I asked him for his story, there was no smile. Was he the boy in the photo with the begging bowl? A wistful, soft reply warned me; “It’s a sad story.” “That may be so,” I answered, “but remember, Your story isn’t finished. You are fifteen, there may be a good ending?” A small, wounded smile wondered; “How can there be a happy ending?” He recited his story:
[Continued from Part 2; ending]
When we reached home, Papa began to act crazy; we understood how much he really loved her. He began running here and there like a mad-man out of control. He was even laughing. It made us cry to watch him.
Before mother died, she begged the teachers at school, “take my children and put them in the hostel.” I went to work at 3:00 a.m. and came back home at 8:00 a.m. School was at 9:00 a.m. —it was difficult. I was only 7 when mother died. Sanjeev couldn’t even walk. He was about 2 and was always carried around by Mom. My sister was five when Mom died; she began to carry him.
People told us nonsense because we were little and they enjoyed scaring us, “At night Your mother comes and knocks on our door”. We were afraid to come out of our house. I had to go to work with the women who went in the evening. I’d earn 50 to 100 rupees and buy vegetables. I made food for all of us. Whatever my brother earned went into the house rent. Papa was drinking. Finally, Mommy’s wishes were granted and arrangements were made for us children.
The first to leave were my twin brothers; they were admitted in a hostel 60 km outside of Dehradun. I haven’t seen them for a few years. My sister was next; admitted into a hostel about 30 km outside of Dehradun. When she went, there was no one to hold Sanjeev. He just lied on the ground crying. After two or three days I started carrying him around; I couldn’t bear to see him like that.
The principal of our school located another hostel, Shishya where Sanjeev and I were admitted. I was really scared to go to a hostel because I’d heard bad things about such places. We were both crying, “We don’t want to go to a hostel…” But the choice was not ours to make. Some relatives said that my older brother should go to the hostel instead of me because I earned a lot. If he got caught stealing, he would go to jail. If I got caught, the police would leave me. Some parents sent their kids out alone, but not my mother.
Shishya had a beautiful campus and the best surprise was that the people were so nice. We ended up wanting to spend our holidays on the campus instead of going anywhere else. I lost my mother but at Shishya I gained a lot of Aunties; Ruth Auntie was very special. After a few months, we got news of my father’s death. Kiran Uncle heard this news much earlier, but because Papa died soon after we were admitted to Shishya, didn’t tell us right away. Uncle wanted to save us from being sad again so quickly. Even though he waited, no night would have been good. We were very sad again and became orphans. I thought, “if my father was here, we’d be happy —just to have someone, one parent, even though he drank —it would be wonderful.” Sanjeev was too small to understand, but he didn’t sleep. I knew he had caught on to something. He used to ask me where’s Mommy and where’s Papa? I’d tell him “Papa’s at home.” Telling the truth was too painful, so even I held out on the truth as long as I could. I asked my brother how my father died. He said “Papa was so sad mother was gone that he started drinking even more; he was mad that she was dead.”
My aunts took all my mother’s jewelry that was meant to be my sister’s special memories of my mother. Nothing was left, except what we could remember. Mommy had told us stories. Her father, treated her badly. Every night he would send her outside to sleep. She’d have to find somewhere, maybe with her friends or relatives. Her parents, my grandparents, used to drink and fight. My mother’s elder sister also drank a lot. I heard she died soon after I came to the hostel. My mother met my father and married him when she was very young; she no longer had to run from her house. They were nearby, but had their own house.
My sister came to Shishya. Her hostel is a hostel for both boys and girls; bad things happen there. I always tell my sister that she has to be good. She is sensible, but emotional. I like my sister; she loves us a lot. Sanjeev didn’t talk to her when she came, so she hesitated and didn’t hold him. But when she was leaving, he wept.
My colony is still the same; depressive and dangerous. It is filled with evil and fear. At Shishya I felt such freedom. Part of that is from knowing Jesus. I was eight when I came to Shishya and I’ve been here eight years. Being here is good, but when I think about not being able to save Mommy, I’m still sad.