Aaji was no more. After living a long and dignified life, she had breathed her last peacefully. Without exception, everyone in the family loved and respected her so it was no wonder that almost all had come to pay her their last respects. All the rituals were performed and the immediate family had arranged for a meal in an orphanage.
On the way to the orphanage, suddenly Tani exclaimed, “ Aaji loved chocolates. Let’s take them for the children for dessert,”
Her brother Veer stopped the car and went and bought packs of chocolates.The idea pleased everyone and shortly they reached the orphanage. Lunch was served by the family members, with lots of love and care. The children ate with full excitement and content. The family members felt deep satisfaction but Tani was deeply affected. She watched the way the children were eating. She was remembering how she had been eating the same food with her family, friends at home or restaurants. Many a times, she or her friends would not mind at all to leave unfinished food on the table and here she was seeing how some child was polishing off the last drop of sauce from the plate. How hungrily they ate! Tani, like most of the privileged ones, had never experienced this state of depravity before. After the meal was over, Tani distributed the chocolates. It was pure joy on the face of each child. The sight of the children, managing their chocolates while going to wash their hands. could melt the hardest of the hearts. Someone planned to take turns in washing so that they could hold each other’s chocolates, someone was holding them in their underarms, someone went to the iron cupboards kept along the wall, to keep them safely in their shelves etc. etc. Tani was witnessing all this, mesmerised when her eyes fell on a boy about ten years and a girl about seven years of age. Both were standing together on a side and had blank faces. They didn’t have their chocolates in their hands either. Tani thought she had missed them so she went to them and offered chocolates. Both remained impassive and after Tani’s insistence shook their heads decisively.
“You don’t want chocolates?” she asked.
The heads shook in the negative again. Tani was surprised.
“But why?”she demanded.
There was no answer. Tani felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned to see the care taker of the place, Miss Shukla, asking her to follow her. Nonplussed, Tani went with Miss Shukla to a tiny room that was her office. They sat down and Miss Shukla started to answer the questioning look on Tani’s face. She went on to say that the boy and the girl with impassive faces had a terrible connection with chocolates. Some six months back these two children had a very happy life. They were siblings; Agastya and Ariana. They with their doting parents, were a very happy family. One Sunday they were returning by car from a weekend holiday and their father, Navin, stopped to have water from a grocery shop. The kids demanded for chocolates. The grocery shop did not have them but pointed to a Super Market on the other side of the highway. Navin suggested to buy them chocolates from some shop near their house but both the kids refused to relent. So Navin parked the car on the side and was getting out of the car when his wife Rubaina too offered to join him just to stretch her legs. Agastya and Ariana chose to wait in the car. Their gaze followed them to the supermarket where their parents entered. Barely a few minutes had past that there was a deafening blast and to the utmost horror, the kids saw the super market blown away. Black smoke and fire had engulfed the Super Market and mostly everyone inside had died. It was a bomb blast. Witnessing the terrible reality, the kids just passed out.
Both the children were taken to some hospital where they were treated for trauma. They could not give the names of any relatives. They said they had no family because everyone was angry at their parents for marrying each other.Their parents had told them that because they belonged to different religions, their families had disowned them. Miss Shukla said that the photographs of the kids were given out in the papers but no one came to claim them. From the hospital the kids were brought to the orphange to stay there.The kids felt responsible for this terrible loss of their parents. They felt that had they not insisted on having a chocolate, they would still have their parents around. Since then, they never touched a chocolate.
Tani sat there with uncontrollable tears pouring down her face. Such a young age to see such a magnitude of tragedy. Something that children are crazy about, could be the source of so much pain, was beyond Tani’s imagination. She looked out of the window to the room where the children were playing around, eating their chocolates so happily. She craned her neck to find the siblings; they were sitting in the corner, staring blankly out of the window.
Tani, with her family, returned home. This trip to the orphanage had somehow touched her heart deeply. She shuddered to imagine herself to be one of them. But was it any of these children’s fault that they were growing up without the love of a family?Tani was restless the whole night. Her husband, Ritwik, was noticing her for long and was trying to make her speak out her mind, but Tani just kept struggling with her ocean of thoughts. Suddenly she came to sit near Ritwik and spilled out her mind. She told him what she wanted. Both of them sat for a long time discussing. In the morning, both of them told the family of their decision. Everyone was taken by surprise but after a long conversation they understood and agreed with her.
Tani and Ritwik went to the orphanage to meet Miss Shukla.
“Yes Mam, how come you are here again today?” Miss Shukla asked.
Tani looked at Ritwik and said, “Miss Shukla, we want to adopt Agastya and Ariana, please. Ofcourse we know there is a procedure and we are ready to follow that. But we want to have those siblings please so kindly guide us.”
Miss Shukla looked at them for a few moments and then gently asked, “ Mam, so you want these siblings in your life. Why may I ask please?”
Tani took her time then gushed with eyes full of tenderness,
“We don’t want them in our lives. We want to be a part of their lives, Mam. We want to replace their deep loss and longing with our love and belonging. We want them to love eating chocolates again.”
Miss Shukla just kept looking at the couple with tenderness and respect. How much the world needed this kind of love, she sighed.