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28 Nov 2011

Of Broken Wings

Note: The owner of this blog is a stupid fool. Why? Because she blocked herself from Blogger and Facebook with great intentions of studying for her exams. But the plan failed when she found out that she didn’t know how to unblock herself and spent the rest of study time trying to find out. Which defeated the whole purpose of blocking herself in the first place. Hopefully they’ll help me unblock myself within the week. Anyway, till then my dear beau has agreed to post for me, so please don’t mind if I don’t reply to comments or even publish them, it’s not because I don’t want to, it’s because I can’t. Yes, I know. I’m a stupid fool.

This is fiction inspired by an tiny incident in Fringe. Hope you like it:)

They loved their break. And I loved watching them on their break.

Knees getting scraped, silly but serious games in play, fights for the swings and that one child who always shares his snack box with every single child around… I had always loved children, their innocence and their unblemished view of the world.

I liked watching the future of this world at a stage before they get caught in the rigors of human existence.

I loved KG B dearly. I loved the way their eyes lit up when they saw me come in, their haphazard sing-song good mornings, the way they kept looking for reasons to touch my skirt for they loved the feel of the satiny cloth. I was touched when the shared their last cookie with me. I was flattered when they brought me flowers picked off someone’s backyard. I was proud when they could say the entire alphabet without forgetting the ‘q’ and the ‘s’. 

They constantly surprised me with their ability to question everything.... why the President wore a sari and not a suit, why the canaries are yellow, why lead pencils don’t have color in them, why they can’t eat glue, who was the teacher who sat with me during lunch, did I have a monster under my bed too…. It was a perennial barrage that they kept up but I enjoyed the challenge of answering each question with what it took to see them skip off to their chair with that satisfied smile of having learnt that much more about the world.

Each child was unique with their own special quirks, habits and needs that it made each of them close to my heart. I prided myself in knowing each one of them better than anyone else, even their parents.

Which was why I was perplexed when Sumi joined KG B.

Oh, there was nothing that made her stand out from the rest of the class – well dressed in a red frock with white polka dots, matching shoes, socks that she pulled up to her knees and a Ben 10 bag that she clutched to herself. She didn’t like her water bottle and tried to lose it in the first few days, sighing when someone always found it out from behind the rose bush.

It was about something that I couldn’t quite place my finger on. It was about a six year old being so quiet. It was about the way she sat staring out of the window munching her Wonder cake silently. It was that she always chose the corner most seats in class. It was that she never used colors, only black and grey in all her drawings. It was that she even talked quietly, softly when she had one of her rare doubts. It was that she packed her things so fastidiously before she walked to the car herself and raised the glass even before her mother could get in.

It was only that she behaved as if she didn’t like existing.

I’d never had trouble making friends with the children; it was enough that they’d found an adult who’d actually sit and listen to them, cared about their lives and their thoughts and fears, which made them trust me implicitly. They had no qualms telling me about their hate for the cabbage their mothers made them eat, their delight at the bubbles in the air and the fear of the Yeti in the closet.

But Sumi was different. She never talked to me, she never let me hold her hand.

I tried talking to her mother about her reticence to come out of her shell, probing a little to find out if there was anything wrong at home, if Sumi had lost someone she loved to make her withdraw so early in life. But the thin, pale, sickly-looking woman who looked on the verge of a breakdown herself couldn’t, didn’t help me. She nervously said something about a pet hamster dying and left with shivering hands.

The child was wilting away in her self-imposed prison, or so it seemed. And I felt useless because for I didn’t know the problem to implement a solution. I went home every day thinking of new ways to make Sumi smile, everyday failing at the one thing that would have made all the difference. I kept trying.

One evening, her car didn’t come. After an hour I looked up her home number and informed the maid who picked up that nobody had come to pick up Sumi. She said she’d inform her father; her mother was apparently out of station and her father had forgotten to pick her up.

By now all the others had left and Sumi was sitting in the last bench drawing in her notebook. I went and sat next to her.
She shifted ever so slightly. 

“Are you hungry?”
She shook her head.
“Do you want to share my brownie?”
I saw her big brown eyes light up at the prospect. But they died down almost as quickly.
She shook her head. “No, Miss. Thank you.”

I opened my contingency brownie slowly making sure the delicious smell wafted towards her. She looked at it doubtfully and sniffed. Then went back to her drawing.
I broke off a bit and put it in my mouth. “Mmm, yummy.”  
Her little black head remained bent over the book.
“Want some?” I asked again.

She shook her head without even looking up.
I wondered yet again what had given the child so much self-control so early in life.

“Don’t worry, your father will come to pick you up soon.”
She stopped drawing. “Mamma isn’t coming?”
“No, your maid said she’s gone somewhere for work. Daddy will come soon ok? Don’t worry.” I’d detected a note of panic in her voice.
“Mamma isn’t coming home tonight?” she looked at me her eyes filled with fear.

I was taken aback at the pain, the terror in those eyes. It was like she was mortally scared of something.

Then it struck me then that she might be afraid of losing her mother. She might be terminally ill and the child must have picked up on it. Put together with her mother’s weak, pale countenance, that made sense. She was living with the fear that today might be the last day that she would see her mother. Enough to make even adults fall apart and Sumi was just a child. I hurt at the ordeal the little girl was put through and I cursed God yet again for the injustice I perceived that He had in store for her.

My heart went out to her; I wanted to gather her small form into my arms and hold her close. I wanted to tell her it’s ok and kiss her fears away. I wanted to see her smile more than anything I’d ever wanted in my life.             

But I just sat there helplessly for she wouldn’t let me even take her hand.

The peon came in and said that her father had come. I asked her if she needed help with packing her bag and she shook her head, yet again.
She was slow today. Her hands shook and she fumbled with the bag’s zipper. She kept looking furtively at the door. It was like she was stalling for time.

She shuffled slowly to the door and started walking out as I picked up my tote and locked up for the day.
Her father was waiting on the steps; he was a tall man, well dressed. He apologized for being late and said that he’d been held up by work. His manners were impeccable. Nothing in his manner or form indicated that he might be undergoing a traumatic period in his life, like I’d inferred, yet I knew that something wasn’t right. Sumi stood by, expressionless now. He thanked me and then held out his hand to the child who took it haltingly. “Bye Sumi, see you tomorrow,” I waved.

Then she turned around and looked at me. The desperation, the plea in her eyes screamed out to me. It was like she was begging me not to let her go, to keep her safe.

And all at once I understood that it was never a dying mother that was her problem. It wasn’t the slow threat of death that had all but broken her inside. It was the loss of a parent that had given her eyes the look of the haunted.

It was the father who caused her unnamable pain. Every night.