As I entered the narrow unevolved streets of old Delhi, the butterflies in my stomach transformed into gigantic monsters. The sooty air made it hard for me to breathe. I kept on sneezing for the first few minutes.
I picked up my camera to click another picture for my project and my attention dragged towards a girl lying over an old man. She hugged him as tight as she could, unaware of the helter-skelters in the street.
I tried to capture her, but before I could, she swiftly got up and clenched in her fist, the corners of her half torn skirt.
I soon realised that the man lying there was dead. I thought her dear one had passed away. To pacify her I asked her to have tea with me, to which she initially refused, but then came along.
We walked towards the nearby shop and I ordered two cups of tea. We sat on a wooden plank, and I couldn’t resist asking her the questions knocking the walls of my head.
“I know how it feels to lose our loved ones. Was he your grandfather?”
“No,” she promptly answered.
“I don’t know who he is. Some people came in a van last night and threw him here. I was feeling really cold so I hugged him and slept there,” she replied candidly as she sipped her tea.
“Where are your parents?”
“My father died four years ago and some men took away my mother on the very next day of his funeral.”
She took a brief pause as she slurped the tea and resumed.
“I couldn’t save my mother. I was asked to hide behind the bushes.”
“How are you surviving since then?”
She tried to escape the stream of my questions. She cringed and threw away the disposable cup.
“Are you fine?”
“It’s aching here since morning,” she sobbed as she signalled towards her lower abdomen.
“Does this happen often?”
“No. This is the first time I’m feeling this way, uneasy, and in severe pain.”
“Would you love to have more tea?” I asked her, and she nodded. I ordered another cup.
“So, how do you feed yourself?”
“I steal or beg for food. Once in a blue moon, people like you visit here and make me eat. Many a time some people take me to their houses and…”
“They touch or kiss me and then undress me. And in return they make me eat finger licking food.” She got up from her seat to throw away her second cup of tea. It was then that I noticed the blood specks on her skirt.
“I feel better now. It’s not paining much. Thank you.”
I realised her symptoms of menarche and the poor kid had no idea that she was growing up.
Call it my own selfish act of filling up the void left by my son’s demise or a deed of generosity that I decided to adopt her.
“Will you, will you be my daughter?”
“For how many days?”
“I would not like to suffer my entire life.”
“I want you to be my daughter, not to make you suffer, but to break the bones of those who trouble you. No one will ever dare to lay their eyes on you. And you’ll get to eat everything you want, I promise,” I tried convincing her in the best possible way I could.
She smiled and hugged me. I made her sit on my shoulders and walked towards my car.
And this was how I adopted a daughter, and she, a father.
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