Bring him home today

This picture always breaks my heart. It was taken a few years ago when Utpal when I had to leave him someplace he did not want to be in but we had no choice and the little chap could only express his feelings with tears: tears of hurt, tears of anger, tears of frustration, tears that just meant: you did not hear me. The fact is that we did but had no alternative at that given moment. I know that the resilient and brave kid must have stopped crying and moved to survival mode, but the unshed tears I shed stayed with me: tears of helplessness and of guilt. Even when I see the picture today, I feel as bad as I did now. Many a times I thought of deleting this picture but did not as it was part of the journey Popples and I began way back in 2003. This must have been taken in 2007. He was just five and already in boarding school.

Since that day we have had occasional tears but not many. Even when he was upset in school he kept quiet and what was missing was his smile. His cries for help matured with age: bad marks in school, confidential chats with his counsellor or at best a quickly muttered: I do not like the school, within my earshot. He was again on survival mode. Slowly we adults head his silent entreaties and took the step I guess we has hoping for: a new school where he would be heard!

On Monday he visited his new school and fell in love with it at first sight. I think what he saw was people willing to listen to him, people who wanted to acknowledge his plus points and highlight them. He put his best foot forward and behaved like a Prince. He even struggled to find English words to answer his new Principal. She saw his effort and gently switched to Hindi. When I presented his last report card that was not good, she simply closed the it and said: marks did not matter! On the other hand she urged us to send him as soon as possible so that he could participate in the skating zonal competition scheduled for the end of the month. Utpal was over the moon.

Yesterday Utpal had to go back to his old school. When the car came to fetch him, he came to say goodbye, but then burst into tears exactly the same way he had in the picture. He pleaded and wept his heart out. I told him that I did not want him to leave his old school like a coward and wanted him to leave his head held high. I promised him that we would get him home today and in his new school tomorrow. He finally settled down in my arms and picked up his bag and left. His last glance was one of total trust that said: please don't let me down.

Utpal's tears yesterday revealed how much he suffered in silence in the last year where he was bullied and even humiliated time and again, the worst being when his class teacher chose to state in a loud and shrilly voice that he was a liar! For me that was the straw that broke the camel's back. I knew his time in that school was up.

We will bring him home today!