Dec 09, 2023
Dec 09, 2023
by Sundar Rajan
I opened the door in a hurry. The low moaning coming to my ears was so annoying. Sarah was not to be seen in the vicinity. Sarah!. Sarah!. Where are you?. “Can’t you keep that little thing quiet for sometime”.?
“But Ma’am”, stammered Sarah, “the child is running high temperature. It is unable to withstand the fever. Wouldn’t it be better to call a doctor?”
“Don’t tell me what I should do for my child”, I barked back at her.
“You are paid for taking care of that troublesome creature and see that you do it properly.” Or else!. I raised my finger. Sarah backed out with a solemn face, without a murmur. With that, I banged the door shut, signaling the end of the sermon.
Once inside my room, I cooled down considerably. “Maybe, I shouldn’t have lost my cool”, I muttered to myself. I had been in deep reverie over the meeting I was going to chair this evening. It was a special occasion for me. The children of “Paradise” were going to celebrate the tenth anniversary this evening. “Paradise” was my brainchild. The seeds sown with the assistance of a few associates from the local club, had borne fruit. I was the primary founding member. I have been at the helm of affairs ever since its inception. I had nurtured it with great care and Paradise is now very popular in local circles.
It has brought under its umbrella, many orphaned children who had become the innocent victims of the whims and fancies of the “model citizens” from the higher echelons of society. In short, it provided shelter to those unfortunate and orphaned souls, who yearned for love and affection and who had been swept into the sea of sorrow by calamities which always seem to play havoc with the already helpless and downtrodden. The motto of “Paradise” is “Solace for the Sought” and solace it did give for those who come into its fold.
The constant wailing of my child broke through my train of thoughts and this had irritated me. But after my initial outburst with Sarah, I calmed down considerably.
Slowly, I started recollecting my thoughts and recapitulating on the events throughout my association with “Paradise”. My unstinted efforts had catapulted me into the higher rung of society and had given me a feeling of recognition in society.
I began to get dressed for the function. I tried the orange chiffon sari but found it too grand. I then tried the yellow Bengal cotton sari with a red border. This appeared very appropriate for the occasion. I groomed my hair again. I then applied red lipstick and touched it up with lip gloss. I pursed my lips and then looked at the mirror. It was spread evenly across my lips. I gave a smile and applied mascara on my face. I took the puff, closed my eyes and rubbed it evenly across my face. I then opened my eyes and walked over to look at the mirror. I was looking at a young attractive lady beaming at me. A charming smile escaped my lips. A diamond necklace, shone brightly, from my bosom. I then looked at my diamond stud in each of my ears. I slowly lifted my right hand to adjust my hair, when the bangles I wore made a twinkling noise. I noiselessly slipped into my high heeled slippers. I opened my handbag to check if the things I need were in place. I was all set for the function.
As I waited for my car to pick me up, I realized now nicely I had utilized the opportunity the Home had given me, to further my own interests – a sign of recognition in my society and it had worked to the fullest.
The car came round to pick me up at the appointed time. I gave a few curt orders to Sarah and left for the programme.
When the car reached the hall, my driver stopped the car near the portico and hastily got out to open the rear door to let me out of the car. A small crowd had assembled, to give me a warm welcome. A few offered bouquets, which I collected with a smile. I exchanged a few pleasantries with known faces. My driver collected the bouquets from me and took them to my car. I was then ushered to the hall.
The function began with a prayer and the welcome address. Then followed the speech by the guest of honour, a local industrialist, who was in all praise for the “founding mother” of the “Noah’s Arc” as he fondly called “Paradise”. He promised to extend his assistance and goodwill to the smooth functioning of the Home which sought to wipe every tear out of every orphaned child.
The secretary of Paradise then read out the annual report which was received with thunderous applause.
A play was enacted by the children, which was roundly appreciated by the audience.
The Secretary then came to the mike and announced “ I now request Ms Anusia, our President to distribute the prizes to the deserving students in various activities. As I got up, a loud applause greeted me.
The students were lined up and each of them waited eagerly with an expectant smile for their names to be called out. As the name of each student was read out they walked briskly to the dais, greeted me with a smile and extended their arm to receive the prize. I patted them gently, exchanged a few words and handed over the prize. On receiving the prize they bowed low and said in a low voice “Thank You Madam”. Then they marched down to the aisle to take their seats.
The function was crowned with brilliant success; there had been no doubt about it even from the start, for meticulous preparation had gone into it. Every individual involved had taken extraordinary pains to see that the celebration would take place without a hitch.
The function got over with the vote of thanks. As the curtains came down, the children got together and spoke among themselves in a whisper. A few children came forward towards me, hugging a packet. Slowly they extended their hands and handed over the packet to me.
I gave them all a big hug and a warm kiss. I bent down to share a high fly with each of them.. I thanked them for their wonderful love and affection they shower on me. One of the organizers was so taken in by the spontaneity that she offered to take a “selfie”. The children jumped with joy and rushed towards me. They lined themselves in an orderly way and grinned into the camera. After a few takes the mobile was passed round for each one to enjoy the pictures.
Once the participants dispersed, I slowly moved to the balcony. Very eagerly I unfolded the packet and got a big surprise. Inside, I found a doll with arms folded as though offering salutations, modeled by the children. There was a handwritten note in a sprawling hand done with great care, “To our Dear Aunty, Anusia, for your love and affection”. All the children had signed on the note.
This kind gesture, really moved me to tears and clutching the doll close to me, I moved back to the dais.
My car had not yet come for my drive back home. It was getting late enough to be worried. I once again stepped into the balcony and looked down. Except for a drenched street dog that was lying down miserably near the gate, there was not a soul to be seen anywhere. Rain water had puddled under the lamp post. A breeze ruffled the mango tree in the courtyard and a few twigs fell down and broke. Thunder rumbled in the distance.
Did I hear a soft knock at the door? I turned back to see my driver waiting for me. I took the umbrella he had brought with him for me. My driver then rushed back to get the car near the portico to pick me up.
A few members had stayed back to send me off. After bidding goodbye, I unfurled my umbrella and walked hastily towards the sanctuary of my car. My driver had kept the back door of the car open for me. I jumped into the car exhausted, while my driver took the wet umbrella, folded it and put it in the car, with water dripping out from it. He then took the driver’s seat and switched on the ignition. After a few false starts, my car began to move. It was raining heavily and my driver had put on the wind screen wipers to gain visibility.
During my drive back home, my attention was constantly attracted to the cold, rigid and recumbent doll on my lap.
A feeling of guilt seemed to engulf me. I realized I had given little thought about the sick child I had left behind and had all along been selfishly trying to project my image in society. A pang of fear seized me. I could not restrain myself any longer. Even before my car came to a halt I was out of it in a trice. I ran to open the door. I unlocked the door and gave it a shove. It opened with a creek to let me in.
Sarah.! Sarah! I yelled at the top of my voice. But there was an eerie silence. I found the house was in darkness and only hushed silence greeted me. With a muffled cry I turned on the light and ran straight to the bed.
My child was in a deep slumber in the bed and the sun was streaming through the open window. I slowly rubbed the sleep out of my eyes.
Whew! Thank God. It’s just a dream.
Image (c) istock.com
More by : Sundar Rajan