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Wednesday, 18 June 2008


Neha is very excited that I will meet her sponsored, nine-year-old mentally challenged child who lives 10000 miles away. My bags are packed for my trip back home. I am ready to leave the next day. “Will you take this gift for Apeksha?” she says as she shows me a box containing a pretty doll, dressed in blue knitted suit and cap, holding on to a soft, tiny teddy bear. “Oh that is lovely. Of course, I will take it for you. I am sure Apeksha will be thrilled.” I say Neha brings out a roll of colorful gift-wrapping paper, few strips of pink ribbons, a pair of scissors and a cello tape. She squats on the floor beside my deranged suitcase and starts to pack a gift for her sponsored child whom she has never met before. For next fifteen minutes, she carefully wraps the gift-box and makes a cute pink bow curling the free ends of the ribbon with a sharp edge of the scissors. She brings out a card, writes a message for Apeksha, seals envelop and writes in a bold letter on the top of the envelop ‘For Apeksha, with lots of love from Neha’. “On my next trip to India, I would like to meet her,” she says as she attaches the card and the pink bow on the gift-wrapped box and hand it over to me. “Sure, I will take you to school to meet her.” I say. The box is too beautiful to dump it in my suitcase. I decide to hand carry it. A week later, I go to the school carrying Apeksha’s gift. It is lunch break and I see Apeksha standing quietly and watching the other children play roller skating. “Apeksha, How are you? Look what I have for you” I say as I show her the gift wrapped box. She looks at me suspiciously and then looks away to watch the children play. ‘Come and see what Neha has sent for you.” Says her class teacher as she approaches her and holds her hand to bring her into the room, but Apeksha refuses to come inside and frees her hand, stares listlessly at me and returns her gaze back to those children with roller skates. Her teacher throws her arm around Apeksha and guides her gently into the room. I hand over the gift to Apeksha informing her that Neha is a friend who loves her too much and she has sent a gift for her. She takes the gift from my hand and sits on the chair facing me. “Open the gift. Don’t you want to see what your friend has sent for you?” I say She makes no effort to open it and just sits there, staring at the gift. Her teacher bends over her and helps her open the gift, removing the card, pink bow and detaching the cello tapes to expose the doll in blue suit with a soft, tiny teddy bear. “Do you like it? It is pretty. Isn’t it?” says her teacher ‘Hhmn!” she says and then gets up and walks out to watch the children play roller skating, leaving behind the box of doll, torn gift-wrapping paper, pink bow with curly frills and the unopened card, all carelessly scattered on the table next to me.

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