Normally the first Sundays of every month are special. This is the day when the motley crew that goes under the name of 'Utpal's parents' sets out for the long drive to his school and spends time with him. Every month the set of parents is different - barring a few constants - and comes from all walks of life and the world over. This Sunday too his family extended from the US to India via Italy and France!
The day was to be special as we were also planning to visit our new plot of land. After a quick visit to the school we spent some time at the site and then set off to give Mr P his monthly treat. This time after much deliberation it was to be a new mall! After a long drive and a longer wait at the new toll highway we reached the said mall. It was a strange experience as we strolled along Kafkaesque corridors interspersed with newly opened stores.
At last we found a place to eat and later the children play area. The children had their fill of games but somehow the mood was not right as Utpal kept clutching to my hand and refusing to leave me though he had to go back to school in another car. He was unusually stubborn and would not listen to any coaxing. I sat with him on a bench trying to talk to him but to no avail. It was heart wrenching as he does not normally behave that way.
I did not want to leave him and could feel my eyes welling up with tears. He looked up and saw my face and sensing my pain he just walked away towards the waiting car, clutching the little bag filled with the goodies he had bought. I just watched him walk away, wondering what was going on in his little head and not finding the answers that would quieten my mind.
We drove back in silence. I had been deeply disturbed by Utpal's behaviour and wondered what had caused it. What had he been trying to convey? Why was I not able to sense what ailed him?
A plethora of questions crowded my mind each needing an answer but none forthcoming. Some pertained to Utpal only but others took on a wider connotation and I thought of all the little ones who would soon be in our care, each one needing much more than one could even begin to anticipate.
As long as they were left in their world, however dark and abysmal, they were protected by the ways of that very world, but once you took them away things were bound to change. With each step they take on this new journey,will come new dreams, new hopes but also new pain, grief and hurt. As they reclaim their right to be children they will need the protection and care till now denied to them in their world where all one does is simply survive. And we as adults have to play by the rules.
Is that what Utpal was trying to tell me in his own way?