look at me I also exist

Meher came into our lives just a few months ago. Her story is nothing short of tragic and yet her joie de vivre is infectious. From the time she walked into the women centre she adopted us all.

Though officially enrolled in the creche, Meher has become part and parcel of the centre where she practically lives. Her booming voice, her incredible self confidence, her larger than life smile and endearing ways make you forget the scars on her face or her maimed hands.

True that some may find her a tad spoilt, but what the heck, she deserves every bit of pampering and overindulging to make up for all that was taken away from her on the fateful night when a cheap mosquito net caught fire and scarred her for life when she was barely a few months old.

Meher has an incredible spirit. In spite of her tiny age she wants to live life to its fullest. She seems strangely aware of the fact that she is not like others and is probably conscious of the fact that people look at her with a mix of pity and even horror and yet she is not one to hide behind anything. She faces you head on and ensures that you look at her and acknowledge her existence. And once you do she treats you to her breathtaking smile that almost washes away all her scars. Her message seems simple: look at me, I also exist.

Meher is probably an extreme example but over the past decade I have seen this spirit in almost every child that has come the pwhy way. They all bear scars though for most of them these are invisible: scars of humiliation at the hands of uncaring parents, scars of indignity meted by brutish teachers, scars of embarrassment at their poverty, their disability and so on. The list is endless.

And yet, when given a chance even the tiniest one, these children, no matter their age, want to tell you just like Meher: look at me, I exist. They do it in subtle ways: a good report card, a lesson well learnt or sometimes simply a hesitant smile and a hand held out. And if you respond then there is no stopping them.

There are millions of such children, waiting in the wings for someone to simply tell them : I see you and know you exist!