read part 2 here
It had been a month since they came to Savanpur. Kunal had told her that they could leave in a couple of days.
"Get packing, Suni, the next batch of doctors are here, we can go back now."
She sighed. She hadn't realised, that a whole month had passed by and it was finally time to leave. She had been so engrossed with the lives of the little girl down the hillock that she didn't know what she would do once she was back home. She decided to capture every moment of the little girl so that she could keep her in her memories forever.
She carried a camera along with her and sat down on her favorite perching place positioning her camera. The little girl was walking towards the shrub with the pickaxe in her hands.
Click…click…click… she went on clicking the pictures with an urgency that she could not explain. She had still not been able to get a shot of the girl’s face. As she kept her lens focused on her face, something happened; the girl looked up at her!
‘I don’t want to miss this shot, she thought, this is as close as it gets. I might not get another shot of her face if I don’t hurry.
Ah! Nice shot!’ she patted herself.
And then she froze!
No, she had to be sure.
She focused her lens on the girl again but she had her back turned to her.
With trembling hands, Sunita switched the mode of her camera from ‘click’ to ‘view’ to have a closer look at the girl’s face. Hair in disarray, sun burnt face, stubby fingers that looked like they were 50 years old, a pile of sticks nestling between them and her tiny frame…no, her Komal wasn't like this. She was a soft as silk, her hair was beautiful, black and silky, her skin was fair and glowing, her hands were the chubbiest and pinkest that she had ever seen. This couldn't be Komal!
And then she saw the eyes….Deep black eyes…..Komal…! Unmistakably Komal!
Her heart thumped so hard she could almost hear it …it seemed to be pumping a millions beats a minute! She stood up, hardly able to breath, her face flushed with joy. She stumbled down the hill, falling down and then rolling a considerable distance before she could find flat ground. She searched for the shanty and ran towards it as soon as it met her eyes. The little girl had just reached her home, the pile still balanced on her head. She saw Sunita and gave a little gasp; her eyes wide with shock. She dropped the pile to the ground and rushed into Sunits’a arms.
“Mamma…” she clung to her mother’s bosom like she’d never let her go, crying bitterly, shaking with relief.
“Oh Komal, Mamma’s so sorry,” she said amidst sobs, kissing her child madly. "Mamma is so sorry darling! I will never ever leave you alone like that."
The woman watched the two of them, with tears streaming down her own eyes.
“I am…..” began Sunita, walking towards her.
“I understood that you are her mother.”
“How did you find her?” Sunita wanted to know.
“I was cleaning the hotel corridor that day, when this child was standing at the door crying. Suddenly the hotel started shaking and without thinking twice, I grabbed her and jumped out of the window. We rolled down this hillock and lay here for quite some time, must have been days…" she paused as if she had been transported back to that day all over again.
"I brought her to the relief center but in the mad rush, no one bothered to help me. They took down the details but no one ever got back to me.Your girl was in shock and wouldn’t speak anything for so many days. I decided to keep her with me till someone came looking for her. She kept asking for you, screaming for you in her sleep. I taught her little things to keep her occupied. She’s a smart girl,” she said patting the girl’s head.
“I have seen how well you cared for my little girl.How can I ever thank you….”
“Don’t. I don’t have a family, so I must thank god that he brought this girl into my life, though briefly, or else amidst all this devastation, I would have lost my mind.”
“You must come with us, I’m sure Komal will want you to….” She said thinking of how well the woman had taken care of Komal. It was now her turn to give back.
"No..no..don't bother about me, I'll be fine." said the woman, visibly pained at the impending parting.
Komal took the woman’s hand in hers and smiled. The woman nodded her head and smiled at Komal. She was now family too.