As the taxi drew up in the veranda, Shreya took a deep breath. It felt so good to be back, the place where she had lived her entire childhood. She walked in again after seven long years, and each day she had only imagined about this moment. Touching the walls, the doors, the curtains, she felt nostalgia hit in waves.

As she turned towards Warden’s office, she peeked in as she always had even as a child. Warden had her back turned towards the door and was busy poring into the papers she held. Shreya tiptoed in and hugged her from behind. “Badi Ma!” she cried like an excited child.

Warden was startled. No one had called her by that name in years. “Shreya, my child!” eyes moist with tears, she hugged Shreya.

“Why did you not tell me you were coming? I would have sent the car.”

“Well, then it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it? I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to see this look on your face. That makes it worth it.”

Warden smiled. She remembered the night Shreya had been abandoned at this doorstep, just a few days old. There was something that made her very protective about Shreya from the start. And the love and the bond only grew stronger with time. Shreya was a bright child and when the time came, US beckoned. She went away to pursue her scholarship and was now settled there. This was the first time she had set back foot in ‘Asha Sadan’ since she left.

“So, Shreya how have you been? We speak to each other regularly. And what brings you back?”

“Badi Ma, I missed you all. With a good job in the US, I am settled but I wanted to come here and see what I can do to help you with the running of this place. I want to contribute, because I know how much you do for all of us at Asha Sadan.”

“Shreya, I am so happy to see you. By God’s grace and enough benefactors, Asha Sadan is doing well. Every year the number of students of Asha Sadan on scholarships are increasing. Slowly, we are repairing the wear and tear on the building structure too, which you will see as we go for a round.”

As they walked around the premises, Shreya marvelled at the changes. The rooms were bigger and wider, a library and a games room had been added to the premises. Music and sports were being encouraged too. As they passed the grounds in the back, Shreya noticed some kids playing hopscotch and giggled like a child. She ran to the kids and asked to be included. Warden smiled and thought some old habits die hard. Shreya was always drawn to hopscotch and could never resist it. She remembered many sessions playing the game with her. Just as that thought crossed her mind, Shreya pulled her too. And their giggles and laughter resonated in the grounds.



Badi Ma – A form of addressing a mother


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