Nidhi turned around to the meek voice. 11-year-old Siya stood hesitantly.
“Siya!” Nidhi went to her with outstretched arms. “Are you hungry, my love? Should I make you something?”
Siya shook her head, looking at her feet. Nidhi’s heart sank. Her once cheerful daughter. Where had the laughter disappeared? Where was the bubbly talkative girl? She could not believe the transformation.
“Have I failed as a mother? Could I never make her feel loved?” Nidhi’s thoughts spiralled.
It had happened a week ago. Nidhi had been telling Sameer for a while that it was time to tell Siya. She would understand if it came from them.
But fate had other plans. A friend accidentally revealed that Siya was an adopted child.
Siya’s world came crashing down. She withdrew into herself. Nothing they said could lessen her pain.
Nidhi broke out of her reverie. “Oh, sorry! What did you want Beta?”
“Maa, could you make Palak Paneer for my recess tomorrow? I had promised my friends last week and now they are asking me…” her voice trailed off.
Nidhi jumped at the chance to make her little girl happy.
“Of course Siyu! Anay wants Aloo Puri. But I’ll make this too.” Nidhi hoped her daughter could see the love in her eyes.
Siya simply nodded and left.
Next morning Nidhi busied herself in the kitchen. Lovingly, she packed 6-year-old Anay’s Aloo Puri in his favourite blue box and Siya’s Palak Paneer with Roti in her yellow one. She smiled to herself, the Palak Paneer had been made just the way Siya liked.
At recess that day, Siya opened the blue box that her mother had handed her hurriedly at the bus stop. The gleam in her eyes vanished. Aloo Puri. Anay’s favourite. Maa hadn’t made Palak Paneer for her after all.
A tiny heart broke into a million pieces.
At the sound of the gate opening, Nidhi rushed outside. She would explain. She had realised her mistake just as the bus left, but there was nothing she could do.
Nidhi was distraught. Not only had she ruined the one chance to mend Siya’s fragile heart, she had also humiliated her before her friends!
But when she opened the door, Siya surprised her with a hug. Nidhi stood stunned, unable to understand.
Siya smiled, “Maa, Anay came to my class and gave me my yellow tiffin. Thanks Maa, my friends loved the Palak Paneer.”
How?? Tears welling, Nidhi ran in to wake up Anay. He had come home an hour back and was fast asleep.
“Anay, you went all the way to Siya Didi’s building?”
Anay sat up, rubbing his eyes, wondering at the sudden attention. “Yes Mumma.”
“I hate Palak!” he said animatedly, his nose crunched up. With eyes as wide as saucers, rubbing his tummy he added “I looove Aloo!”
Nidhi and Siya chuckled as they got into a group hug. What an eventful recess it had been!
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