Ratna was excited, finally, the day had come she would join her family. She smiled at the feeling of her Raju Annan’s love, she imagined her mother’s warm kiss and her father’s tired eyes sparkling. ‘Ratna this is for you’ one of the girls gifted a small packet of clips ‘you will visit us again?’ Her best friend Smita stood beside her well-packed bag ‘yes, yes, I will come. When I come I will bring gifts for you like other people’ Ratna smiled at the feeling ‘I am going to miss you all’ she took turns to hug her friends.
‘Sister is calling you Ratna’ Mary, her didi and official caretaker of last ten years came to the room ‘All the best my child, we will miss you’ she hugged her tight. Sister Therese had a lot of gifts ready for her ‘these are some photos of your childhood’ she handed over the old photos in an envelope. Sneha Sadan (The orphanage) has a practice of taking photos of the new entries on the same day of their admission, this mostly is to remind the transformation they encountered in their new abode.
Ratna looked at the photo of that 3-year little girl with a plastic bag, indeed, she looked lost and had tears in her eyes, the second picture was of the contents in the bag… Ten stones in different shapes. There were many photos of her growing up, dancing and in uniforms, and collecting prizes, and so on. But those first two photos were enough for her to travel down memory lane.
Their parents were stone smiths who would walk around in the village searching for work. Raju was her ten-year-old brother who was responsible for Ratna who was just 3 years. Raju had a knack for stone carving, he would create beautiful Gods and Goddesses with stones around his house and the people around were impressed with his special skill. Unfortunately, his parents always disapproved of his skill ‘you have to study and get a job’ they will throw the stone away from him, but as soon as their parents left for work he would collect a different kind of stones and would try something new.
Little Ratna was his princess, he was always a doting brother who would take care of his sister’s s every need with utmost priority. Whenever he worked with stones he gave her few pieces of stones and taught her to make ‘ cairn’ and she enjoyed it. Their courtyard had a lot of such cairns and slowly that became a secret language between the siblings. He could search for her with those little hints.
On her birthday Raju has promised to take her to the Mela which was at the neighboring village which was almost 5 km away from their home. Both of them walked hand in hand and after soon the little girl Ratna was tired and thirsty, she carried her stones along but had forgotten to carry water. The doting brother made her sit under a tree ‘make few cairns here, whatever happens, don’t move, also don’t talk to any strangers’ he had instructed before left to fetch water.
Few minutes passed, Ratna was bored of making the Cairns, she collected her stones and started walking on her own, there were many small paths which made her confused and scared ‘Anna. Anna… Anna’ she called out and walks through the unknown path. After some time she started crying and one of the villagers who noticed informed the police about this little girl wandering, who brought her to the orphanage ‘Snehasadan’ the little girl couldn’t remember the village nor she did not know her parent’s name, all she knew was her brother Raju… And the cairns she made on her courtyard.
She accepted her new home and friends, it was posher than her little house in her village. Since the orphanage couldn’t get any kind of identification for the girl, they created a new identification that helped her to get admission in schools. Little Ratna never lost hope, she made Cairns around Snehasadan, she knew her brother would come back to fetch her one day. As she grew up she had lost her hope of joining her parents, but still, whenever she missed her brother she would take out the stones and would make a cairn in the courtyard.
Ratna was extremely smart in studies as well as dancing. One fine day, She recollected the name of her village and that led to the search of her parents and they were successful.
Ratna couldn’t recognize her parents who were old, her Anna had become a big boy by now. they hugged each other and cried. Upon reaching her village she was surprised, her parents no more lived in that small house, it was a mansion but corner of the courtyard there was a line of Cairns that was made by her was neatly placed on a platform in memory of her!
The parents had given up the hope of finding her after a year of search, police stations couldn’t help them as the little girl had already changed her identity. She stood touching the cairns which were cemented so that nothing can break them ever.
By now, her brother was a known sculpture in that area !! But also he made beautiful cairns for memorial services with his well-carved stones, which reminded him of his little sister!
Author note :
This is a real life story. Ratna stayed in Nashik with her parents and her brother but ended up in an orphanage in Mumbai for almost 10 years as she could not recollect the name of her parents nor her village.
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