I think we all have moments that our mind goes back to some incidents in the past, even if that may not have caused any significant effect on our lives. Still, those flashes come from the subconscious mind to the surface and we find ourselves absorbed in those moments. We even wonder whether we could go back to that moment and change the way we behaved at that moment. Let me share with you one such a moment in my life. I always wish to go back to that moment and change the way I behaved that day.I was a senior girl guide in my school at that time and was 17 years old. One of the projects we had to take was to serve in an orphanage for one month during the week-ends. I selected an orphanage which was close to our school in Colombo. With proper permission, I started the project with Thushari, another senior girl guide. There were about 40 kids and all the kids there were below 5 years. By the end of the very first Saturday we went there, almost all the kids were friendly with us. We carried them, made them sit on our laps and told stories, played, helped them to change cloths, gave their food and did many more activities with them. We loved them a lot and always expressed our love by hugging them and talking to them using all the loving words that we could think of. There was one particular girl about 3 years old who became so attached to me. As soon as she saw me on a Saturday morning she came running to me with her hands stretched forward requesting me to carry her.
The orphanage had strict rules and the kids, no matter how small they are, were used to a time table. They had exact time to wake up in the morning, have breakfast, play, have Lunch and also a time slot to have a nap after Lunch. We could realize that their days were so dull, without any fun, excitement and love that comparatively kids of their age have in regular households. Our visits to them were accepted as a super luxury bonus, which was expressed in their innocent faces that lit up when they saw us. When we were getting close to the 4th Saturday it was almost unbearable to leave them.
Then it happened on the last Saturday we were there. I knew that I would not come back to spend my time with them again and my heart was aching. I was carrying the particular girl I mentioned earlier and she was looking closely at my face and suddenly said “Amma” (mother)! I was shocked! I didn’t know what to do or say, and I think I was embarrassed also. Remember I was only 17 at that time. I slowly looked at Thushari who was close by playing with a small boy. She was also looking at me and smiling sarcastically. Within a second I got mind images of how she will be telling this to other girls in school on Monday and bullying me. I was not going to face that and become a laughing stock among others. I immediately put the girl down. I tried to avoid her for the rest of the day. Once in a while I had secret glances at her to notice that she was looking at me in a very pathetic way.
Soon, it was the time to say goodbye for the last time. We didn’t have the heart to tell them that we will not be coming again to be with them. So we hugged the kids as usual and said goodbye to them. When I reached to that girl to cuddle her and give a hug, she just turned away! I could not believe that a little girl of just 3 years could get so hurt. With a heavy heart I left the orphanage. I was thinking of her on my way home as well as during the next few days.
However, we went to the orphanage about one week later after attending school in the morning. The purpose was to obtain a letter from the Matron of the orphanage to certify that we completed our project successfully. I had a secret objective of seeing that girl and become friendly again. But when we went there it was the time that they take the nap after Lunch. After obtaining our letters from the Matron we just had a peep into their dormitory. Most of them were sleeping peacefully and few were just lying in their cots. But my girl was sleeping tightly. I was really disappointed, there was nothing I could do but come back with Thushari.
It has been almost 28 years after that incident. Even today my mind gets very clear picture of that incident. Now at this mature age I am wondering why she called me as ‘Mother’. She had never seen a mother or a father. Have the staff members explained the children about mothers and fathers? How did she associate me with the figure of a mother? I will never find the answer to that question. More than that, I really regret the way I behaved. If it happened at a mature age, I would have been very proud that a totally unknown kid called me as Mother and I would have embraced her with more love. I even could have adopted her!
I know that orphanage keeps kids only up to they are 5 years old. Then they transfer them to another orphanage which has facilities for them to start school. There is no way I can ever find her. I don’t even remember the girl’s name. She may be about 30 years now and I am certain that she might have forgotten that incident as she was only 3 years at that time.
But for me….. I will be carrying this memory forever.