Updated: May 6, 2019
Raman stood in front of the home with heavy luggage filled with supplies for the occupants. This is the first time he is visiting such a place, a place filled with people who have nobody else to take care of them but themselves. As he moved forward he could see a lot of sandals and slippers in front of the door. This gave him a rough estimate of the number of inmates there.
"Have I brought less?", he questioned himself
He removed his shoes and felt the floor. It was awfully cold for some reason. A cold breeze brushed his hair. He sighed. It took a great deal of effort for him to set it up. He meticulously tried to set his hair back the way he intended it to be. But he was not satisfied. He sighed again.
He entered the house. It looked smaller than it appeared from the outside. The creaking sound of the fan was warding off the evil silence that was trying to capture the room for itself. There was no sign of anybody. He walked a little further. The small shelf near the corner of the room got his attention. It was labelled as the 'library', but hardly there was any book in it. It was stuffed with weekly magazines and old newspapers covered with a pile of dust and spider web that was weaving a protective layer around those books as if the spiders wanted to keep the book for themselves.
The next row of the shelf was stuffed with numerous trophies, probably won by the children of the house. Apparently now they were also owned by the spiders. But ironically the top shelf was clean and well dusted. It was adorned with the photos of a man receiving various awards from different people.
A man approached him from the inside of the house. The same man from the photographs. He looked the same. A well groomed half bald, clean shaved, he smelled of sandalwood. He welcomed Raman and asked him to be seated. Raman carefully placed the things he bought minding the tube lights he brought with him. After carefully placing them, he shrugged mindful of the man standing beside him and then sat on a faded greenish blue plastic chair.
The man continued to talk to him, but Raman's eyes were searching for the kids of the home. He continued nodding as if he was listening to the man so that he doesn't feel bad.
"Let me bring the kids", said the man finally.
Within moments a bunch of kids raced towards him like a small human wave but all of them stopped just in front of the room as if some invisible force stopped them from moving forward. The force of rejection and negligence!
The man made his way through the bunch of kids and then ordered them to be seated on the floor. The children happily obeyed. Raman could not find any sort of friendshipness among the kids. They were like the gregarious grasshoppers that stick together for no reason.
The man introduced Raman to the kids which of course the kids were not interested in. Then he kind of directed the kids to introduce themselves to him.
All of them were studying in public school. He was tempted to ask them what they want to be in the future but he didn't. Then the man asked all of them to do a prayer. They thanked the God for giving them food and shelter and then thanked Raman too.
A wave of sadness swept through him when the children finished saying their prayer. He could not help but notice one particular child among the crowd. She was the only girl in the entire lot. He imagined how she would be overpowered by the other children. He wanted to take her with him, if only he was able enough financially. The call for lunch was made and the children rushed to the backyard. He followed them and reached a shed with a very poorly managed floor. The students neatly sat in two rows. A placard was hung with the mode of conduct for the inmates' notice. A lady served food in a hurry to the children. She scooped the rice and placed on the plates. The rice morsels bounced back from the plates and fell down on the floor unable to hold themselves to the speed of the lady.
As the children started eating, he went towards the man and started asking him the reasons why children end up in places like this. The man mentioned various reasons like accidents, parents who are addicted to drugs, parents who remarried, parents who cannot take care of their children due to financial reasons, failed love marriage and so on.
The girl finished her lunch and was near the tap. There was no water coming out of it. So he went towards her and helped her by opening the tap and drops of water started falling on the ground. She washed her hands. He smiled at her. She responded with a cute little smile.
He wanted to give her something. He searched his bag to see if he has a chocolate. No luck. A pen may be. Again, he couldn't find anything. Then he decided to give her some money, so that she could get whatever she wanted. He took a five hundred rupee note from his purse. When he was about to give it to her, the other children entered the room as well. He hid the money. He waited for them to go. Then the man entered. He thanked Raman for his visit to the house. Raman asked the girl if she was allowed to go out. She shook her head indicating a no. He was disappointed very much. Still, he opened her palm and placed the money in her hand and said her that whenever she was allowed to go out, she should buy whatever she wanted. She shook her head again. This time for an yes. He was happy. A cold breeze swept through his face, but this time he didn't set his hair back instead he decided to give her a warm hug.
Raman left the orphanage with a satisfactory mind and a decision to take care of such kids in the future.
Almost an year had passed. The orphanage caretaker had decided to take the children on a picnic to the nearby park. He looked at the girl. Her fist was closed tightly.
"Is everything alright?", He asked her.
The children frolicked around woth enthusiasm. They were going out for the first time in a very long time. The girl walked silently beside the man. Once they reached the park, the man instructed them to stick together and take care of each other. The bell of an ice cream vendor got the girl's attention. She approached him with a tightly held fist.
"Which ice cream do you want?', he asked.
She didn't know what to say.
He was growing impatient.
"Tell fast child". He then took a catalogue and showed her. He asked her to select one.
She was surprised to see so many different coloured ice creams. She didn't know what to choose. Finally she settled on to a violet coloured ice cream cone.
"Forty five rupees"
She opened her fist. There was a wrinkled five hundred rupees note covered with drops of her sweat. She extended her hand towards him. His face frowned.
"Ye chalta nhi. Bring me a new note. This doesn't have any value", he said.
She couldn't understand. She kept her hand towards him continuing her attempt to pay him. He snatched the ice cream from her and put it back into the freezer.
Tears rolled down her eyes. She turned back and walked towards her friends keeping her head down. The money fell down from her hands and she continued to walk not knowing the reason for what just happened.