precious pakoras

Utpal is back in his boarding school after his winter break. he dropped by to give me a hug on his way to school and that is when I managed to shoot this priceless picture. Popples spent his holidays in what he simply called mera ghar - my home.

After spending Xmas eve with me and getting his gifts, he stubbornly started insisting he wanted to go home. Home is the women centre, a place he has been going to for the past 18 months. Normally it is where mom is but for the past two breaks mom has not been there as she is in rehab again. But that does not make a difference is is still home.

I tried to get him to come to my place for New Year's eve as the centre was rather empty and to me looked gloomy, but not to Popples who celebrated the coming of 2009 at home with his pals - the band of neighborhood kids of which he is the leader - and a menu he decided upon: dal and roti. I could not be with him as much as I would have wanted and spoke to him on the phone frequently. One evening he asked me to come to his home and have pakoras. Needless to say and in spite of the bitter cold, I made the trip. It was heart wrenching him to see him jump around me, make me comfortable, run to Roshni in the kitchen to get me a glass of water, and then my proverbial mug of green tea. He then started bringing the pakoras almost one by one, running from the room to the kitchen a little bowl in hand. He fed me as no one has ever fed with, with so much love and pride that I was unable to hold my tears.

My thoughts went back to a day way back in 2005 when the same little boy had offered me a meal of the most unique fish and rice you can imagine,or the day when I had been invited to tea by a little 3 year old who was returning the hospitality he had enjoyed. It was a moving meal as I gobbled pakoras afer pakoras, all digestive ailments forgotten. It was by far the most perfect meal, better than any meal money could buy. It was laced with love and unsaid feelings that hung in the air making the moment truly magic as I enjoyed my precious pakoras.

Many may wonder why a little boy chose to stay alone in what many may call a dingy place rather than be in a big home. the answer is simple: the women centre is where mom lives!