Suryakant opened the newspaper and was grazing through headlines. When he stumbled upon a news item on covid -19 related situation, he was really shocked. A photo of a small kid in tears was blown up and focused. The small boy was standing along with two other elder siblings. The narration went as under… Both parents had tested positive somedays ago. The children somehow managed to keep themselves in seclusion. With tips and help from neighbours they maintained themselves stay alive. But the severity of pandemic was so strong that the parents passed away one after another. Upto this point it was news for Covid update. Beyond that it, it was reporter’s query about those children’s bleak future. “What will happen to them? Who will take care of them? What is the Governments’s Action plan for such cases – considering that this is not an isolated case? What is the responsibility of our ‘so called’ civilized society?” The news bit ended abruptly after posing various questions.
Suryakant thought that the reporter was clever enough to wash off his hands after highlighting the issue and left the responsibility of solving it, upon others’ shoulders. Nevertheless, the photo of the kid in tears was disturbing him. In the same paper, elsewhere on a different page, he read about cases arising out of Covid-19, being referred to CARA -Central Adoption Resource Authority-- an agency for taking care of abandoned and orphaned children. But due to resource crunch, the agency also found it difficult to cope up with the surge in number of cases. Pandemic had affected all. People coming forward to adopt children had by far reduced. As a reader, he found this piece of news also, a disturbing one.
He called his wife Shobana and showed the two major news items which had churned him low and feel desolate. She patiently went through them. She too felt sorry for the nation being swept away by the wave of Pandemic with resultant side effects on manifold facets of life. Nation’s economy was ruined. She said, “That apart, when the bread winner is lost, the family is tossed and forced to face jolts and jerks. The problems faced by migrant labourers were quite pathetic. They had to walk miles and miles on foot, without proper food or shelter. It was very painful to note that even after reaching their hometown, they were not permitted to join their family. They were forced to remain away from their kith and kin and were put under quarantine. No income, no job opportunities, no food, no close contact with their own people. Such adverse conditions simply derail anybody. Those labourers were no different and made them sink into depression.”
She was detailing on some more pains endured by them. Suryakant interrupted her. “Okay. Okay. No doubt that they suffered heavily. In this long-drawn struggle with Covid for more than one and half year now, many of us have understood their pangs and have deep compassion for them. They underwent such trauma and I understand, they are slowly overcoming it. Here I am referring to another side of Pandemic. These unfortunate children. It was none of their fault and they are the worst victims. In any critical crisis, they are the most vulnerable captives and caught unaware. I called you in the morning and drew your attention to this topic and wanted to know your opinion. What humble action we can take at our level to address this gigantic problem. Even the so-called CARA is pleading for support from the public. The issue is burgeoning. Before you spell out anything abruptly, let me remind you that I was myself in a similar situation in my childhood.”
Suryakant gulped some water, as he was about to delve and dig into his flashback.
“I was about eight or nine old, when I lost my parents, … both parents at a time …. in a car accident. You may not know that I did not have any biological sibling. Lalita Padma and Krithika, whom you know now, are my sisters by our emotional bonding and through my foster parents. So, I was telling you that I lost my parents in one stroke and I suddenly became an orphan. At that time, I did not even know what it was to be an orphan. Nobody called me orphan even once. My parents were very kind and generous to all and everybody, known to them. Be it relatives, or friends. Immediately on hearing about their sudden demise, they were shocked and they came rushing to see their mortal remains and confirm themselves on the harsh realities. Lalita’s father Kitcha was a mere friend of my biological father. But, instantly and immediately and without least hesitation for a second, they took me into their fold and told all the people present there … relatives and friends … From this minute onwards this boy is our son. Not because we have only daughters and no son. It is our sheer sense of deep friendship and everlasting bond between us. One freak line of selfishness is also there. By keeping this Surya with us, we will be constantly refreshing ourselves our good old days filled with endless and timeless memories. These were the exact words spoken by my foster father. Shoba dear, you will not believe. It is still fresh in my memory. There was a pin drop silence in the hall. No one ever even thought of what will happen to me. Much before anybody could think of my pitiful condition and my questionable future prospects, it was arrested. The problem did not even crop up and a solution was provided. Kitcha, my present father is my foster father. He took me away from my native place and I slowly became part and parcel of the family. I can never-never repay the tremendous love and care showered by Lalita Padma and Krithika. They are popularly known as LPK in our circle of relatives. From day one to till today I had never been to my native place where my biological parents lived. Though I may call that as my home, I cannot return to that home. I do not belong to that place anymore.”
Before he could proceed further, Shobana patted him and tried to comfort him. “Are you sad that you could not go back to your home town or visit your native place? When lockdown is slackened, we shall go there once and see how your ancestral house looks like. You can still be called native of that place. Let us term it as ‘Return of the Native.’”
“No. No. Nothing like that. I do not have so much attachment to the place. I care more for people than I bother about places. I came to know later that my original father’s house given away to his cousin and I believe it must be in his custody. Most likely that his children would have inherited it. I am not interested in that property either. But my main concern now is that I was benefitted by my present foster father’s benevolence and he never made me know what orphanage was. Natural justice demands that I should give back. I was wondering how I must reciprocate and honour this craving for natural justice of giving back to society. You are my better half and you are my life partner. How can I do anything without consulting you?”
He continued in the same tone and tenor. “You please tell me what I should do?”
Shobana said, “It is a big decision. We both are young enough to have our own children. But you stand tall when you say that we must adopt orphaned child or say, children from CARA. Even though it is a natural craving for me to have my own baby, I am standing in your way of getting one from CARA. Let us call that child as our first one. Our own biological baby will be his or her sibling. I wholeheartedly welcome your decision of giving back. Be assured, I am with you in all your endeavours.”
Smilingly she added, “Once you bring them in here, they too cannot go back to their home.” She stressed again, “They too cannot return home. Just like you. As you could not return home.”
Suryakant was doubly happy. He would go ahead with what he wanted to do. “Hello Appa, you guided me and I follow your footsteps.” He felt his foster parents who had joined his biological parents in course of time, were blessing him. He was sure that both sets of parents were now showering their choicest blessings.
What more does he want when his wife is with him and assuring him full support!