Tomorrow is Utpal's PTA and once again his motley family will set out early in the morning to spend the day with him. This time it is Amit, Chanda Didi, Kiran Didi, Radhey and maam'ji who will form the party.
I am looking forward to the moment when his best pal Simran who is always on the look out for incoming parents will spot us and yell: Utpal tere parents aageye- Utpal your parents are here- never mind if the parents are a gang of 5 and not the conventional mom and dad duo.
He will appear slowly from somewhere and look at us shyly while we will assess the changes: his over oiled hair, his height and his tanned face, then his face will light up and he will run into our arms as we all start babbling together.
After the customary chat with his maam's, we will set out to plan the day. While some of us will remain in school and laze on the lawns, Utpal will set off his little jaunt: a metro ride and a stop at a shop to get the forbidden goodies: pack of chips and a pepsi! But before that he will seek his kitchen bhaiyas for his daily feshment and ensure that there is one extra share for his maam'ji. It could be a paratha or a banana but to me they are nothing short of manna's dew as they are laced with a very special kind of love.
Back from his little time off, it is time to play in the open and see the new antics, hear the new repertoire of songs and bask in moments of pure delight. Utpal will then set off to his kitchen pals to ask when luch will be laid and we will share his lunch in the big dining hall after joining in in the prayer led by forbidding Anil Sir.
The Sunday meal is rice and beans and can beat many a gourmet meal as we sit amidst the din and share this rare moment with a child who defeated every odd to be sitting with children from the other side of the fence as one of them.
As the lunch ends with the throwing of plates - Utpal's way of defining plates sent down a chute to the kitchen - silence descends upon Utpal and his family as soon it will time to say goodbye, a time we dread. Sometimes he lets us go as he walks away without a glace back, and sometimes he clings to us and lets out heart wrenching cries.
The ride back is always in silence as we try to reconnect with ourselves after a day drenched with hope and love.
In two weeks Utpal will be spending his holi break with his mom and sister and though it will be painful not to having at home, it will be a huge step in a journey i began many years back: trying to once again thread the beads of a little family that had scattered in more ways than one.