After the third failed attempt at getting Archana to say her name right, I gave up. I smiled at the imp and turned to continue feeding Sonali. Just as I was putting the spoon to Sonali’s mouth, I felt a tug at my sleeve. It was the imp. “Ar-cha-na,” she said as she turned and ran.
It was impossible not to like Archana. Her button-like eyes, her curls, her cute little smile – it usually is love at first sight. I still remember the day I met her for the first time. It was my first day as a volunteer. Now, the ward I worked in had two sections. The one I volunteered at had severely handicapped children while the other had mildly handicapped. So on my first day, I spent the earlier half of the morning cleaning and feeding the kids in my section. At 10, we had a tea break. I was just opening the cupboard to take my backpack out when I felt someone tugging at my kurta. I turned, and there was this lovely little girl with big button-like eyes and lovely Goldilocks-like curls. And like I said, it was love at first sight. Turns out, Archana had wet herself and wanted me to change her clothes.
Soon, we forged a bond. Ok, who am I kidding. We didn’t forge much of a bond. Every other day, she would run into me, or I would run to her, and we would play with each other for a little while. But Archana was the easily distracted kinds so within seven minutes, something or someone else would have caught her fancy and she would be gone.
And one day, she was gone. The sister told us that they had put her in the toddlers section. This section was in another building – for children without or with very few handicaps. Archana had slightly deformed hands and feet. And the sisters thought she would become better if she was in the company of healthy kids.
Now, I volunteered in the toddlers section as well. So when in the afternoon I was changing into my apron to enter my section, I was feverishly hoping for two things – that Archana be in my section, and that she recognize me. I walked into the section and hesitantly looked inside. Wonder of wonders, there was the button-eyed, curly-haired imp. Only she was not smiling. “Archanaaa…” I shouted. She looked up. And smiled. A sweet simple smile that made me not just happy, but proud. Proud that I had been recognized.