Our gang of eight are back to school after their Diwali break. They dropped by on the way to fetch Utpal and say hello! Boy they have grown. It is truly amazing. They looked happy and eager to go back to school with their quilts, their warm clothes and many stories to share. Yash even had a burn on his leg courtesy Diwali crackers and proudly showed it to me as if it was a battle scar. I refrained from any comment to avoid being a wet blanket.
Manisha was all smiles though she waylaid them for the snap. She was happy to go back to school and meet her friends. Meher was her ebullient self and had her own tales to tell. Nikhil has lost some weight and seemed more active. That is good as I was a little worried about him. Babli was serious as usual, much the big sister responsible for the brood. Aditya and Vicky were poker faced a far cry from their habitual naughty selves, guess it was to impress Ma'am.
Utpal of course was a busy body, making sure all packets and bags were loaded in the waiting car, very much the man of the house. And why not, the only home he has now is mine and he is entitled to after all he has been through. He has truly earned his right to reclaim all he has been denied for long.
There they were with their dreams and hopes. I watched them pensively. Maybe I was the only one to realise how fragile and tenuous their dreams were. They all depended on my ability to secure them. The thought frightened me. It was such a huge responsibility. When the journey began with Utpal it was just a case of force majeure. We had no other option. Then came a man with his set of dreams and four more kids joined Utpal. The man walked away without a word and I was left holding the baby. They became five. Three more were added again because there was no other honourable way. What future did Meher have with her scars and Yash who had been abandoned by all. And when a kind man came offering a future to little Manisha could we refuse. Had we done so instead of being top of her class she would have joined her mom picking rags on the street. So we became eight.
True there are kind people who ensure the fee money. But over the years the fees have increased with the cost of living and fees alone do not meet the needs of a growing child. Those who have kids will understand me. There are shoes to be brought as feet grow at the speed of light and clothes winter ones and summer ones, toiletries, uniforms, books, school bags and more. They have to be fetched and dropped at each school break necessitating two vehicles now. All this adds up, yet all this is needed. And to the cynics before they materialise I would like to say that yes they deserve the best even if they happened to be born on the wrong side of the fence. When you assume a responsibility you go all the way. Selective benevolence does not exist.
It is with our eyes wide open that we decided to educate these children and nothing can or should come in the way of our commitment. So help us God!