I still remember that day, my 34th birthday. My inbox was flooded with those formal ‘happy birthday’ messages which, as always, I chose to ignore. Birthdays do not give me pleasure, they are painful and lonely. As if they were just meant to tell you how old and lonely you have become with each growing year. I was getting older and more aloof with each passing year. I have had many friends but none that I can call my own. Especially after you left me.
Like every year, I headed to the same orphanage around 11 am. I had already purchased books, pens, pencil boxes, fruits and toys, enough for every kid in the orphanage. I do this every year, I like the smile it brings to their faces and the twinkle it brings in their eyes. At least, they are happy on my birthday and it soothes my soul. I feel accomplished for that moment.
Who knew this trip to the orphanage would change my life forever! As always, I donned a happy cheerful face and entered the common hall of the orphanage. The sisters, the helping staff and the kids had already gathered there. The huge pineapple cake, just how you liked it, was placed right in the middle.
I let Gudiya and Ram cut the cake, they both love to do it.
I cut the rest of the cake into smaller pieces and started to distribute. As I was on my way to distribute the cake across the hall full of children, I stumbled upon an angel held in the arms of one of the helping staff, looking around curiously. Chubby cheeks, twinkling eyes. I stood mesmerized for a moment.
She smiled, the dimple on her right cheek reminded me of you. I felt a divine connection with that baby.
“How old is she?” I asked the helper.
“Around 8-9 months old. She was brought here 2 months back. We have named her Muskaan.”
“Why was she brought here? Did again someone abandon a girl child?”
“Her parents lost their lives in a dreadful accident, God only knows how she survived.”
“Oh God! May they rest in peace” I murmured and prayed as I held the pretty 9-month-old in my arms.
The time I spent with her was the best time I had had in a long, long time. By the time I reached home I had already made up my mind to adopt this angel.
Not only to give her the life she deserved but also to selfishly to get the happiness she brought back into my life. There was something about her that made me feel the compassion and love I had never felt in years. I wanted to live for her, be there for her, fight for her, drop her to school, dance with her, protect her from the world, warn her boyfriend, bake a cake for her on her birthdays and love her infinitely. I found myself already painting my happy family picture. Mom also fell in love with her, the day she saw her.
I spent hours and hours on weekends with her, that was the least I could do until all the formalities were complete. I was eagerly waiting for the day I took her to my home.
Ma and I reached Mrs Singh’s office in the orphanage. The day had finally arrived. Impatience was driving me crazy. It wasn’t an easy process as I would be a single parent. But thankfully I was above thirty and had Ma under the name of additional family support.
The formalities were complete and I could now take Muskaan home. Ma proceeded with Muskaan towards the car while I waited to personally thank Mrs Singh.
“Thanks a lot, Mrs Singh, you made it possible.”
“I should thank you Anant, I have seen you over the years now, I am so proud you have decided to give an innocent soul a better life. Nidhi and Mithil will now rest in peace”
I was taken aback when I heard your name, ”Nidhi? and Mithil? Nidhi Jain? Mithil …Mithil Sridhar?“
“Yes! Do you know them? I mean did you know them?”
The past replayed itself in front of my eyes like a feature film. The memories of the day you told me that you loved Mithil floated in front of my eyes. Those cheerful days with you, the hate for Mithil that I had suppressed just because of you, your beautiful face, your wedding card… everything was running on my mind.
I could not believe my ears, Muskaan was your and Mithil’s daughter? You and Mithil met with an accident? You both lost your lives? Wasn't I there for you? Are you no more?
My head was spinning with all these thoughts, I don’t know when I left Mrs Singh’s office without even taking her leave.
I reached the car, Muskaan was seated with mom, gazing around the world with her innocent eyes, laughing, smiling, clapping for no reason.
I kept looking at Muskaan. No wonder her smile reminded me of you, no wonder she filled my heart with love and happiness. I wasn’t there for you but I promise you I will be there for your daughter.
I love her, probably more than I loved you.