A SNOWFLAKE’S TALE – PART VIII

Meera was crying inconsolably and cursing her fate. She was thinking that she made a big mistake by leaving Sia at the orphanage. She was shocked to see the turn of things which landed her here in this isolated cold room. Yes, Meera was feeling cold because she had never experienced the luxury of AC ever in her life. Meera closed her eyes shut but that didn’t prevent the tears from rolling down her cheeks. She was repeatedly praying to God to safeguard Sia and to make her able to fight for herself in this big bad world. Meera was loosing her hope to make out alive from this trap.

A loud thud jerked Meera out of her trance and she was surprised to see a lady doctor walk in with a few sheets of papers. Meera closely observed the lady. It was the first time in so many days that she thought she had seen a good human being. Such was the aura of that doctor.

Hi Meera. I am Dr Sudha Nair” said the doctor extending her right hand out for a handshake. Meera was too baffled to understand what is happening. Meera didn’t know how react.

The doctor continued, “First of all, I want to congratulate you Meera for this brave decision of yours. I understand that you have not been given a clarity with respect to what is expected from you and that is exactly why I am here. Meera, there are countless couples in this world who crave for having their own children but for some reason they cannot. There is a couple who wants a surrogate mother and we are considering you for the same. The couple is willing to pay 15 lacs INR in return. All that you will have to do is grow their child in your womb. They will take care of you for all 9 months including your stay, food and nutrition plus health and hygiene. Give it a good thought Meera. A commitment of just 9 months will fetch you a good life and a great future. You can take a day’s time to make up your mind. I will come back tomorrow to know your decision. Take care Meera.” Having said that, Dr Sudha turned and walked out of the room swiftly closing the door behind her with a loud thud.

The room was back to what it was. Cold and isolated. Dr Sudha’s words were echoing in Meera’s years. Meera couldn’t believe her ears. 15 lacs INR?? Meera wasn’t sure if she could even count the whole amount. This amount was more than sufficient to provide good life and education to Sia.

Meera started talking to herself. “With this money I can give a good life to Sia. I will give her education and make her a doctor… Doctor like Mrs Sudha Nair. Then I will get her married to a nice man and then I can rest in peace. God… Thank you God for answering my prayers…” Meera’s happiness heaved a sigh of relief.

And then suddenly something struck her… She mumbled in fear….”How will I grow someone else’s child in my womb? Does it mean… Does it mean that I will have to sleep with a stranger??? No..no I can’t do that.. No.. never… But then how can I get Sia back? How can I give her a good life? How can I make her a doctor? And who will marry her? God… Oh God, you are testing me, aren’t you?”

Meera was feeling giddy because of whirlpool of these thoughts. Poor lady, little did she know that she will not need to do this to rent her womb.

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A SNOWFLAKE’S TALE – PART VII

Renuka was still teasing Arijit about the morning’s incident. Arijit was also taking it sportingly.

He said, “You know, one good thing happened in this whole melee Sia smiled a bit for the first time since she came here.

That’s great!” said Mrs Shaw.

Looks like she is finally adjusting here. You know the kids had started calling her ‘The Weird One’. She used to sit in a corner and talk to her imaginary Mom.

She talks only to Aarav. Yesterday she asked Aarav whether he too is playing hide and seek with his Mom. A strange question don’t you think?

Give her some time dear. She will be fine. She has such a cute innocent face I feel an emotional connection with her already.” Reassured Arijt.

In the night, when Sia was lying on the bed she was talking to her mom and telling her about what happened with her the whole day. “Rohan is such a baby. He is scared of lizards. He turned the whole house topsy turvy today when he saw a lizard. Every body was running around and Mr Shaw was also running. Do you think Mr Shaw is also scared of lizards? Tell me Mom? Tell me, are grownups also scared?

Mumma is everyone here playing Hide and Seek? I don’t want to play this anymore. I want you back. I don’t want the gift. But please Mumma come and stay here with me. You will like Mrs. Shaw, she is a nice lady. You can help her in her work.” Sia was missing her mom terribly. She craved for the bed time stories, the games and the food her mom made for her. People here in the orphanage were very nice to her, there were toys to play and food to eat. But still it felt incomplete. She fell asleep as she was conversing to herself.

Meanwhile Meera was still trying to comprehend what was happening to her. Things were moving a bit too fast for her to cope. She was taken into a medical room and blood samples were taken and lot of tests were done. She didn’t have the energy to protest. She was given food and then sent to a room. The bed was comfortable. It was only after she lay down on the bed, that her mind started whirring with multiple questions. “Did they really want her to rent out her womb? But Why will I do that?” Panic was setting in. “What will happen to Sia? How can I stay here? No, I need to get to my daughter as quickly as I can.” She tried to run but the door was locked. She was a prisoner here. Horror stuck Meera as she realised that she had jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

A SNOWFLAKE’S TALE – PART VI

Liiiizzzaaarrddd……, rruuunnnnn, rrruuunnnnn,” shrieked and yelled Rohan, when he saw a lizard on the wall next to him. His sudden outburst had caused all the children of the Trinity Orphanage Home, to run here and there. Within few seconds, the calm and disciplined environment, turned into a chaotic one. On hearing the commotion, Mr. Shaw rushed downstairs and was greeted by a terrific topsy – turvy room. He didn’t know what to do or whom to call. Wherever he turned, he saw children shrieking and staffs running after them to ensure they do not hurt themselves. Finally he spotted that it was Rohan who was yelling at the top of his voice. He somehow managed to squeeze himself and reached Rohan. “Rohan, Rohan! Listen to me, that lizard is not even coming your way, please stop shouting. Look at me Rohan, the lizard itself got scared by the commotion and see its nowhere in sight. Please stop screaming dear, see what a mess this has become!” Rohan stopped screaming only after seeing an empty wall. It took Mr. Shaw pretty long time to settle stuffs and bring back normalcy. When he saw all the kids were engaged in some or the other activities, he quietly sneaked upstairs. “And people say kids are innocent! I think they are not kids but little monsters!!” Mr. Shaw murmured to himself as he entered his room. He was waiting to narrate the whole episode to Mrs. Shaw.

Mrs. Shaw and Mrs. Eliza had been to the local markets across the streets to fetch few stuffs for the orphanage. After about an hour, Mrs. Shaw returned. She found Mr. Shaw near the front door, lost in thoughts. Mrs. Shaw patted on his shoulder and he was startled. “Is everything okay?” asked Mrs. Shaw in a casual tone. “I really wonder how on earth do you handle these little mons….I..I… mean how you manage these kids”, Mr. Shaw said in a muffled tone pointing towards the kids. “These what??” asked Mrs. Shaw in an inquiring tone. Mr. Shaw walked away shaking his head. After handing over the stuffs to a staff, Mrs. Shaw followed Mr. Shaw to his room. And before she could ask, Mr. Shaw narrated the whole incident.

Mrs. Shaw had a hearty laugh. She imagined Mr. Shaw actually handling kids and a roar of loud hearty laughter escaped her mouth. “Ridiculous!” exclaimed Mr. Shaw in a disgusted and gravel – sprinkled tone. They were abruptly interrupted when Sushant called Mrs. Shaw. “Madam, please come down, someone is asking for you”.

Mrs. Shaw was greeted by an old man with a small packet of sweets. “Can I meet, my granddaughter?” He asked with a feeble smile. “Sure, come in. Shilpa, come dear, look who has come to meet you.” Mrs. Shaw was delighted seeing Shilpa overjoyed. She left them alone for some candid moments and moved on to check Sia. Mrs. Shaw found little Sia, in the corner of the playroom. She called out her name, but she didn’t answer. As Mrs. Shaw approached Sia, she noticed Sia had dozed off in a half kneeling position. But what caught her attention was few sheets tightly tucked under her feeble knees and some crayons scattered nearby.

Mrs. Shaw quietly signaled a staff and gently handed over Sia and she was taken to the girls’ bedroom. But Mrs. Shaw kept the papers to herself. She then went to the office room to have a look at the sheets.

There were total of three sheets of paper. It contained some sort of scribbled art by Sia. Mrs. Shaw smiled to herself when she saw the drawings. It was a sort of circular head with arms and legs jutting out of it with no torso. That’s how normally 5 year old draw. Mrs. Shaw found it to be a hilarious piece of art – pictures of people nearly start without any body at all – so the arms and legs spring straight out of the head. She was about to put them away in the cupboard. But she felt, maybe she should have a better look at those art pieces.

Mrs. Shaw arranged the sheets of paper in the order of which she had collected. In the first image there are three persons, a child and two adults. And from the figure which has stick like rays coming out from the head, Mrs. Shaw concluded it to be a male person and the other adult with longer sticks facing downwards, to be a female.

In the next image, she found there were two persons, a female and a child. But some horizontal lines on two sides and something which appeared to her like a light post. In the last image, the child was present and in front of her, was what Mrs. Shaw concluded to be some sort of door, because in the image there was only an outline drawn in front of the child.

Am I over thinking? Are these casual drawings? Or are these images conveying some sort of message?” Mrs. Shaw thought aloud as she was staring at those sheets.

A SNOWFLAKE’S TALE – PART V

Meanwhile on the other end Sushma signalled Meera to get into the car.  Meera was blank, physically and mentally exhausted , only gave blank glances at Sushma but didn’t utter a word and got into the car.

The driver’s eyes from the rear view mirror sent shivers down Meera’s spine.  “Did Sushma trick me into something awful“, Meera asked herself aloud in her mind before she could muster courage and energy to mumble “where are we going Didi?”

Sushma in her usual stone-cold tone, “listen to me carefully Meera, when stranded in darkness for a while human eye adjusts itself to the darkness to see things clearly.  Similarly humans have to adjust themselves to the situations life throws at them.

This made Meera’s heart skip a beat, she was perplexed, hands cold and feet numb.

While Meera was lost in her fears Sushma started again, “You know clearly that I don’t have any soft corner for you but nevertheless you were wife of my brother.  That’s why I have decided to get you out of that place but you see emotions don’t feed you.  Deal is still on but not as dreadful as you fathomed….” . Sushma was interrupted sharply by Meera, “don’t talk in riddles. Why don’t you just leave us alone. It was my fault to come to you and look where I have landed” and she started wailing uncontrollably, cursing her fate.

SHHHH” Sushma hushed her fiercely “stop this melodrama, I have planned something better for you, now just follow me quietly“. And they reached a one storey building, built-in solitude.

Sushma got down and forcefully took her out of the car into the building. As they entered Meera saw a lawn guarded by gates with electrically barbed wires all around, CCTV cameras, few pregnant women loitering in the lawn. This confused Meera even more.

They were received by a man – well-built, seemingly educated, he immediately asked Sushma “have you explained everything to her” looking at Meera.

N… N… No” Sushma fumbled and this irked the man, Somesh. “How many times I have to tell you that the ladies you bring here need to be well-informed“, he retorted.

And he continued talking harshly looking at Meera, “look lady you just have to give us 9 months of your life, and life to a couple. Well, let me be clear you are brought here to be a surrogate mother, bearing a child for someone who have no strings attached to you in anyways and who are yearning for a child. In return you get a handsome amount and no one else would know anything about this, not even the client to whom you are bearing a child. Hence it won’t have any impact on your societal image.  Many women do it deliberately and repeatedly.  It’s a win-win situation for everyone. Think of it and reply me“.

And before Meera could prepare herself to say something, Somesh quite menacingly yet calmly said, “And we don’t take No for an answer” and called for an assistant to guide Meera to a room inside.

Meera was almost pulled and went out of sight into the long corridor and her voice died.

Sushma asked Somesh, “so you got the client, who is that?

Somesh replied, “What’s there in the name.  What matters is that it’s a wealthy party who could shower us with millions.  I hinted about this procedure, waiting for the reply and you know it well that we don’t take NO for an answer.  Their desperation is our cash point“, he laughed devilishly.

A SNOWFLAKE’S TALE – PART IV

Mrs Shaw heard footfalls behind her and when she looked around she found a cute little girl walking inside the church with her tiny feet. But what scared her was that the little girl was all alone. She poked her husband and he was amazed to see the same sight. Mrs Shaw could see that the girl was in tears. Mrs Shaw stood in her place and walked back to the kid and kneeling down in front of her she asked, “Baby, where’s Mumma?” And to her surprise, the girl shook her head without uttering any words. Mrs Shaw went out in search of anyone outside but she didn’t find anyone except the little girl all alone. “Who brought you here baby?“, she asked her again with a hushed tone as the service in the church was still going on. The little girl thought for a moment. Her mother’s instructions were in her mind: “Don’t talk about Mumma and Dad to anyone…” And she kept her mouth shut as tears rolled from her eyes.  Mr. and Mrs Shaw were late for the service that day and that’s why they had no choice but to take the last row in the church. If they would have come earlier and would have sat in the front row, as usual, they might not have seen this kid. Mrs Shaw picked her up in her arms and asked, “What’s your name?” And she got the answer in the feeblest tone, “Sia.

Mr. and Mrs Shaw were a childless couple for the last 15 years. They had been asking God for a child since they came to know about Mrs Shaw’s inability to bear a child. “Is God answering her prayers in the form of little Sia?” Mrs. Shaw’s heart melted as she kept thinking about it and while listening to the speaker talking about God’s love and His provisions for us quoting the scripture portion: “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Darling, is she God’s answer to our prayers?” Mrs Shaw asked Mr Shaw.

Shhhh… People are looking at us, babe. Don’t come to any conclusion so quickly though God always answers our prayers as He values us.” Mr Shaw lovingly whispered with a gentle smile.

But both of them being the caregivers and staff of ‘Trinity Orphanage Home’ (TOH) knew that adopting a kid in India was not so easy unless they were sure that the kid was abandoned with proper proof. Mr Shaw knew how his wife longed to have a kid who can be called her son or daughter… who can call her, Mom… He looked at his wife… She was clutching the kid in her arms with her eyes shut, praying fervently.

The service came to an end but Mr. and Mrs Shaw decided to take the kid to ‘TOH’ first instead of letting people come and scare little Sia with their queries and pampering. Mr Hamilton, the boss of ‘TOH’ asked Mr. and Mrs Shaw to take Sia to their home that night but asked them to leave her in the orphanage among the children till all the legal formalities were over for adoption. Mrs Renuka Shaw was extremely exhilarated that night. She felt it was the best day of her life. She could not sleep that night but kept looking at the baby girl sleeping peacefully beside her. Mr Arijit Shaw was very happy seeing the delight in his wife’s face but was also fearing the shadow of sorrow hovering around his wife if Sia’s parents showed up to claim her back.

They dropped Sia the very next day in TOH though they got to see her daily being the senior staff of TOH.

Renuka finally saw a smile in Sia’s face when she started playing with Aarav. And she kept an eye on her like a mother hen watching her chicks.

A SNOWFLAKE’S TALE – PART III

Sushma’s husband caught hold of Meera when she was trying to escape. Meera could not fight him. He twisted both her hands on to her back and tied them with a rope. Sushma and her husband managed to tie Meera to a chair nearby and taped her mouth so that she won’t be able to scream. They locked the room. The room became pitch dark and Meera couldn’t see anything.

Meera was tired physically and mentally. She ran for miles to escape her sister-in-law, she had to leave her little one at the orphanage so that she could get some food and shelter, and now she is locked in the dark and dingy room as a hostage. She had no idea how she might be able to escape from there.

She couldn’t help but wonder how Sia might be doing. She didn’t know if Sia had food because Sia loved to be fed. Morsel after morsel Sia used to make Meera run behind her. It was kind of fun for Sia… All through the day she would ask when her father would come. No matter how hard it was for Meera to work and manage Sia both at the same time, a glance at Sia’s cutest smile used to make Meera rejoice.

When it was about time for bed, Sia used to throw tantrums at her mom. “Mamma, just one more story. Mamma, I am feeling hungry. Mamma, can I play some more?“, so many ideas to escape from sleep. Meera started to scream and cry loudly unable to bear the pain of parting from her lovely child. She cursed herself to have been helpless. Orphanage is for kids who don’t have parents and my darling is placed there when I am alive. What kind of a mother am I? The poor child is so unlucky to have been born to me. If something happens to me, what would happen to Sia???  

At the orphanage, Sia sat in a corner wiping tears with her tiny hands. The place was new and the people there were strangers to her. It felt a little scary to be there without her mother. She wanted to ask for her mother, but then remembered what Meera had told her. “It is a hide and seek game. If I lose, I may not get the gift Mumma has promised“, she told herself.  It has just been one day now, and she had to stay there for 3 more months. The little soul did not understand what 3 months meant.

A cute little boy Aarav approached Sia and offered his toy. Sia was hesitant at first but later on she gelled well with the boy. Eventually she started playing with other kids too. The caretakers were relieved to see Sia getting along with other kids. Aarav and Sia became good friends. They used to talk a lot, play together, eat at the same table. It was as if they had been friends forever. 

A couple of weeks passed by and it was around Christmas time. The city was getting geared up for Christmas and so was the orphanage. The kids at orphanage were enthusiastically waiting for Christmas, for Santa to arrive and bring them gifts. The employees at orphanage contributed a portion of their salary for buying gifts for the children. The caregivers decorated the orphanage with teeny weeny stars, snowflakes and decorative items made of paper.  

Meanwhile, Sushma and her husband had been starving Meera to get her consensus for the evil deed they had planned. Meera was stubborn not to give-up. Sushma approached Meera and said , “Look, I know it has been hard on you. As a fellow woman I feel sorry for you. My husband won’t leave you. Why do you argue with him? If you agree to pay me some money I would let you loose. My husband is out of town today and this is the best time“. Meera pondered for a while if this would be a good idea to come to terms with Sushma? Did she have a choice? This is the only way I can get out of  here and see Sia. Meera agreed to the proposal. 

Sushma untied Meera, gave her an extra pair of clothes to freshen-up and change into. Meera took a shower and looked at herself in the mirror. She looked so pale, almost half dead. Meera looked out of the window. ‘It may be past midnight’, she thought. Sushma hurriedly entered Meera’s room, grabbed her hand as a gesture to walk along with her. Meera followed her without speaking a word.

By the time Sushma and Meera went downstairs, a car was waiting for them…

A SNOWFLAKE’S TALE – PART II

With tears welling up in her eyes and a lump forming in her throat, Meera stared at the retreating silhouette of her doll. She felt that she was separated from her world. But, a fighter she was!

“Yes, its a game . . . a short game for two months and three weeks. I’ll be with my doll in a matter of no time. Meanwhile, I’ll have to make ends meet and stay hale and hearty for Sia’s sake”, she said to herself as she lost sight of her daughter behind the pillars of the church premises. She turned around, steeled her heart and decided to go and get her belongings from her sister-in-law’s house.

She opened the creaky gate and stepped onto the dingy verandah that led to the kitchen which she and her daughter had called home for a week. She scanned around. There was no one.

“Perfect timing!”, she said to herself. “All are asleep after a day’s business. I can easily sneak out unnoticed, without having to offer any explanations to my sister-in-law or having to face that bloodsucker.”

She didn’t have much to pack. With frantic haste, she put in all her and her daughter’s possessions in the same rugged bag that she had come with.

“What’s the hurry to leave? Now that you have dumped that brat somewhere, you can stay on here with increasing prospects to earn for yourself and us.”

Meera turned back startled to hear the voice behind her. Her sister-in-law Sushma’s otherwise rough and booming voice seemed somewhat slyly pleasant.

“Never!” “Never!” “Never will I stay here even for a minute longer. Not after what that monster of a husband you have, was doing to my doll. And how dare you call my daughter a brat? I made a mistake by choosing to come here”, said Meera fuming with gritted teeth.

“Well, mistake you sure did by coming here. But, my darling husband has opened my eyes to the lucrative business prospects that my young slender-bodied sweet-toothed sister-in-law can give us”, said Sushma with a smirk. “You came here by your choice, but, you can leave only by mine”, she boomed advancing towards Meera.

“Wh . . . What do you mean?”, Meera uttered, her lips dry and feet shaking.

Now Sushma was her usual self. She menacingly marched towards Meera, caught hold of her arm with an iron-fist and said, “Do you think I gave a roof over your head and fed you and that little fatherless brat of your’s just in exchange of you helping serve drinks to the customers at the bar and clean it up? If you thought so, you were a fool! Enough nights of sound sleep you got. It’s time for business”, said Sushma with a commanding voice.

“Look, I still don’t get what you want to say”, said Meera trying to loosen Sushma’s grip. “You want me to pay for my stay here . . . I’ll give whatever you say. Give me two weeks time. As you know, I have no work now. But, I’ll find work in no time and pay you every dime that you ask for. Let me go . . . before that monster of a husband you have lands up here.”

At this, Sushma twisted Meera’s arm backwards and said, “How much will you pay me? Five hundred rupees . . . eight hundred . . . or a thousand? You can fetch us a few years of tension-free income. You ……AAAAAaaaaa……oooooo……”, she screamed at the top of her voice as she was talking.

Meera had bitten Sushma’s free hand fiercely.