When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching -- they are your family
wrote Jim Butcher. These words take a poignant meaning when applied to my darling Popples. There are few in this world whose like goes to hell from the word go. Born in a dysfunctional family where violence was the rule and not the exception, he fell into a booing wok and had a close brush with death. I guess God had a change of mind and that is why he brought onto his life an eclectic bunch of people whose mission was to heal his wounds with love and tenderness. He toddled through his first years with love in the day and violence at night, the kind of violence that comes with the bottle, not the one babies drink, but the one adults fall prey to. There were nights without food, nights where the tiny child got beaten, nights where you were dragged to the cop station and only God knows what you witnessed. At the age of three, he knew that he had to hide the empty bottles when I came visiting and would run ahead of me on his chubby legs to hide them as best he could.
We watched all this in mute silence till it became so deafening that one had to act. In a single day he lost what had been his home and family. He was just four. A few months later he was admitted to a boarding school and was safe. But then came the holidays and the violence again as he became the soft target that could be used to extract pennies for a few more bottles. No matter how hard we tried, no matter how many rehabs we sent his mom too, the bottle always prevailed. Once again the silence was deafening and we had to take out the big guns. He became my legal ward. He was eight. His mother simply vanished.
A few months later he became difficult and aggressive and we were at a loss. The unvoiced and thus unanswered questions in his little head took their toll, and were not equipped to get him to voice them and thus answer them. He went into counselling.
In his holidays he came to home to me, and though my love was unequivocal. there were others at home that had to be won over. Slowly and patiently the little chap worked his magic. It is true that for some it took longer than for others.
But that was not all. At school he had to deal with bullying because of his scars. When it became unbearable and the school remained insensitive, came another deafening cry. Mercifully the ruler he chose to auto mutilate was blunt.
We changed his school and he seemed happier, but the questions were still there; still unvoiced. He was assigned a mentor and last month he finally broke his silence when he asked about his family. He had opened the channel of communication and it was time he was told his story. And who better than his Maam'ji to do that.
I must admit I was nervous and scared
. I knew that I held the key to his morrows. Mercifully I had a peg to start the talk: a family tree as part of his homework.
We sat at our work table and I asked him if he had any questions about his family. He hung his head down and was on the verge of withdrawing, a coping strategy he often resorts too when he is uncomfortable. If I diddled too long, I would lose the moment so I began telling him his story from the first day I met him, a few days prior to his accident. I spoke softly choosing the right words and making sure that he spoke only the absolute truth. After a few moments he looked at me and said: this is a film story. Yes little fellow it is. But we carried on till the moment when I had no option but to talk about his mother and her disappearing. I told him I did not know where she was but also added that she knew he was safe and loved. After some time he looked at me and said: I know where she is
! My heart missed a beat and I waited with bated breath for his answer. She is in front of the biscuit shop
he quipped with a smile.
Tears welled in my eyes. I stopped them just in time. I did not want him to see me cry. The last home he shared with his mother was indeed located next to a biscuit shop but that was not all. He associates his mother with biscuits as she always bought him some. I knew how much biscuits and mom are synonymous in his life but I was still taken aback when this morning he asked for biscuits and tea for his breakfast. Needless to say that is what he got.
It was now time to make his family tree and as advised by the counsellor, I waited for him to take the lead. He did and soon emerged the most beautiful tree you could ever imagine as it defied every single canon that defines a family. If I am Maam'ji and Nani (maternal grandmother), then my husband is Dadu (paternal grandfather). My son-in-law is Bapu (the name my grandson call him by and a decision taken by the three of them) but my two daughters are Didis or big sisters., and my grandson is his little brother. Then there are all those who love and care for him: Deepak (big brother), Radhey simply Radhey, Dharmendra (paternal uncle) and mamaji (maternal uncle). That is his Indian family but there is also Xavier who is his French God father and Clarissse his French God mother. That is where it stopped at least for now. It is now left to me to put that in a family tree! What we knows deep in his heart is that we are all there for him and will never walk away.
He is safe and loved. We are his family!