Utpal spent Diwali at home, like he has been doing for many years now. It has been four years since his mom vanished and six years since he has been in boarding school. Things have not been easy for this little braveheart as he has had to deal with many disturbing questions, questions that do not sometimes have obvious answers. The most poignant has been: where is my mother
? The only answer I could honestly give is: I do not know.
One cannot and should not lie to children, even if one knows one is hurting them. So Utpal gets the truth even if it sounds shallow and flimsy. His mom did leave one fine morning. No one knows where she went. For the past three years the little chap has been trying to deal with this absurd reality. What can a 7 year old do? He tried being aggressive, impossible, demanding and challenging, hoping against hope to get our attention and make us tell him what he needed to hear but we remained mute: we had no answers. His behavior become so impossible that we had to seek help.
It began with sessions with a counsellor. Each session was a nightmare: he refused to go, kicked everything in sight, banged doors and howled. Nothing worked: cajoling, bribing, scolding. The situation was hopeless and we all felt helpless. At home questions after questions were thrown at me. Every attempt to soothe was met with a counter question that stunned me. The sessions with the therapist were going nowhere. It was time to take out the big guns. A visit to the child psychiatrist was scheduled. The verdict
: SMD (Severe Mood Dysregulation). Popples was put on medication. His sessions were to continue. The outcome was miraculous at the beginning. Gone were the mood swings and the pouts. But not the questions. They were still there, crowding and choking his little mind. They surfaced many a time and were met with the same answers. We did not have new ones.
Time went by, interspersed with sessions with the therapist. Slowly the fears were expressed and then dealt with. Utpal realised he had no home. We had to build him one, with a family and all that it entailed: love, care but also discipline and counsel. It was not easy. True a piece of paper had made me his legal guardian almost 3 years ago but it was just a paper. We all had a lot to learn, to deal with and to conjure. It was an adventure with unknown morrows. They had to be crafted one day at a time, one challenge at a time. I would have given the world and more to know what was happening in his little mind. But I could not rush matter; he had to take his time.
It isn't easy for anyone, let alone a 9 or 10 year old. Imagine having to close a chapter of your life, however bad and then walk into a new one, however good. Many may think that the choice is obvious: from slum to big house! But that is not the way it works. Slum was where mom was and that made all the difference. And the big house does not have mom. The challenge was huge. Would we be up to it?
Slowly we began to notice imperceptible changes. One had to find a way to his hurting heart and be accepted. The biggest achievement was when one day he came to me and said quite candidly: Maam'ji you are old, you will die
. The rest of the question was left unsaid but I guessed it: What will happen to me
! I was on cloud nine. The battle was won, he had adopted us.
This Diwali, Utpal was an angel. He took interest in every aspect of the festivities, from helping to make sweets, to purchasing ornaments, to decorating the house. He even made a beautiful paper garland for the temple. And he sat doen for prayers and shut his eyes, I knew he had come finally come home.
I was reminded of Dorothy Sayers's words: I love you- I am at rest with you- I have come home.
Welcome home little man!