While looking out of the window and wondering about the hardships he faced so far but still survived up to this day and there is a great chance that tomorrow can change his life. A new beginning? Maybe.
“It’s time for bed kids,” a voice suddenly pulled Ravi out of his thoughts and brought him back from his imaginary fairy world to the harsh reality that he was in. “Everyone now say your prayers and wish for whatever you want from God,” and aunt Marie switched off the lights of the room. Aunt Marie was the caretaker of the orphanage. While saying his prayers Ravi wished for the only thing he wants from God, “Dear God, as promised I was a good boy for the entire year, I even let Rohan have my sweet pie when he was ill and I helped everyone in the orphanage, now it’s your turn. As Marie said if I will be a good boy for a year god will send my parents to take me to our home.” Controlling his enthusiasm for meeting new parents Ravi went to sleep.
It was 6 A.M in the morning and Aunt Marie came to the room of the children to wake them up, she pushed the curtains to the side and bright morning sunshine filled the room, it was an ordinary room with two bulbs and eight beds and walls were painted a light yellow color. Everyone was awake and it was no surprise that the first one to wake was Ravi. He was so cheerful that finally it came, the day he was waiting for more than a year was finally here. Today parents will be visiting the orphanage to adopt the child while for children like Ravi it was the day he will meet his parents. He rushed into the corridors and was running across the hall and came to the reception like his parents were leaving him behind but his expectations drastically fell when he saw no one in the waiting hall area. He was stunned after seeing the scene, seeing him Ramesh came to him and said, “Parents won’t be coming till nine, you are early my son.”
Oh yes, that’s the case that is why no parents are there, his innocent heart again started to build the imagination of the moment of meeting his parents. “Go get ready. You don’t want them to see you like this, do you?”
“Of course not! But promise me as soon as my parents arrive you will inform me.”
“Sure I will,” Ramesh replied. Ravi was walking back to his room to brush his teeth and take a quick shower. He just wanted everything to be perfect. After taking a shower he was combing his hair. Seeing all this, aunt Marie became sad, she was thinking what would happen if the past repeated itself, if this year too no one will be interested in adopting Ravi what will she say to him? Why didn’t his parents show up today? Seeing Aunt Marie in deep thoughts Ravi asked innocently, “What happened Aunt Marie? You look stressed. Don’t worry I am not going to irritate you more today, my parents will come or are you sad because you will miss me?”
“Oh yes my little baby I know, it’s just I am so happy that you are meeting your parents today!” a tear rolled down her cheek. Ravi replied, “I will come to meet you every Sunday, Aunt Marie. Please don’t cry.”
“Oh, my son!” and Aunt Marie hugged Ravi tightly.
After breakfast, Ravi was desperately waiting for parents to come. After some moments Ramesh came and said, “Everyone make a queue now you are about to see your parents and no one will shout.”
After that Ramesh took everyone to the waiting hall area where groups of parents were waiting. After some minutes of interaction, Ramesh told children to go and play. After some moments Ramesh came with a list of names in it. Aunt Marie was tensed and she rushed to Ramesh and after some discussion with a sad face she came to Ravi and asked him if he wants to eat ice-cream. Ravi instantaneously replied yes and she took Ravi outside the orphanage to an ice cream shop and told him to eat any ice-cream he wants. Ravi was happy about getting his ice cream. On his way back to the orphanage he inquired Aunt Marie about why she took only him for ice-cream treat while she replied because he was the only one who was the nicest boy who helped everyone and took care of her too.
There’s only one thing worse than having a bad childhood. And that is watching someone else have it.
Marie Vincent, also lovingly known as Aunt Marie by the children of the orphanage had taken it on herself to comfort and shield Ravi from time to time from the harsh realities the world would sooner or later inflict upon him. When we can’t make ourselves happy, isn’t our next best bet making others so?
As Ravi finished his ice cream and they both walked back to the orphanage Ravi remembered that the same thing had happened last year on this day. He knew he’d not been adopted and Aunt Marie didn’t want to break his heart. But little did she know that you can’t break something that’s already broken.
Ravi, though tender by age matured through trauma because that’s how life plays out for some of us, still remembered or better said, couldn’t forget his parents passing away in a tragic car accident. And not too later his abusive elder brother being caught by the police for his gambling and drinking problems.
He was sent to the orphanage by some well-wishers in his neighbourhood, and ever since then, after his mother, he’d known Aunt Marie as the only loving figure in his life. Life at the orphanage was smooth though mundane and lonely. Two years had passed under Aunt Marie’s care and Ramesh’s watch.
It was bedtime again. Ramesh brought out the kids for prayer.
Ravi joins his hands as others do, but does not pray. It was his own way of rebellion against a power everyone seemed to believe in but the power hadn’t been working in his favour for quite some time now.
He went to bed missing a few of his old friends who had found families to call their own today. He wondered if their new parents cooked them their favourite meals, or read them their favourite stories. All I’d asked for was a home to God, he thought and turned restlessly and let his thoughts lull him to sleep.
He woke up to the loud clang of heavy metal on the floor. Ramesh had accidentally dropped something in the reception area. Ravi went to see what might be happening. He saw Aunt Marie talking to Ramesh in a fast and tensed manner and when she noticed him approaching, she abruptly stopped. She asked Ravi to put on his best clothes and remain in his best behaviour. Ravi went back to his room and obeyed.
But like every child, he too was curious. He tiptoed to the reception and stopped when he could hear Aunt Marie talking to two unknown voices. One belonged to a woman and another to a man.
“But why now? The official day of adoption is over,” he heard Aunt Marie say. “I’m sorry ma’am, was the day too important? We hail from a place quite far away from here,” the man said.
“We’ll not take much of your time. It’s only a bit of paperwork after all,” the woman said.
Aunt Marie sighed. “I guess I’ll have to consider. You’re only looking for a child anyway.”
“Uh..the eldest one,” the woman said too quickly and awkwardly glanced at the man and back at Aunt Marie.
Aunt Marie fixed her gaze on the woman. An expressionless one with eyebrows almost on the verge of knitting together. Her preference surely aroused suspicion.
“We’d just like a little-matured option,” the man said and half smiled.
The eldest in the orphanage used to be one of Ravi’s friends. But he was adopted yesterday. That meant the next in that order was Ravi. His pupils dilated and for a minute he had trouble breathing right.
The fear of rejection had certain powers.
“Ravi!” Aunt Marie called.
He didn’t want to be caught eavesdropping so he traced a few steps backwards and answered, “Coming!”
When he entered the room he saw the man and the woman were both middle-aged, a little heavy, and somehow a bit hard faced to be looking for children.
“They’re here to meet you.”
Ravi just stared up and stood still.
“What’s his name?” the woman asked.
“Ravi,” Aunt Marie answered.
“Any health problems?” the man asked.
“Nothing apart from the fact that he’s got a tragic past but….” “We’ll take care,” the woman cut Aunt Marie short.
“Let’s get to the paperwork, shall we?” the man asked, looking at Ravi and scrutinizing him.
Aunt Marie smiled sadly and asked Ravi to go and pack up his belongings. Ramesh accompanied him.
An hour later, at the gate of the orphanage where a car was waiting to wheel him away into the life he had wished for so long, Ravi broke down and sobbed. He almost didn’t want to leave.
“Be happy my child! Isn’t this what you wanted?” Aunt Marie fought hard to keep her tears from spilling.
“Thank you.” Ravi said in a choked voice and the woman took his hand and tugged him towards the car saying, “Let’s go.”
Half sobbing, Ravi climbed into the car and the wheels turned. The silhouette of the orphanage blurred away and Aunt Marie stood and waved goodbye until she couldn’t be seen through the window anymore.
Life is bittersweet indeed. He wanted to feel happy about having a family, feel happy about his prayers being heard, but no new hellos ever really take away the pain of a goodbye.
Almost an hour had passed before it struck him that everything was too quiet for them to be a family.
The car rolled down the roads until they reached the railway station to catch the next train to Delhi from where they were supposed to catch the morning flight to Mumbai. The station was starting to get busy as the train was soon to reach the station. Sitting on a bench, Ravi was fascinated with his life to come. From getting brought up in that small orphanage to travelling across cities to reach Mumbai. The train finally came, Ravi boarded the train with his new parents joyfully. They took their seats and five minutes later the train left the station for its final destination, New Delhi. As the train passed several stations, Ravi, fantasizing about his life to come, slowly fell into deep sleep. His new parents checking on him for every 10-15 minutes started finally discussing something. The night passed on the train journey and as the day rose they reached the Delhi station and eventually, Delhi airport to catch the next flight to Mumbai. Ravi was so mesmerized with the thought of boarding the plane for the first time. Sitting in the airport lobby, he tried talking to his new parents once or twice. But they showed no interest and didn’t respond. Sitting idle for some time he didn’t mind much and started gazing at the activities around him. Meanwhile, the man stood and bought some sandwiches for the boy and some coffee for himself. Soon they boarded the flight and the Ravi having a million dreams within himself was flying for the very first time. He was very happy as he was among the clouds. In his own mind, his expectations started multiplying about how much more is still there waiting for him. And as they landed in Mumbai, the lady collected the luggage, the man booked a cab and they headed towards Ravi’s new home. He was very intrigued about what it would be like. It took them a ride of a couple of hours to reach their destination. It was not as beautiful as he had imagined it to be. But, he was so happy about his life to come that he didn’t even think of it even once. It was an apartment built about twenty years ago. They took the lift to the third floor. The man unlocked the door and all three of them went inside. The lady switched on the lights and the man showed Ravi his room. It was a small but beautiful room and Ravi’s eyes smirked as the man told him that it’s his room. Ravi after going through his room very minutely went off to bed into a deep sleep.
Soon a week passed shopping and seeing things around.
Everything was going good and smooth but there was something that was missing. His friends at the orphanage, his Aunt Marie, actually the thing has he had no one to talk to. He was having everything yet a major part of him was craving for someone he could talk to.
One fine day he asked the lady, “When will I get to join the school?” As the only thing he was promised back at the orphanage was that he would get to join a school where he could make new friends, learn many things. The lady smiled smugly and said, “Very soon.”
That very night a foreigner visited their apartment.
He was a tall English man of medium build. He entered the apartment and exchanged some greetings. “Get ready. Have a proper bath and put on some nice clothes.” She then added, “This uncle will get you into a very good school. You just have to make a good impression on him and please him as much as possible. Just be a good boy.” Ravi nodded happily and hastily went into the bathroom. Though Ravi hadn’t ever been to a school before, he knew all about it. How to read and write basic English, calculate basic Mathematics. And he held a deep desire to make new friends and learn novel things. And all of this was only possible if he could get into a school. So his adolescent mind was very determined to impress this visiting foreigner. Ravi was combing his hair when the man entered and asked him to hurry up in a very rude tone. Ravi hastily puts down the comb and went out of his room. Ravi waved a hello to the foreigner with a happy smile on his face. His name was Adam. The lady asked him, “So Adam, how is the boy?”
Adam replied, “Beautiful, I’ll take him.”
Ravi not understanding much of the conversation was trying to keep that happy smile on his face. Adam went down to bring something. He came up with a bag. After that, the lady signalled the man to take Ravi to his room. The man did as he was directed. Adam took off a stash of cash from his bag and handed it to the lady. Victory smile reflected back on the lady’s face. Meanwhile, the man in the room gave Ravi a glass of milk to drink. Ravi having no clue about what is about to happen drank all the milk in one go. In a matter of seconds, Ravi started feeling dizzy. Adam entered the room, placed his bag on the side table, and took off his shirt. The man exited the room leaving Adam alone with the boy. Adam locked the room from inside, dimmed the lights and then lied next to Ravi.
After that what happened next is only known to the room, Ravi and that night. The rest, I leave it to your imagination.
– Bharat Sharma
– Aritri Saha
– Kumar Keshav