A little girl called Ahana, in a cute red and white polka dotted dress, stole my heart a few days ago and made me all weepy. Another little one came into the crux of my arm and told me her name was Keerthana. Others began to mill around when she stretched her hand, picked up a small cloth and wiped the sore eyes of a little boy who was crying that he was hurting. I wanted to sit there and bawl my eyes out too at how unfair it all was.
It was my aunt’s death anniversary and every year, my parents and uncle go to an orphanage. This was the first time that I went. There I was in a house of orphans in Puttur near Mangalore, being ‘benevolent’ and watching the hundred-odd kids have lunch which my family had sponsored that day. I was being part of charity and was expected to feel blessed about having the opportunity to be able to ensure food on the plates of these children. But I fact, I felt outright hypocritical and utterly helpless.
There was an outbreak of sore eyes and most young kids were lying out on the floor when we went in. I walked into this large room when the above scene happened. I felt like a worm for not being able to give them the only thing they asked for: a loving touch. The little Ahana came and clung on to me, talking and touching my hair and hands, peering at my tattoo, questioning. I wanted to hug them all and not let go.
At lunch time, they all sit in rows and begin with a lot of shlokas and prayers while the piping hot food is being served. I was mighty impressed with how well mannered all of them are. Contrary to some places heard off and read about, this place is very clean and the children very well looked after. Health is not something that you can forge for the benefit of the benefactors. At least they are very well fed and properly clothed.
Ma has been going here for a few years now. She was telling me that there was a little girl last year who came and held ma’s hand and asked her, “Where is my mother? I want my mother, I want to go home.” Ma of course didn’t know what to do. Then there was this other story she told me about a kid asking for just one more chakkuli (a snack) when they were being served. He asked ma to give him just one more. She told me of how she couldn’t stop her tears when he asked. I couldn’t too, when I heard it. And I am someone who prides myself in not crying easily.
How can life be so unfair? Stupid, rhetorical question, of course. But it is heart wrenching to see children ask for one thing that they don’t get—love. We are lunch there too; the food was simple, but delicious, and extremely hot and healthy. The children are sent to schools and taught music, yoga, dance, etc. I know some of the trustees of the orphanage; they are well off, good people. All the staff is young girls in their 20s. There isn’t likely to be the horror tales that you read about in other places. Yet, love and family is so sorely missed.
I wished I could adopt a child right then and there. Fanciful thinking, I know, don’t tell me that. I wanted to do something, anything, for those children, tell a story maybe or give a hug. But their questions would still remain. What I didn’t have were answers.
I suppose I feel blessed for the super family that I have; parents so wonderful that I often feel I don’t always justify the love they give me. But during the worst days of my life, the only thing that sustained me was love. Because end of the day, all you really need is love.
Yet, now, I cannot erase the image of the wide, innocent eyes of those children. What was their mistake? Why shouldn’t they be loved too? When life is so unfair, how am I supposed to reinforce any faith in that someone called God?