” Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names; they are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend that they are not real before you hold them in your arms, but once you do everything changes.” I read the quote written on the sign-post before the entrances of my orphanage, reminding myself the purpose of my short life.
That day as I entered, children came running to me in full speed. I was surrounded by high-pitched greetings, shrill voices, clutching and jostling with one another to climb into my arms. There were out-stretched little hands and appeals for attention. Some of them would call me amma ( Mother, in Sindhi language); I never corrected them. Far away I saw something: a young girl lying on floor of inner court yard. No sooner did I realized that it was not only one girl, rather two females. Beneath her was a women drawn with unclean choke lines — sketch of her late mother.
I still remember the day my life changed. That school afternoon it rained heavily, thunder grumbled and rain drops reported for duty. A gust of wind blew that parted the drooping branches of weeping willow tree. I caught a glimpse of what was under the tree: the stright-backed chair turned over, a rope dropping from a high branch, and my mother dangling at the end of it. That day I lost everything . The pain and sorrow shattered me.
I was taken to my Aunt’s home. The house was massive with breath- taking spectacular interior and exterior designs.
“How long is your nephew going to live here?” my uncle’s voice cracked with anger.
“We can’t leave him alone in…” my aunt replied in a meek voice.
“This is not an orphanage!” my uncle’s face turned the color of molten lava and his fist came down on the table with a loud bang.
“Your house is big enough to accommodate me, but your heart isn’t!” I stamped my foot in anger.
“How dare you-” my uncle’s eyes flashed bolts of lighting. With hands trembling from anger, he slapped me hard.
With tears streaming down my cheeks, I stormed out of the house unaware of where I was going. I recalled the day my teacher slapped me; my cheek turned red and warm. Sobbing my heart out I narrated the incident to my mother. I still remember quiet vividly my pain vanishing, as my mother ran her soft hand over my cheek. What am I going to do next? First father and now mother…both left me alone in this world. Struggling with these thoughts, I turned a corner and entered a street. I saw swallows swooping and circling overhead; I was envious of their freedom. Soon I heard a gaunt,old man with an toothless smile informing an other man that a new airline company was selling there tickets on discounted rates. As soon as I heard that offer, I knew what to do.
I paced around the room clenching and unclenching my fists, then I lowered myself in the rocking chair with blank face, and eyes glued to the alarm clock and my suitcase. At precisely 5:30 am my alarm clock sprang to life. Grabbing my few belongings and some money, I left without informing my aunt or uncle. Cold sweat trickled down my forehead when I bought the ticket and finally departed on my flight–flight to freedom. What followed next was hard labour and sleepless nights, but I never regretted getting on that plane. My long awaited happiness came soon after I was hired in an orphanage, to do something significantly close to my heart.
I tried to scoop the girl from her sketched-mother’s lap. She protested. She kicked.
“Come to me, dear!” I whispered. She relaxed herself and allowed me to take control. Tears welled up in my eyes, as I buried a pair of hands under her armpits and raised her from ground. With the girl in my arms, I made my way to the garden. Outside the sun was like glorious conflagration, blazing with fabulous red and yellow colours. That massive sphere reminded me of one of my heart reports: it clearly showed a couple of arteries, veins, and chambers, and announced that I had a life-threatening disease.
“You would live no more than a few years.” I heard the doctor saying, but I cared not. What I only cared about were these orphans.
Until now I thought I provided the children with what they needed. Little did I realize that the fight was not for providing them with shelter or bread, rather ‘love and affection’ — which are difficult to afford.
I let the girl cry in my lap until there were no more tears left in her eyes.