January 1st 2006 9:00 A.M.
“Ram, can you pass the butter, please?” said Swati, as she intensely read the newspaper. “Can you believe these guys?” she said, turning the news paper towards her husband. “I mean, how can these guys just evict people out of their homes like this? I am telling you…”
“Honey, honey, honey” Ram said, cutting Swati short. “You can go all guns blazing when we are in the car. But, right now please finish your breakfast so that we can leave? I really can’t get late, you know that.”
“You are no different , are you? I mean, how can you be so insensitive? You know…” this time Swati cut herself short, as a visibly disinterested Ram pointed to his watch while getting up from the table.
10:00 A.M. St. Francis’s Orphanage
It was a time to celebrate at the St. Francis Orphanage. It was not just the beginning of a new year, it had been exactly one year since fifty children, each of whom had lost their family in the Tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean, were brought from Chennai through a Government sponsored program to help them rebuild their lives.
Sister Margret, who was attending to one of the kids, all of a sudden turned her attention towards the gate as she saw a black Honda City pull up. She broke into a smile as she saw Swati getting out of the car.
“Hello Sister Margret, how are you?” said Swati after giving Sister Margret a tight hug.
“I am doing absolutely fine Swati, but the kids have been dying to see you!” replied Sister Margret.
“Are you kidding? I’ve been dying to see them!” said Swati. “Hey everyone! Look what Swati aunty has got for you!” she said, turning towards the kids and showing them a bag full of chocolates.
She was immediately mobbed by all the kids who got hold of their chocolates and went back to what they were doing earlier.
Swati was a counsellor at the orphanage and had been working with them ever since the kids had arrived there. Almost all the children had now moved on from where fate had left them a year ago. Some of them in fact, had found new homes in different parts of the country and were already on their way to rebuild their lives. One of them however, was still stuck in December 26th 2004. His name was Vivek and this ten year old kid was Swati’s favourite.
“So, where is my favourite little kid?” asked Swati.
“Where would he be? Sitting alone in his room with his paint brush and drawing book.” replied Sister Margret, as the happiness on her face was suddenly replaced with sadness. “Please do something Swati, I can’t see him like this. In the past one year all these kids have moved on, but, Vivek…” she stopped short as tears began to roll down her face.
Swati caught hold of her hands and said, “He will, we just need to find a way to let his emotions flow. The day we do, he will be fine. Trust me; it’s just a matter of time.”
When Swati entered Vivek’s room – as expected, he was sitting on his bed making a painting.
“So, what’s my little Picasso up to? Show me what you’ve made?” she said putting a chocolate into his mouth and taking the painting from his lap.
The excited expression she had put on her face suddenly turned to dismay as she saw a painting of a man, a woman and a little kid standing on the beach and a huge wave coming from the sea. Below the man was written appa and below the woman was written amma. Unable to control her tears, she walked out of the room.
Things were unusually quiet at the dinner table. Both Swati and Ram weren’t saying anything to each other. Had their neighbour Mrs Reddy been there, she would have been a hundred percent sure that the two of them had had a fight.
At last Swati broke the ice as she said, “Vivek really baffles me. I just don’t know how to get him out of this state.”
“Finally, someone has spoken. I was beginning to get scared that you are still angry with the government.” replied Ram, in a mocking tone.
“Shut up Ram. You know I hate it when you do this.” retorted Swati.
“Ok, ok my dear princess, what about Vivek, tell me.” Ram tried to pacify her.
“He needs to get his emotions out. He needs to open up but I just can’t get him to do that.” Holding her head Swati continued, “It just kills me whenever I see him. All his paintings have either something tragic or something connected with the tsunami. I tried showing him paintings of sceneries, but they seem to have absolutely no meaning to him.”
After a pause she continued, “But, there was something very strange I noticed today.”
“What?” asked Ram.
“After I ran out of the room, Sister Margret showed me Vivek’s other paintings. They were the same tragic paintings, except for one.”
“What about it?” asked Ram curiously.
“It seemed like a railway station, with a man standing on the platform. It didn’t seem to have a link to his life in any way because if it is indeed a railway station, it must have been a pretty old one, because it had chimneys on the rooftop. You don’t find such railway stations now , do you? Anyways there was something else I really wanted to talk to you about.”
“What?” asked Ram.
“It’s been 5 years since we have been trying to have a kid and we haven’t been able to, right? I was thinking… I mean, it’s only a suggestion, but, err… can we adopt Vivek?”
Ram became motionless when he heard these words and looked at Swati as if he couldn’t believe his ears.
“Darling, it’s ok. We won’t adopt, if you don’t want to. Relax, it was just a suggestion.” Swati tried to pacify him.
Filled with emotion, Ram gave Swati a tight hug. “Oh my god! I’ve been thinking about adopting a kid for quite a while now, but I wasn’t sure how you would react, so I never asked you.”
Holding her by her shoulders and looking into her eyes he said, “We will adopt Vivek, and we are going to be the best parents ever!”
January 5th 2006
“He couldn’t have got a better home Swati, thank you so much for this.” said Sister Margret as she finished all the adoption formalities.
“You don’t need to thank us sister, it’s our pleasure.” replied Ram with a smile.
Sister Margret smiled and said to Swati, “Do keep me informed about his progress.”
“I will sister, in fact the next time we come to see you, I think there would be a considerable progress.”
As the days and months passed by, Swati dedicated all her time towards Vivek. Initially her approach towards Vivek was more like a counsellor, but soon she realized that was not working out and this way Vivek wouldn’t get his life back and she wouldn’t get her son. From his counsellor, she had now become his mother. Every now and then, she would brush his hair with her hand and give him a tight hug. At night, she would sing him a lullaby while putting him to sleep. Swati and Ram had admitted Vivek into one of the finest schools in the city. Ram would come back early from work and sit with him, helping out with his homework. In the month of March, they had planned a holiday to Switzerland, all this hoping for a breakthrough.
Feb 10th 2006 9:00 A.M.
Swati and Ram were finishing their breakfast when Swati said, “Darling, I met Mrs Ganesh today – remember that teacher who used to work with me in the school I was teaching in? She has invited us over for dinner tonight. I think it would be nice if Vivek can meet her son, Kartik. If I am not wrong, they are both the same age.”
“Yeah sure, that would be great. I’ll pick you two up on my way back from office.” He said after kissing Swati goodbye.
8:30 P.M. at the Ganesh residence
“Welcome! Please come in.” said Mrs, Ganesh as she opened the door for her three guests.
As they all made themselves comfortable on the sofa in the drawing room, Mrs Ganesh spoke up, “So how have you guys been? And I see a new member added into your family. What’s your name little boy?”
Vivek didn’t respond and Swati had to answer, “His name is Vivek. By the way, where is Kartik? He must be quite grown up by now!”
Before Mrs Ganesh could answer, a boy wearing a red and white stripped t-shirt and white shorts ran into the living room, where everyone was seated.
“Take the devil’s name! That’s my little devil, my little Kartik.” said Mrs Ganesh as Kartik came and sat next to her.
“Hi Kartik, how are you? You have grown nice and big! How old are you now? asked Swati.
“I am ten years old.” replied Kartik in a sing song manner.
“Hey, my son Vivek is also ten years old.” Said Swati.
“Why don’t you show him your room, Kartik?” said Mrs Ganesh making Swati’s work easier.
After Kartik and Vivek had gone into Kartik’s room, Swati said, “Thanks Mrs Ganesh, I really hope they become friends. Vivek really needs it.”
“Don’t worry Swati, everything will be alright.” said Mrs Ganesh.
Ten minutes later they heard a huge scream from Kartik’s room. As they reached the room, they found Vivek howling, and shouting the words appa and amma. Swati immediately ran towards him, knelt down beside him and held him to her chest. “It’s ok, your amma is here! Don’t worry!” But his howling wouldn’t stop.
Meanwhile, Kartik was desperately trying to convince his mother that he didn’t do anything and that Vivek began to cry all of a sudden.
Swati noticed that he was pointing towards a painting, while he was crying. It was a painting that looked quite a lot like the one he had made – the one Swati was baffled about – The painting of the railway station.
“Where did you get this painting from?” asked Swati.
“I got this from Chennai a few months ago. It was being sold to raise money for the Tsunami affected people. Someone said, quite a bit of the stuff there belonged to the people who died in the tragedy.” replied Mrs Ganesh.
“Oh my god, this probably belongs to Vivek’s family. All along he has been trying to recreate his world in his paintings, I knew that, but, this painting was a mystery. Finally my questions have been answered. Can I keep this Mrs Ganesh? ”
“You most certainly can Swati.” She said with a smile.
That night Swati writes in her diary:
“Today Vivek found a piece of his past life in reality and that broke him down. Today I witnessed the first sign of emotion coming out of Vivek. I think I have finally achieved my breakthrough. Now it’s just a matter of time before he gets back to normal.”
Jan 1st 2007 9:00 A.M.
“Amma, happy New Year. Look at my new drawing.” said a smiling Vivek to his mother.
“Wish you a happy New Year son. Wish you a happy new life full of happiness.”