Yesterday Auntyji, the housemother of our foster care called out to Champa and said: Give Manu his dinner! You see it was Champa's duty each evening to serve Manu's plate and hand it to him. Auntyji realised her slip as everyone looked at her dumbfounded. It took some time before things came back to normal and everyone settle down to dinner without Manu, his empty chair a sad reminder of the terrible loss.
When we decided to give Manu a home exactly three years, we also had to give him a family. We crafted one for him. A very special one. It all began with Champa a very special young girl , 4 little kids, a house mother and a special educator. Life was really bindass as this motley crew learnt to live together and create bonds that defied all logic and withstood the test of time. And their joy was palpable if you cared to look with your heart. You just had to watch Manu dance.
For me it was a long home coming, one that began on a scorching day in May 2000 and ended in 2008. Eight long years were needed to build a home and craft a family for Manu. But it was worth every moment, every challenge, every hurt, every kick. When Manu felt terribly sick his little family was shattered and lost. When he came back home from the hospital they all sprung into action to tend to him in what ever little way they could. When the kids left for boarding school, Manu missed them and often asked when the next holidays would be. When they came home for summer Manu would spoil them in his own way and you could see the joy and care in his eyes. When young Anjali joined the family after she lost her mom, she was accepted with open arms. She became family. And recently when young Radha joined the gang, she too was taken in in a jiffy!
The day Manu died, his family was shattered. The girls sat alone in a room in stunned silence, tears rolling down their faces. Soon Manu's real family appeared out of the woodwork to reclaim their own, the one they had forsaken and left on the road. True predators looking for an ounce of flesh. It was galling to say they least, but we withstood it stoically not wanting to mar Manu's last journey.
Today three little girls and an old lady are trying to learn to live without Manu. Not an easy task so help us God!