It was a Sultry Sunday night. She sat by the window of her huge dormitory, staring into the dark void and thinking about the past one week – that had changed a lot in her life . Normally she would have slept by now, but today she had lost the track of time.
Weekends were usually busy. Sundays brought with them the can-be/ would- be parents to the shelter and thus came the hope of a new life for all the orphans. On Saturdays , everyone spent their day washing and keeping their best dresses ready, combing their hair and practicing the “Good Mornings”- to impress their fates the next day .
Adoption , is and was always stigmatized- only except the magnitude of it has reduced over the years. Also, when it comes to picking up a kid – usually the elder ones ,the girls , the dark-skinned and the unpleasant looking ones are conveniently left out of the consideration set….and so she remained invisible to most people visiting the shelter, despite her efforts .
This Sunday was no different, only except for the fact that Mel wasn’t with her.
Mel was the youngest Nun and the most beautiful woman, she had ever met . Despite her grey habit and a tattered apostolnik , she filled colors in everything around. Mel was the one who knew - when someone had skipped dinner, or escaped brushing their teeth. She was the one who plaited her hair and sometimes painted her little pink nails.
On Sunday evenings ,when all the hopes went dim- it was Mel, who told her the stories of Krishna and Ram , of Jesus and Mother …as she dozed off holding onto the rosary under her pillow, besides a colorful picture of the Krishna .Through Mel, She realized God- not religion.
To all of them, shelter was the world and everyone lived in oblivion of the outside tensions (which were quite frequent ). Since a few weeks, there was a clash, between the radical groups over the issue of conversion. An already resource- scare shelter, where getting enough food for the children was a challenge, security was the last thing on the list.
This evening, the huge but weak doors were locked from inside, and the lights were put off. As they heard the mob approaching the shelter with the loud war cry of Har har Mahadev , children clung to each other . The mob had torches and weapons , the furious flames made the saffron coloured scarfs and flags look daunting - as she saw it from the small opening of the window and reported to the others.
The mob approached the room- the heartbeats grew louder, no one moved …held their breath so as to maintain pin drop silence . Each one said a quite little prayer- with clenched fists, which were now cold and almost blue in colour. The noises then moved away …from this particular room , towards the end of the corridor to another one.
She didn’t realize when she fell asleep amidst the chants interspersed with screams . As she woke up the next morning, the shelter was abuzz. She looked outside the window- a huge fleet of ambulance was waiting. The stretchers were not free even for a moment as they carried the dead bodies now covered with pure white sheets.
There were cameras and microphones and blatantly excited bunch of people, who forcefully chatted with each and every person who passed by the shelter . She was confused, and worried. She started walking out of her dormitory; the entire area was now being sealed.
Men in khakis seemed to be doing a stocktaking exercise with hundreds of papers and documents- the only things that seemed important to them. She looked around for Sister Mel, and as minutes passed she became restless.
Suddenly the confusions grew; The noises reached the peak and cameras clicked. A elderly man , dressed in white kurta walked through the corridor, blabbering about peace and unity . She was pushed to a corner and her eyes scanned the crowd, looking for Mel.
She never saw her again. Tonight, The saffron color in Krishna’s picture , brought back the fear and the memories . She opened the window next to her bed and let it slip away ...
In the name of god, something was achieved. She converted herself, quietly to a nonbeliever.