Neil held six month old Reya with trembling hands. Piu stood there with her arms around him. Their dream had come true. Reya, their adopted child, was with them. It had really taken so long, in fact a few years, to finally adopt a girl child.
It was Neil’s dream since the age of ten, to get a child, home from an orphanage. He wanted to adopt a girl child and bring her home and into his heart. As he grew up into a young, handsome man, he was extremely lucky to find an equally loving life partner, who shared his dream with the same passion, too. They had applied for adoption of a girl child, less than a year old and he had got a phone call just two days back, with the news of a six month old girl child that they could adopt. Neil and Piu, made all the necessary arrangements and here they were holding little Reya into their arms. They could not wait to be home with their bundle of joy.
Neil and Piu, with Reya, reached home. Lovely flowers were hanging all over. The beautiful rangolis greeted them. Amrita, Neil’s mother was beaming, standing there with the arti thaal, along with his father, to welcome the little one. But what made Neil’s heart skip a beat was Grandpa sitting there in his wheel chair, at the door. Neil and Piu with Reya entered the house and lay her into the outstretched arms of Grandpa who kept gazing at Reya with such tenderness and love that Neil had tears in his eyes. He just was transported to that day, so many years back.
Ten year old Neil had returned from school. As usual, Amrita was waiting for him. After a rather quick shower, Neil sat down to eat, quietly.
“What is it Neil? Something bothering you, it seems,” asked Amrita, “ Also how was your school trip today?”
That day, the school had taken the children to visit an orphanage.
“Yes Mom, we had gone to an orphanage today,” said Neil and continued with his eating.
“And?” coaxed Amrita for she found something amiss with Neil that day. Generally Neil was a very chirpy boy and he would not stop talking till he would fill Amrita with his day.
“There were many children Mom, and they were looking at us very strangely. I felt as if they were telling us that how lucky we are to have a home, parents, family where they had none of these. Some eyes seemed to be asking us if we could take them home with us.” Neil stopped for a moment and then asked, “Can we Mom, please?” Neil’s earnest question shook Amrita to her core. She got up and hugged Neil.
“Finish your meal and run to play Neil. I can hear your friends down. We’ll talk about this later,”Amrita managed to push away the touchy topic for the time being, but she could not be at peace. Much as she would love to fulfill Neil’s wish, she knew it would never be possible. Her father-in-law, Neil’s grand father, though a very loving person, had very rigid ideas. He took immense pride in belonging to the upper caste and Amrita knew that bringing in a child of an unknown parentage, would be absolutely unacceptable to him. Trying to change his thoughts was equally unthinkable. Well, Amrita was going to have a tough talking session with Neil! Neil’s father, Vijay, loved his father very much but Amrita knew that he too would not be able to be of much help, in this case. He and Amrita, somehow believed in loving and accepting their parents, unconditionally.
Neil was specially looking forward to the usual snuggling up with Amrita at bedtime that day. It was their special time of the day, when they would cuddle up and have a heart to heart chat before Neil would fall asleep and Amrita would go to her bed. Today both of them knew the topic of conversation.
“Mom, can we get a child, home from the orphanage please?” Neil started right away.
“Neil, we would love to do so but there is a problem. Grandpa would never like that,” said Amrita.
“But why would he not like it, mom? He likes all my friends and he is so sweet to them too. So why would he not like someone from the orphanage?”Neil was nonplussed.
It was difficult for Amrita to explain but she had to. So she told him that Grandpa believed in caste system and he would never accept anyone whose parents are not known.
“But that’s not fair Mom. Grandpa is not right in thinking so, is he?” Neil looked up at Amrita. Amrita could not lie. She nodded in the negative.
“So what can we do Mom?”Neil was visibly upset.
“You tell Neil, what do you suggest we do?” asked Amrita lovingly.
Neil looked at Amrita and then bidding good night, went off to sleep. Amrita could see the trait of unconditional acceptance, had seeped well into Neil too.
There were no further talks on this subject between Amrita and Neil. Days passed and the most awaited day of the year arrived; Neil’s birthday. As every year, his Grandpa called him and asked him,
“So Neil, what do you want as a gift from me?”
Neil looked at him and said, “ I want you to come with me for a couple of hours, Grandpa.”
Grandpa found this strange but acceded to his wish.
“But where are we going, Neil?”asked Grandpa.
“You will find out yourself, soon,” smiled Neil.
He took him to the same orphanage where he had gone from school.
He had got sweets, chocolates and pastries for the children there, which he went and distributed. The children were very happy and excited. They sang the happy birthday song for Neil and everybody wished him. Grandpa was a silent witness to all this.
Neil and Grandpa returned home. Neil asked,“ Grandpa, isn’t it so sad that these children don’t have a home?”
“Son, it’s all their destiny and karma, nobody can change that.”Grandpa said with a sort of finality.
That was the end of the conversation. Life carried on and as the years rolled by, Neil showed a keen interest in medicine. He cleared the entrance and went to a medical college in another town. He became a doctor and started practising in his own city. The wheel of life moved on and on and he fell in love with Piu, a girl with as big a heart as his own and they got married.
One day, it was raining cats and dogs in the afternoon, when Grandpa was on his way back home from the club. It had been his practice for years that every Saturday, he would go to the club to play bridge with his friends. He was absolutely fit and fine for his age so the morning rains did not deter him from leaving the house. The club was at a distance from home and the rains were getting heavier and heavier. There was a high tide too that noon and suddenly there was water every where. The driver got alarmed and started looking for a place to stop. He took a turn onto a road going at a height and the road led them to an orphanage — the same one that Grandpa had visited with Neil on his birthday, years back. The water levels had not reached such heights so many cars and hundreds of people had taken shelter there. Grandpa also joined the others inside where the children were serving every one tea and biscuits. He did not accept either, when offered. But there were no signs of the Rain God showing any mercy. Night fell and everyone were thanking their stars for this shelter. The children showed remarkable care and service to all. Twenty four hours had passed. Grandpa could not stay hungry any more. He ate what ever was offered to him. He accepted their food, bedding and shelter just like every body else. The innocent care and selfless service of the children made Grandpa feel ashamed of his thoughts regarding the caste discrimination. He had to stay there for two days after which, with the weather clearing away, he returned home. He came back a changed man.
Neil was brought back to the present by Grandpa hugging both him and Piu and saying with love and pride,
“God bless you my children for your beautiful heart. May you always spread such love and joy around and as for you little princess! You are our very own.Welcome home our love!” He bent down to plant a kiss on Reya’s forehead.