I always enjoy Utpal's PTMs. For those few hours I get off the spinning wheel, cast my woes aside, forget about funds and balance sheets and set out for the day with a song in my heart and a spring in my ageing and aching feet!
It is always exciting to set out early morning for the long drive and the journey is filled with happy thoughts. Yesterday was one such happy day. We reached school in time and the first task after a few hurried hellos to the guard and staff was to reach his hostel and find him. As always we were greeted by the posse of small kids crowding at the door, each on the look out for his or her parents. Utpal was among them in his read hooded shirt, a tad shy as his warden looked on. After a few minutes spent with his warden it was time to set off for the day. First stop his classroom where we needed to collect his report card. Once again he had done us proud. After a further few minutes spent with his Kamala Ma'am who showed us his craft work and drawings, it was time to fly the coop for a few hours. As always I asked him what he wanted to do and promptly came the answer: pizza khana hai (i want to eat a pizza).
In the car, Amit who had come with us handed him over a box with some cake that he had got from home. Utpal opened the box, a big smile on his face, and then looked around expecting someone to hand him over a spoon. Needless to say we had forgotten to get one. Utpal looked at us with a mischievous smile as he said: should I eat it as my horse does! We laughed our guts out and took the box away telling him we would get him a spoon later.
At the pizza parlour, Utpal regaled us with his usual antics. He sipped his drink his eyes closed and his hands behind his back, danced to the blaring rock music, ate his pizza and ice cream and fed us some too. Time flew, as it always does when one is happy. It was time to leave. Next stop the local grocery to buy his monthly tuck. Biscuits, peanuts and dates where the choice of the day. Then the dreaded moment arrived, the drive back to school. We were going to leave him earlier than usual as I had some work in the afternoon. In the car I gave him the little packet of toys I had bought earlier and that lay hidden in my bag: a small car, a yoyo and some other trinkets. Utpal was all excited as he explored the bag and opened each item. He started telling us what he would do with each of them.
We reached school and he got out of the car his precious packets in his hand. As we set off to walk him back to his hostel, three little boys who were sitting in the school ground whispered: they did not even feed him anything, they just took him out and bough him some things. To which Utpal quipped back: I ate pizza.
We reached the hostel and needless to say the lump in my throat was on there on cue, and the burning in my eyes heralded the dreaded tears, but Utpal the survivor par excellence was already busy with his pals making plans for the remaining part of the day. He had moved on and I realised that it was his way of showing me that all was well and that I could move on too!