As I entered the driveway of my very posh bungalow in Defence Colony, I was looking forward to a restful day ahead. Taking a cab from the Indira Gandhi International Airport, I was eager to meet my five year old beautiful daughter- Antara. I hadn’t seen her for a week since I had left for my conference in Singapore. Oh how much I had missed her !
Antara was the apple of our eyes- being born after years of prayers and pilgrimages. We had nearly lost all hopes when God decided to shower his mercy on us. I adored her and my wife- Anjali, she made sure that she never cried and had everything she wanted.
And how could I meet my gem after a whole long week without having a present for her !! So I had bought a whole set of very realistic dolls for her from Singapore. They were custom-made dolls and weren’t available in market.
I rang the doorbell and our manservant opened the door. I was hoping that as soon as I’d enter my angel would come running into my arms laughing. But instead I was greeted with shrill cries. I was shocked, Anjali could never bear to see Antara cry, how did this happen then. I followed the sound of the cries and reached our drawing room. As I opened the door and entered, my foot trampled on something. I looked around and to my horror, the whole room was in complete mess. Antara was going from one place to another, crying loudly and throwing things down from the tables and showcases. I nearly cried out loud when I saw my beloved family heirloom- a vintage clock, lying broken on the floor, beyond repair. My wife was running after her trying to calm her down.
” Tara listen to me my love ! Dont cry, we’ll get you thousands more dolls. Don’t break things please Tara, come to ma baby, she is getting breathless now… ”
But Antara didn’t listen. I went forward and scooped her up.
“What happened to daddy’s little angel.. Why are you crying baby? What happened… !!”
“Daddy… Daddy momma gave away Bubble to the dirty garbage man !! ” she sobbed on my shoulders. Bubble was her doll, a gift I had given her on her first birthday. It was tattered by now, its clothes torn at places. But Antara was very attached to it.
I looked at my wife. She merely shrugged. It was no use talking to her. So I continued with my daughter.
” Bubble was old and dying baby, she had to go. Look what I have brought you instead.” I gave her the box of dolls I had brought for her. She looked at them for a few seconds and then started again.
” But I want Bubble… ”
I was already exhausted from my journey, I couldn’t take it anymore. Without another word I got out and went to my room. My travel case was already put there by my servant. I quickly had a shower and changed into my comfortable sweatsuit. It was already lunch time and I was starving. Only Anjali was sitting at the dining table when I returned. I asked her where is Antara.
” She refuses to eat anything until her Bubble is back. And how can I eat when my baby is not eating !! Oh why ever did I threw it away.. I should have known better.. ” and she too burst into tears. I lost all my appetite. Trust my family to create one drama or another when a man is home after a long tiring journey.
” Honey you have to bring Bubble back… Do something, anything, but bring it back… I can’t see my baby like this… ” she wailed.
I was shocked and angry at the same time.
” How in the world am I supposed to bring back a doll that you threw in the garbage !!” I asked, appalled.
” I don’t know, do something, anything, what is the use of all this money and riches if we can’t even give happiness to our only child. I’m telling you I won’t eat until you bring back the doll to Tara.”
Work was spoiled by her but I had to repay. I got up from the table and asked my driver to take out the car as I changed clothes. How could have I eaten when my two loves were on hunger strike.
I went to the municipal office and asked to see the official in charge there. I was asked to wait for a while, till then I busied myself observing the surroundings, getting bored. 10 minutes later I heard my name being called and I entered the office. I greeted the pot bellied bald government officer sitting behind a very clustered desk. He asked me if I’d like to drink something which I politely refused.
” I’m Virendra Rai..” I introduced myself.
” Yeah I know who you’re sir… Saw your photo in the newspaper the other day.” he cut me off.
I then asked him where all the garbage from the Defence Colony area is eventually dumped. The look that he gave me was something I’d never forget. He was thinking I’m barking mad. Why would I a rich businessman would want to go to such a place. But he answered me nevertheless. Thanking him, I left the office as fast as I could. The quicker I bring back the doll to my daughter the better it would be. Who knows what else she’d break by then.
I covered my mouth with a handkerchief as the stink from the garbage burned my nose. I looked outside from my window and saw numerous makeshift houses, covered by tarp, loosely made by bricks without mortar flanking the huge mountain of colourful and degrading waste. Unaware of it being waste, immune to the stink that was rising from it or even the harmful effects of some of the waste products, children from the nearby slums were playing on it. Running around naked, barefoot, ribs poking out from there sides. Yet they looked happy. Honestly, I had never seen my Antara this joyous ever, even though she has everything she desires.
I asked my driver to ask around if the garbage truck has already dumped today’s garbage. Few minutes later he returned and replied in affirmative.
How the hell would I find Bubble in this vast area of rubbush !!!
I then asked him to roughly get an idea of where the truck has dumped the waste from today.
I went him with him when I returned. I along with my driver began to search through this mess, disgusted expressions in our faces, our mouths and noses covered by our handkerchieves. Some children were playing there too. As I was looking kin through the heap, I heard a child exclaim with delight. I looked up to see him holding the very thing I was searching for in his hands. I guessed his age to be around 6-7 years, though it was difficult to assess as these children were undernourished obviously. Before I could react or say anything to him, he ran away in the direction of houses. I followed him, panting. All this labour was wearing me down.
I saw him enter a small tent like house. I followed suit. Inside was a little girl, around 2-3 years old lying on bed. Her legs were lying at an odd angle. The little boy asked the girl to cover her eyes. The girl put a hand on both her eyes and gently, very lightly, the boy placed the doll on her lap. Both children were unaware of my presence. The girl opened her eyes and squealed with utter delight. She tried to get up but failed. Her brother, I assumed, helped her in her task. That’s when I realized the girl had polio. Also her one hand was formed only up to her elbow. My heart clenched when I saw this. But the look on the girl’s face was one of pure delight. She didn’t cared that she can’t walk, she didn’t have a hand. She was ecstatic at receiving a tattered old doll. A doll whose clothes were torn and by now had even lost a limb. Maybe this was her first ever doll.
Anjali and I had made sure to give Antara everything and thus she didn’t valued small things in life. Infact what we take as small thing are in fact not small at all. For instance I can’t remember a single time when Antara or even me or Anjali had ever been thankful to have a fully functional body without any defects. we never really appreciate these things. We are only after meaningless things in life. As much as I felt good seeing that little girl overjoyed by that doll, I was equally saddened to realize how materialistic and unappreciative our lives have become.
I wanted to give those dolls that I had brought from Singapore to that little girl lying in front of me in exchange of Bubble. But then I thought that if she is ecstatic at getting a broken old doll, it won’t make her any more happier to get a brand new doll. But if I give in to my daughter’s demands today, she’d keep making such demands. No saying what she’ll ask tomorrow. Imprinting that little girl’s smiling face in my mind, I went back to my car and went home.