A LITTLE EFFORT HAS A BIGGER IMPACT

For me, festivals and birthdays mean a lot of work and preparations. Still, I manage to enjoy it. Like every person, I too look forward to my birthday and I feel extremely happy when the day arrives. When I was a kid, I used to wait desperately for my birthday cake and gifts. I would choose the best dress and would live my “princess moment”. This happened every year until I celebrated it in a different way.

I was in 11th standard. I was heading back home after evening classes. The chilly winter wind was trying its best to penetrate through my jacket. The more it went windy, the faster I walk. I went to confectionery and ordered my favorite Gulab Jamun. I came out of the confectionery and found a girl staring inside the glass door. I could sense hunger and helplessness in those eyes. I asked “Bhookh lagi hai?” (Are you hungry?). She chose to remain silent. I took out a piece of sweet and gestured her to take it. She kept staring at the sweet for 2-3 minutes. And then she hesitatingly took it. I could see bliss in her eyes. I bought her few chocolates. I got immense pleasure and that was incomparable. Since then, I try my best to have a good time with poor kids.

Yesterday was my birthday. And due to some reasons, I couldn’t celebrate it. I and my cousin share the same birth-date. So yesterday he was celebrating his birthday. He bought a cake and went on the street. He called the hard-up kids for celebrating his birthday. Four kids surrounded him and were so happy. My cousin cut the cake and fed one of the kids with his hand. I am sure he must be happy. This made me so glad.

There have been numerous occasions when I have celebrated Diwali and other festivals with such people. The happiness on their face is divine. The crackers and sweets can make you happy for a moment. However, when you do such deeds, you get lifetime happiness. I know you would say one can’t bring contentment to everyone. But when we stretch helping hands to people, gloominess will turn into gladness.

I wish someday I will celebrate an occasion at an orphanage or at an old-age home. By this, I can be a reason for their happiness, at least for an instance. When you put your effort into making someone happy, then you get mental peace and you feel delighted. It is not necessary to spend a huge amount. But a little effort is appreciated all the time. Our society and many organizations are joining their hands for uplifting the underprivileged and malnutrition kids. Therefore, let us be a part of this noble deed. Being a reason for someone’s happiness is a blessing.

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WHAT ARE DIFFERENT WAYS TO CELEBRATE?

Last few years, we have been playing a fun game called “Secret Santa” just before Christmas. It is a lot of fun and basically involves exchanging gifts in secrecy. We always used to fix an amount of money that people should not exceed. However almost every time, there will be one or the other person who would exceed the budget to show off the kind of gifts he/she can buy.

In the year 2017, I played a different kind of “Secret Santa”. There was an organization which was collecting Christmas wishes from kids living in the orphanages. They hardly have the luxury to exchange gifts. This organization then placed a huge ball of wishes in the middle of our campus. Each one of us was supposed to take up a wish and fulfill it for the child. We would never get to meet the child nor would we be able to see the expression on their faces when they receive the gift. But still many of us picked up more than one wish. Some of them really cute and few were emotional.

Those kids were asked to write down their wishes to Santa. Some of them wrote that they wanted a doll or a book or a car. Some of them even wrote that they wanted a family. Most of us tried our level best to fulfill their wishes to the best of our ability. And we so wanted to see how kids react to our gifts.

For me – that was the best “Secret Santa” that I ever played. It was really secret and brought joy to somebody who really needed it.

I ended up wondering why can’t we celebrate every festival in a similar way? Why do we need the decorations, sweets, gifts etc to celebrate a festival?

I realized that it is all about passion. If one is passionate about caring for the poor, they will find ways to work on it. Just like this organization did and they did it beautifully. If one is passionate only for his/her own pleasure, they will work on themselves only. They will show-off, buy big stuff for home, expensive clothes for the family, beautiful gifts for friends etc. There is nothing wrong with enjoyment but in my view, it should have a purpose other than satisfying one’s own desires.

Simple things can help take a big step towards this

  1. Why not share home-made Diwali sweets with underprivileged kids?
  2. Why not decorate an old age home just like you would do to your own on Diwali or Christmas?
  3. Least that can be done is to invite the family of your house help on festivals to celebrate together. Maybe visit their homes as well.
  4. Every republic day and independence, take up a project of planting trees or filling potholes or spot-fixing a garbage area.
  5. Make decorations using recycled material
  6. Make sure the all our idols that are immersed in water are environment-friendly.

I only listed down a few examples. There can be a million ways to give back to society during our own festival celebrations. Only if we make it our mission to do so, it is possible otherwise like most of us, we will always end up prioritizing our own desires over anything and everything else.

One of the biggest problem in our “Big Fat Indian Weddings” is the wastage of food. Of course, a lot of other things are wasted too and to top the list is the clothing and jewelry. But food wastage saddens me the most because usually close by the wedding halls are the slums who has kids and adults sleeping with an empty stomach. It could be so easy if we could just give away tons of food that turned out to be extra to these beggars and slums sleeping hungry. The only problem here is to arrange for logistics. There is some organization who have started this work, but in my view, the families of the bride and groom and the wedding point owners should take it up as their duty to ensure that every bite of the food cooked goes to a hungry person.

Do not waste. Every time you know that something is getting wasted, raise your voice and find out ways to get it to the person who can use it. It is so simple, only if this becomes a way of living life.

I am struggling to get there and I believe many more are. A lot of us want to do good but just don’t know how. Here is a simple solution – make it a mission of your life and you will find a way.

Celebrate because you love the festival and spirit behind not because it is supposed to be done in a certain way.

A SNOWFLAKE’S TALE – PART XIV

Meera was in pain – physically, mentally and emotionally. Her condition was critical as her pregnancy was three months running, yet she has no place to hide and no one to depend upon. The pain of carrying a baby was killing her, and the emotional agony was devastating her from within. She had hoped on her old employers as they knew her for a long time, but they also acted as if she was a whore. Tears rolled down from her eyes as she walked on the road thinking what she would do with a baby in her belly on the verge of being delivered while her bundle of joy – Sia was nowhere to be found.  The scorching heat of the sun in April was making her sicker as she reached the Kullu Bus Terminus. She took out her wallet and counted her money… ‘seven thousand four hundred thirty-four…’ She murmured. At least she could buy a ticket to Manali as she had no hope left in Kullu.

On reaching Manali, she walked straight to the place where she left Sia, at the church gate but she found no one there. She kept looking around for people whom she could ask about the church and the orphanage, but no one was seen at that time of the day when the sun was shining like a burning fireball. She had no food in her tummy, and she felt sick. She saw some construction work was going near that place. She walked toward it, but she could not reach it. She fainted, and everything looked so dark.

When Meera got back her consciousness, she found herself in a temporary shade of a few females working at the construction site.

Where do you stay?”, asked one lady and Meera was in tears.

I have no place to go, and in this condition, I might lose the baby or myself,” she replied with a feeble voice.

I think she hasn’t eaten anything…” said another lady as she offered her some rice. Meera was grateful to them and ate a bit. Meera requested them to allow her to stay there with them. They showed pity looking at her condition and spoke to the contractor. He could not say NO to them but allowed her to stay with all of them. She was asked to help in cooking work in exchange for the favour she got from all.

Meera made up her mind that she would stay close to that place so that she could wait for someone who could give some information about the church or the orphanage or about her doll. Every day she would get up early and help in the cooking. When she finished all her work, she would walk down to the building where there was a church previously, sit there on the steps till late evening and weep remembering her doll, Sia. She would cry with her heart out cursing herself for leaving her daughter alone… She would pray to God asking Him thousands of questions.

And this routine continued for the next three months.

It was on a day in the monsoon month of August, that Meera collapsed due to lack of care and proper intake of food supplements. It was evening time, and she was incessantly weeping sitting at the same place as usual. She was extremely dehydrated and malnourished. No one usually disturbed her and left her all alone to herself… and that was the reason she was not noticed by others. After 15 minutes or so when one of the females saw her on the ground, she screamed to all and rushed to her. There were few others gathered together around Meera as she was picked up from the ground and carried down to the thatched house. Some passers-by were curious as well to know what had happened. And when they were told, one male out of them kind of showed little more interest to Meera’s matter.

“What? She used to sit here all the time waiting for someone who could tell about her daughter?”

“Yes Sir, she says that she left her daughter at the church door and told her to wait till she comes back after three months to take her back.”

“Can you take me to her… I want to talk to her…”

“Why Sir, do you know about her daughter?”

“I don’t know, but I think I can help her out?”

Mr Samar Verma, the psychotherapist, was taken inside the thatched house where all the women workers were standing around her. They moved away thinking Mr Verma as a doctor. He checked her pulses, and it was rapid. He could make out that Meera needed immediate care.

She needs to be hospitalised right away… or else she will be in trouble. One of you should come with her in my car to the hospital…,” he instructed and two of Meera’s closest mates went with her in Mr Verma’s car.

Meera was admitted in the gynaecology department with Mr Verma’s reference. He stayed there waiting for the doctor’s remarks and sent the other two women back to their place assuring them that he knew Meera very well. After few minutes when Meera was in a condition to talk, Mr Verma went inside to talk to her and he was pleased to know that his guesses were right though he didn’t tell Meera that he had met Sia thinking she should not be too excited as she was not in the right condition. He assured Meera that everything will be alright.

Meera’s condition was so bad that it was difficult for her to recover quickly. Moreover, the doctors were more worried because of the baby growing inside her. They put their everything to make Meera healthy again for her to deliver a healthy baby at the right time. Mr Verma along with her wife visited her from time to time assuring and consoling her.  And within two weeks Meera was alright though she was advised not to travel or do any physical work till she delivered the baby.

Mr Verma brought Meera to his home. Meera was not comfortable with a stranger. She was unable to understand why this man was interested in her so much though she was grateful for him because he bore everything when she desperately needed medical attention. She felt comforted when she found Mrs. Verma welcoming her with such compassion. She was really puzzled by their behaviours. But she could not restrain herself from sobbing when she saw Muskaan, remembering her own daughter.

Is Sia exactly of her age, Meera?” Mr Verma asked gently keeping his hand on her shoulder.

Do you know my Sia, Babu?” Meera’s eyes glittered as she looked back at him in hope.

“Yeah, I had spoken to her, played with her as well.”

“Is it Babu? Where is she now?”

He sat down with Meera on his couch asking Kamya to take Muskaan inside.

“That I don’t know now… That was a few months ago when we went to adopt Muskaan. We also wanted to adopt Sia, but the orphanage caretakers didn’t allow us saying that her mother might come back.”

“Where are they now Babu… Can I find them? Where did they all go?”

“I have been trying to find their new address since I met you, Meera. But do you have any proof that Sia is your daughter?”

“She is mine… Yeah, I do have her birth certificate… I have all her documents, my IDs, my husband’s ID…” Meera started to get hyper, getting excited.

“Calm down, calm down… No one can take Sia from you then… So don’t worry we will find them soon. You don’t take much stress on yourself as you are not well… Trust me, I will definitely find Sia.”

Meera could feel the man was genuine and not a fraud or selfish as all others that she had met previously. She nodded and calmed down with hope.

During Meera’s stay at Vermas, Samar could observe that she never cared about her health or the baby growing within her like all other pregnant women. All she was worried about her daughter, Sia. Being a psychotherapist, he could understand the mental statuses of Meera and all the characters connected to Sia. He could assess all the emotional events that were waiting once the process of claiming Sia starts. And he will have to play the most significant role in all these matters.

Days passed by, and it was on 9th October that year, a baby boy was born. But Meera had no joy.

“Meera, you got a baby boy Congratulations!” both Samar and Kamya wished her.

“Wish me congratulations when I get back my doll, my Sia, Babu… It was my fault that I tried to play games with my baby girl… I hate myself…” Her reply was telling the condition of her heart and how bitter she had been towards herself.

“Don’t be so harsh on yourself, Meera.” Kamya caressed her forehead and comforted as Mr Verma smiled looking at her and said, “And if I congratulate you for the reason you just asked for, Meera?”

“What do you mean, Babu? Please don’t make fun of me… I am not in a condition to play any more games…” She said bitterly.

“It is not a game, Meera… Someone has come to meet you today.” He said and went outside to bring Mr & Mrs Shaw in with a baby girl walking inside with them.

Meera looked at them and the girl. Her eyes were wide opened. She tried to get up amazed.

“Sss…Sii…Sia?”

Sia looked at her Mom and then looked up at Mrs Shaw’s face. Mrs Shaw was not looking pleased as her heart was breaking away and Meera’s heart was racing. She called out her name again…

“Sia… I am Momma… Your Momma… The game we were playing is over now… You remember?” Her heart stopped when Sia was puzzled looking at her as if she could not recognise her. It was difficult for a three years child staying away from her mother for nine months to recall everything about her past.

It seemed like the time paused for a few minutes… the clock stopped ticking… the hearts stopped beating… the eyelids stopped blinking… the people and other creatures stopped moving around in the world…

After two minutes of utter silence… the tapping sound of a baby girl’s feet was heard… Sia ran towards the bed and clutched her mother’s neck tightly with her tiny arms.

Meera could not stop sobbing as she held her baby doll tight to herself, kissing all over her face. There were three women in that room in tears along with the two men whose eyes were wet as well.

In the evening, when Meera was discharged from the hospital and was taken back to Verma’s, all were gathered around the newborn baby celebrating joys; Meera and Sia could get back to each other, Mr and Mrs Shaw got a newborn baby boy and Muskaan got Sia, her old friend but a new sister to play and study together, Mr. & Mrs Verma found someone faithful like Meera to look after Muskaan, and Mr Verma is happy to have Sia as her daughter as well at the end.

That night over the dinner everyone was applauding and thanking Mr Samar Verma for his keen interest in the whole matter concerning Sia especially Meera; it was all because of him all these could be possible. It was he who spoke to Mr Shaw as soon as he could find the new number of TOH. He visited him secretly and showed the copies of Sia’s birth certificate and all the documents necessary. He assured Mrs Shaw that it will always be better for her to mother a newborn baby. And in  the end, he made Meera gift her newborn baby to the couple who took care of her Sia for such a long time.

That December was a joyous one unlike the previous one. That December Meera had to jump around collecting snowflakes with not only Sia but Muskaan as well. Last December the snowflakes were chilling and piercing but this December they were like falling blessings from heaven over all bringing agony to a full stop.

A SNOWFLAKE’S TALE – PART XIII

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)

A SNOWFLAKE’S TALE – PART XII

Meera put the pen down on the dark brown circular table, after signing the papers. She had given her consent to be a surrogate. Though she could not understand a word written on the papers, she had been explained the terms and conditions.

She had made up her mind the previous night as she alternated between tossing and turning in her bed and staring at the ceiling in the darkness. How she longed that some divine power would lift her up from the ruthless world!

Radha came to her rescue and guided her out of the room. The procedures would begin in four days time.

You don’t know how noble a deed you are doing, dear. Yes, we do this for money. And, we are not supposed to have any emotional connection with the life that would be developing in our wombs. But, you know Meera, that is easier said than done. Motherhood itself is a perennial source of emotions. Whatever you feel in the next nine months is going to cast an imprint on the life in your womb”, said Radha sitting across Meera in the grassy field basking in the morning sun.

I have carried my Sia. But, she was mine”, quipped Meera with a wistful sigh.

Radha shifted to sit beside Meera. “You have to make yourself happy, Meera. Only then you can deliver a healthy happy baby as a gift to the couple. Many surrogates take themselves to be mere baby-creating agents – a task in exchange for money. But if I am to give you a word of counsel, I would say that always do whatever you do, with all your heart.”

Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of footsteps on the dry leaves closer to them.

It was Mrs. Mehta. “Meera, I need to speak with you”, she said with a soft but firm expression on her face.

I’ll catch up with you later, Meera”, Radha mumbled and left.

I have no words to thank you for what you are doing for us. You are a blessed woman because you can carry a life within you. I, on the other hand, have been at the receiving end of family and society for being barren. I have spent teary days and nights with my agony known to me alone. It’s a curse, not to be able to carry a child in a country like ours”. So saying, Mrs. Mehta began to sob.

It was my husband’s idea to go for surrogacy”, she continued. “We read up a lot on surrogacy, practices in other countries and in ours. Our country is not open to commercial surrogacy. So, this place is in a way illegal. The recent laws enable only close relatives to be surrogates. But, I don’t care! I came here to assure you that in case of any legal complication, I and my husband will stand by you. In exchange, you will have to promise that you will not terminate your pregnancy under any circumstances”, Mrs. Mehta caught hold of Meera’s hands and literally pleaded with her.

Meera’s head reeled and her stomach churned within her. She was yet to process the information that she had just been given. From being a satisfied maid in a loving household to landing up at her sister-in-law’s place, having to part with Sia whom she didn’t know when she would see next and then landing up in this weird place – ooohhhh so much in so few days!! It was more than she could handle.

Cutting across the whirlpool of thoughts within her, came Mrs. Mehta’s voice of apprehensive anticipation, “You would do it. Would you not?

I will not back off. Rest assured”, said Meera and got up to leave. She didn’t care that Mrs. Mehta was still sitting on the ground. All she needed now was a calmness to get a grip of all that was going on. And, she needed to prepare for the coming nine months.

Meera didn’t come out of the small rectangular space that she had been given to stay. If the new laws render this whole thing illegal, what if I land in prison! Fear gripped her. She shuddered at the thought that she would never be able to meet her doll. As of today, she didn’t even have any trace or information about her daughter and where she will be. All she knew was that she had run for her life that dark night till she sees lights and hears soothing music and a strange feeling that her Sia would be safe in this place.

She didn’t have much understanding of any world affairs. She had been just a maid. But, she had ample of warm emotions.

‘Mr. Mehta has promised me to look for my daughter. I will make the couple promise me to not only find Sia but also take care of her should anything happen to me’, Meera decided firmly.

A SNOWFLAKE’S TALE – PART XI

After returning home, Kamya rushed towards their garden. Samar and Kamya had a beautiful garden adjacent to their courtyard. “Kamya, let’s go out for dinner tonight!” Samar called out loud. Kamya didn’t reply. She simply started watering the plants. “Ohh No! I shouldn’t have discussed all those stuff in front of Kamya. I hope she gets rid of this horrific mood as soon as possible,” Samar murmured to himself, in a dejected tone.

Samar went to his room and freshened up. He knew whenever Kamya was hurt or frustrated, she spent the whole time in the garden, and sometimes she ended up overwatering her favorite white rose plant! Samar was distraught seeing Kamya upset. “What if she denies adopting Muskan?,” Sameer thought aloud. He stopped pacing to and fro in his room and hurried towards the balcony. He saw Kamya staring at her favourite white rose plant and had created nearly a pool of water. “Kamya!” Samar screamed from the balcony, but it was in vain. Samar galloped towards the garden. He shook Kamya and took the sprinkler from her hand. “Kamya, what are you doing?,” shrieked Samar. “Ohh I…I’m soorryy,..” Kamya replied faintly and briskly entered the house. Samar hurriedly cleaned the garden and sprinted into his room.

Kamya was standing near the balcony lost in thoughts. “Kamya, what is troubling you? You know we don’t hide anything from each other. So why this silence? You know I can tolerate anything except this silence of yours!,” Samar said in one breath. His eyes glinted as he spoke and there were prominent lines between his eyebrows. “I’m fine. It’s just that I am a bit tired,” Kamya replied. Samar could clearly feel the pain in her tone. Samar was about to speak but Kamya said, “It’s not about Muskan, Samar. I have given you my word, and I will keep my word. You needn’t worry.” Her voice sounded like a whispering meadow. It was Samar’s turn to remain silent. But he whispered in his heart “I have also given you my word to give you all happiness and I will definitely keep my word”.

Later that evening, after dinner Kamya retired to bed early. But Samar kept thinking about Sia. Her innocent eyes haunted Samar. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t divert his thoughts. Sia’s drawings itself proved that she was not an orphan, her mother was alive. But then why Mr. and Mrs. Shaw were defending the fact that it was her imagination. Samar was flooded with thoughts. He couldn’t sleep, he kept tossing and turning in his bed the whole night.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Shaw showed Sia’s drawings to Mr. Shaw. “Now you are showing this to me?” Mr. Shaw asked in a startling tone. “Please take a look at the drawings. Wha…What do you think? Is her mother really alive? These are casual drawings isn’t it?,” inquired Mrs. Shaw in a pensive tone. Mr. Shaw glanced at the drawings and then glanced back at Mrs. Shaw. “Keep them inside”, he said feebly. “What if Mr. Mehta again insists on taking Sia with him?,” Mrs. Shaw asked in a brittle tone. “We’ll do something about it. Please go and take rest, it’s getting late,” Mr. Shaw murmured as he retired to bed. Mrs. Shaw couldn’t sleep, she kept thinking about Sia. She didn’t want to lose her.

Early the next morning, Samar and Kamya arrived at the orphanage to take Muskan and complete the paperwork. Mr. Shaw greeted them with a beaming smile. After the paper works were over, Mrs. Shaw handed over Muskan to Kamya. Her face gleamed as she held Muskan in her arms. Samar and Mr. Shaw shook hands and they got up to leave. But instead of leaving, Samar proceeded towards the playroom calling out ‘Sia’. Mr. and Mrs. Shaw exchanged nervous glances. Mr. Shaw hurried towards the playroom. “Mr. Mehta please talk softly, children are sleeping”, said Mr. Shaw in a convincing tone.

Samar briskly walked back to the office room. “I want to take Sia with me, till her mother comes,” Samar said sharply. “Listen, Mister! We cannot hand over Sia. We have no such rules. You may leave. We have other important works,” snorted Mrs. Shaw. She somewhat sounded like a dentist’s drill. “I don’t understand why you both are trying to suppress the facts that are speaking for themselves! Can’t you see her drawings are trying to convey some message? She deserves a better home, till her mother returns. I don’t understand why you both are hesitating?,” Samar retorted. “And we don’t understand why you are showing so much interest in Sia, even after learning that we can’t just let her stay with you!,” Mrs. Shaw said in a raspy tone. Samar was about to reply but was abruptly interrupted by a sobbing sound. They stopped talking to hear distinctly.

“Mamaaa, maammmaaa,….!!” They heard soft sobbing sound followed by feeble coughs. It was Sia! Mrs. Shaw froze with alien stiffness.

A SNOWFLAKE’S TALE – PART X

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.