fathom to get separated from her lovely doll. But where will she take her in this winter night with no money? She sat on a sill outside the church and kissed Sia over and over, crying all the while as Sia was sleeping with a lovely smile on her lap. She woke Sia up.

Sia, baby, wake up, wake up and listen to Mumma” Meera patted her cheek.

Sia opened her eyes and blinked, rubbing the sleep from her eyes and with the heel of her small palms.

What is it, Mumma? Have we killed the monster?” Sia asked and smiled.

Sia, Mumma killed the monster. Yes, but now we need to play hide and seek.” The child blinked with apt curiosity, the word ‘Play’ got her attention.

Play?” She asked.

YES, Play. Listen carefully. Mumma is going to hide for some time, and Sia has to hide too, she must not get caught. Okay.” Meera prompted, and Sia nodded.

Okay, now after some time, go to that door” She pointed to the church door, “Go there and go inside. They will ask you about Mumma, do not tell them anything. Say Mum and Dad are gone. Okay. Do that baby, there you will get a warm bed, good food and toys to play. There are a lot of kids there too. And sometime later, Mumma will come back and take you, Okay, you understand.” Sia nodded again, and Meera kissed her small hands, hugged her and left her there, hiding behind a tree in the dark, watching Sia go to the church door.

Every night dies to birth a new day
Every season ends to let the next one bloom
The dry leaves wither for new ones to sprout
So if things seem dark, and you feel it can’t get worse than this, remember something Wonderful is round the corner…