“Will she never be able to talk?” she couldn’t hide her fears.
“Why not Mrs Sharma, don’t be so negative”, doctor’s voice was full of hope.
“…but she is already one”, she put forward her doubts.
“She is absolutely fine Mrs Sharma. Maybe she is not getting to hear much at home, which is delaying her speech.”
Mr and Mrs Sharma moved to Mumbai around three years back. About a year ago they got the third member of the house, their only daughter Hanshita. Hanshita was just like any other girl of her age, a small packet of infinite energy. All day long she used to play with her mother, after her father had left for office. She had but this one problem which bothered both Mr and Mrs Sharma; she wouldn’t utter a single word except ‘Maa’. With passing days, their worries started to grow more and more. They finally decided to consult a doctor after Hanshita had her very first birthday celebration. Mr Sharma went to the reception to check in for the appointment.
“What did she say?” asked Mrs Sharma in a soft tone, “When is the doctor going to see us?”
“She asked us to wait for a few minutes; he is busy with a patient.”
Hanshita was not able to understand any of these. She was sitting beside her mother on the metal chair, swinging her legs and wondering what was happening. Finally it was the time to meet the doctor. “Let’s go Hanshita”, said her mother. The chair was a bit too high for her age and it took a great effort for her to come down; of course she had to get help from her mother. Holding her mother’s fingers, she started to follow them to an unknown place. On the way she was looking at everything and might have had a lot of questions in her mind but she couldn’t ask. Dr Khan checked Hanshita for any abnormalities and assured that she was perfectly fine. Mr and Mrs Sharma still were worried as their daughter was old enough to utter more than just a word. Normally a child learns to speak about twelve to fourteen words at least, by the time they are ten to fourteen months old. Hanshita could speak only one by that age. Dr Khan asked Mr and Mrs Sharma to talk more with her; as she listens to different sounds, so she could reciprocate those. They were a family of three and most of the time of the day, Mr Sharma used to be busy with his office and work. Hence Mrs Sharma had to solely take the responsibility of it.
All day long Mrs Sharma used to talk to her, read her stories and sing to her. Even with all the efforts of her, something was lacking. In this fast paced world, most of the families are now “Nuclear Families”. The concept of living together perished much ago from the west and east too was catching up. To survive in this cosmopolitan world people have to search for jobs which paid better than the previous; this leads them to relocate to a region unknown, to people never met before, to a language not understandable, to a cuisine never tasted and to a climate not accustomed to. Leaving the comfort and warmth of the family, they start their journey for that unknown place, on a route they have never travelled before. In the midst of all these, the concept of joint family is becoming just a mere concept. People today can surely argue that it is better in concepts than in reality but then again, Hanshita proved that our ancestors were not that wrong to be holding the concept so dear to their heart.
I have known people from that age, who like a banyan tree used to hold the members together. Yes I agree that utensils in the kitchen do clash and make noise, that doesn’t mean we will be keeping those in separate rooms. We still keep those in the same place because we know, no matter how much sound these make; it compliments each other when needed for. There was a high possibility that if Mr and Mrs Sharma had some more people in the house, Hanshita might have learned to speak few more words. A coin always has two sides. So much as there was a high possibility; it could have also happened that even after being with more members, she could have only learned to speak a single word. As there is not much a chance to experiment on the other side of it, we know not much of what could have happened; we just know what did happen. Moreover it is quite unrealistic of her father to have left a job that was paying real good and return to home permanently.
Hanshita was asked to put in a school where she could mingle with more kids of her age and might start to talk. Her mother though, was quite against of this idea.
“I do not approve of this”, said Mrs Sharma.
“Why not, I see this as a very good opportunity for our daughter.”
“She is just eighteen months old, who puts such a small kid to school?”
“It is not a school, it is a “play school”; moreover she will get to interact with children of her own age.”
“How can you even think of this; not even you can understand her gestures being a father, do you think the one over there can?” Mrs Sharma burst into tears, “Will they know if Hanshita is hungry or if she needs water or anything else?”
“I can understand your concerns Sunita, but you also have to think about her future. Doctor asked to talk to her always, which you know is not possible in a family of three. I am out most of the time for office and tours, you have to handle all these house hold chores and take care of Hanshita too. Do you think that in the midst of all these we are able to give the time she requires?”
“So what are you suggesting; since we failed as parents, shall we put her into the hands of someone else knowing it all about Hanshita?”
“You are getting me wrong Sunita…”
“Listen Vivek, I am her mother and I will take care of her. I will give her all the time she needs. She doesn’t need to go to any school, not now at least. We are going to end this talk right here.”
Mrs Sharma left the room with Hanshita in her hands. Mr Sharma did not argue much as he knew that his wife had made a decision and in no ways she was going to change it. Mr Sharma also understood a fact that day that a father’s love could never match with that of a mother. Probably only a mother can understand her child the best.
Hanshita was two and a half years old by now and she still could not speak anything more than just a word- ‘Maa’. Mr and Mrs Sharma visited a few other doctors too but they all said the same thing, “Hanshita has no physical abnormalities.” Her mother was trying all she could to make their only child talk. On the other hand Mr Sharma never showed, but always wanted to hear the word ‘Papa’ from his daughter. Mr Sharma considered his wife to be very lucky as she at least got to hear being called ‘Maa’ by their daughter. Mr Sharma could never say this to anyone as he was the man of the house; for the society expects men to tame their emotions and not bow down before it. Mr Sharma too wanted to cry, shout out loud and take it all out; but he could not. He could not do all these because he knew if he broke down, Mrs Sharma’s entire universe would turn upside down. That's what made Mr Sharma to lock all his emotions away to act as the anchor in his beloved Sunita’s life.
Mrs Sharma and Hanshita were the two most precious gems of his life and at no cost he wanted to let the storms inside him to take them away.
One more winter passed and it was the time to get their child into a school. Hanshita by that time could write the basic alphabets quite clearly but nobody ever heard her to pronounce one. Mrs Sharma was not at all willing to send her child to a school, for she was in a fear that nobody there could understand her child’s needs. Her arguments could not stop Mr Sharma this time from taking the harsh decision. Even Mrs Sharma’s arguments got weak as she too realised that her child needed to be educated and in India there is hardly any concept of home schooling. The time had finally come for them to send their daughter. They decided to choose a school nearby so that it was convenient for them to check on their daughter once in a while during the school hours. They went for a meeting with the principal and told him about their daughter. Mr Fernandez, the principal of St. Joseph’s, was very considerate of the fact. He assured that their daughter’s needs would be taken a special care of and that the teachers will take a good care of her. After listening to everything even he admitted that it was the best decision they were making for their daughter.
“Hanshita will be here with the other children, she will get to interact more and that will help her get her speech”, said Mr Fernandez.
“With only this hope we are sending her to school”, said Mr Sharma.
“You could understand how difficult it is for a mother…” Mrs Sharma’s eyes were wet.
“Yes I know Mrs Sharma and I will ask you to keep faith upon me; I will not let your daughter have any problems in my school”, turning towards Hanshita he asked, “Hello my dear, what is your name?”
Hanshita looked towards her mother, her eyes asking her mother to answer on her behalf. Mrs Sharma could feel her pain. She smiled and replied, “She is our little Hanshita.”
“Hanshita, such a nice name you have got my child.”
Hanshita gave blank looks to him; normal for the children of her age. Hanshita was admitted to school, something Mrs Sharma could never accept whole heartedly; but she could never ignore the fact that education is an important part of life. Finally the day came when Hanshita had to leave her home for the first time without her parents. She happily got dressed up thinking that they were taking her for an outing. She ate her breakfast like a sweet little girl. Mrs Sharma packed her box and put it inside the bag. She looked very happy to get that Barbie printed bag that her father bought for her the other night. All three got ready and left for the school. This was a whole new journey not only for Hanshita but for her parents too.
Although the place seemed to be a bit familiar to Hanshita, she couldn’t understand why they were visiting it again. They reached in front of Hanshita’s classroom where Mrs Gomes was waiting for them.
“Hello Hanshita, how are you my dear?” she asked.
Hanshita again looked at her mother. Mrs Gomes held her hands and told her, “Come Hanshita, let’s have some fun together.” She was not sure as what was happening and was not willing to leave her parents.
“Go inside Hanshita, they will give you chocolates there”, Mrs Sharma consoled her. She still did not want to leave her parents.
“We will be here outside, waiting for you”, Mr Sharma said. Hanshita made gestures indicating them to come with her.
“We cannot Hanshita; this place is for little kids like you. We will wait here for you my dear”.
She was a very calm kid and agreed to what her parents said. She started to follow Mrs Gomes but made sure to turn around at regular intervals to confirm that her parents did not leave her alone. That day Mr and Mrs Sharma waited for her the entire day and made sure she could see them whenever she looked through the door or the window. Hanshita seemed to be happy there, playing with the toys and riding the toy horse. It was time for the school to ring the final bell for the day. As soon as Hanshita came out of the class, she ran towards her parents and hugged her mother tightly. On the way back she explained her mother what all she did on that day, of course not with words.
Days passed by and slowly Hanshita got accustomed to the new environment. She even made some friends, who never found it difficult to understand Hanshita. Being kids, maybe we can understand people way better than we do being adults. Somewhere we lose our abilities to understand the unspoken words as we grow and become more materialistic. Mr and Mrs Sharma no more had to stay for Hanshita the entire day in her school. She was doing well with her studies too but there seemed no progress with her speech. Every time there was a call for attendance, everyone replied except for Hanshita, who used to stand up and quietly stare at her teacher until she asked her to sit.
Hanshita was six by now and got promoted to first grade. As letters formed a cluster and transformed into words, it gave rise to a new problem in Hanshita’s life. Hanshita used to get confused between similar types of words and sometimes used to write the mirrored image to words and letters. It was a minor case of dyslexia. Doctors asked her parents not to worry, again, and said that it will be gone with her age. The doctors said the same thing about her speech years ago and this made them worry more for her.
One day after Hanshita was back to home from her school; her mother opened her bag to check her school diary as she always used to do. In the diary she found a note from the principal-
Dear Mrs Sharma,
Today I got information from Hanshita’s class teacher and thought of sharing it with you. While giving her attendance for the class today, Hanshita stood up and tried to speak. Though her sounds made no literary senses but we see it as a great achievement on her part, to try and talk. Mrs Sharma, we all are hoping that our little angel would start to talk very soon.
Mrs Sharma was speechless, tears started to roll down her cheeks. Hanshita saw her mother cry for the first time and she stood at a corner quietly. Mrs Sharma ran to her daughter and gave her a tight hug. Her joy knew no bounds. She thanked God for giving her ‘that’ day. Mr Sharma bought a big cake and dolls, to celebrate her daughter’s birthday; for Hanshita was reborn that day. This was my friends, just the beginning.
The next year in “Parents-Teacher Meeting”, her class teacher complained that she was the most talkative girl of the class. She also complained that from one end of the class, she used to shout and converse with the pupil at the other end. For her parents it was not a complaint but a compliment. Twenty years later, she has a master’s degree in engineering on her name; she works in a reputed multinational company and she is a hot favourite in her company for taking seminars on cyber security. The girl, who did not talk for years, now could not stop talking. Hanshita always tells me, “I was storing energy for all those years and now is the time to use it.”
Just like movies, maybe there exists a happy ending in our lives too.