New Beginnings

Image of Sau

Sau

323 readings

4

This was the first time the little fellow had walked into any store, let alone a book store, other than the tiny departmental store on the corner of the street he grew up on! He didn’t know much about books, other than the fact that they are colorful, exciting, often torn, and very expensive.


 


The first thing he noticed about the bookstore was that it smelled really good. But, in the recent past, everything around him had smelled nicer than what he could remember. Little did he know that in this particular instance, not too long from that very moment, this place and this smell would become some of his favorite things in this whole world. The store was quite large, well-decorated, and buzzing with people, little and big ones alike. The week before Christmas was their busiest time of the year after all!


 


“Would you like to go with taaya to the children’s section? She knows a lot of books I am sure you would enjoy reading”, said the mother. Taaya; that is what he was asked to call his new older sister. She had received guidance on which books to show to the little one while they were in the store. He was not unfamiliar with the notion of having an older-sister-like figure in his life. But back in the orphanage, they were instructed to refer to the older girls as didi, meaning older sister.


Chotu was five years old. That wasn’t his actual name though. Chotu means ‘the little one’. While growing up, his physique always reflected this nickname. He was brought to the orphanage as a baby, when both his parents died a tragic death in a house fire, somehow managing to save the life of their one year old. None of his distant relatives came forward to accept guardianship. His grandparents were very old and in retirements homes. So, social services placed him in this orphanage with a decent placement rate. Thanks to being fairly close to a well-to-do part of the city, donations in form of used toys, old books, and leftover food from fancy house parties, were a routine at ‘New Beginnings’.


He was adopted around Thanksgiving. The mother in the adopting family was a college professor, the father an art teacher, and they had an eight-year-old daughter. The day they first visited chotu was in early spring; a chilly morning with a bright sunshine. They had been to the orphanage before when the father taught a summer art camp there the previous year. That is when the idea had first hit them! They had been trying to have another baby for over two years at that point. The doctors had told them that their chances were very low. But, both of them were the only children in the house growing up, and they wanted their daughter to be raised differently. They wanted her to know what it means to have someone to always share with; be it a chocolate or a memory. On this lovely spring morning, they were greeted by a little boy sitting on the porch with a book filled with pictures of flowers. He barely looked up when they walked past.


In the same way, chotu didn’t notice when the parents walked into the children’s section, asking whether the kids were ready with their picks. He had lost track of how many books he had gone through since they got there. About an hour prior, their mother had escorted taaya and chotu to that part of the bookstore. Chotu felt like he was transported to a wonderland. And this was even before they crossed the arch demarcating the area dedicated to young readers!


 


“Don’t leave taaya’s hand, okay chotu?”


He just nodded as taaya took his hand into hers; staring wide-eyed at the shelves of colorful books, tiny reading benches, and the overall décor.


“Make sure you don’t let him out of your sight, taaya!”


She was ready to take on her duties as the older sister even outside of their home. In fact, taaya’s parents had communicated with her since the beginning of the process.


“Would you like to have a younger brother to play with?”, they asked her on one winter afternoon. She really wanted to go to the park, despite a foot of snow outside. She didn’t know what else to do at home.


“If I have a brother, then will you take me to the park?” she asked innocently.


“No, darling. It is not safe for any little child to be out there right now”, said the mother.


“But if you did have a younger brother right now, you could play so many more games with him. You can make the Lego ships together, or read a new storybook to him, or paint with him”, added the father.


 


Taaya started thinking. Many of her friends had siblings. The age of seven was quite interesting! She knew that having a younger brother would mean having a tail every time she went to the park, or a birthday party, or a school function. But at the same time, there would be someone who would look up to her, and someone she could brag to.


 


“It would not be a terrible idea, I suppose”, she responded after 60 thoughtful seconds. “I can show him how to do things.”


 


And she did! The already shy and reserved chotu was quite overwhelmed by the space he was suddenly asked to call home, and by these people who were giving him their full attention! He barely spoke for the first few days, just nodding his head slightly for yes-s and no-s. They learned that he smiled when they asked him about something he liked, and stared into nothingness when the topic was unpleasant. Taaya was the first one he opened up to. One afternoon, he was exploring her books. She was sitting on her little desk painting a flower. Suddenly, she felt a tug on her sleeve. Holding an illustrated story book in one hand, he was asking her to get up. Soon as she did, he took her hand and walked her to the dining room. Pointing to the chandelier hanging from the ceiling, he placed a finger on the picture of one in the book.


 


“Yes, you are correct. That is the same one as in the picture. Do you know what it is called?”


He shook his head as if to say no.


“Chandelier; shan-dl-eer. What is it?”


“Shan-dih-leer,” he murmured.


“That’s almost correct, chotu. Give me a high five!”, she raised her hand.


 


Chotu returned it excitedly. He could not contain his happiness at having been able to finally relate things he had only seen in books to real life. They were not just imaginary objects any longer. Moreover, though, in that moment, he realized that his new life would not be as lonely as in the orphanage, so long as taaya was around. She became his guide and his confidante.


This is why, being left in the children’s section with her was not a problem at all. By this point, he was also talking to her a little bit more.


 


“That one! No no, not the blue one, the red one!” He could not reach some of the books on the top shelves.


“What is this called, taaya?”


“Taaya, look, stars! Just like I see them from our window at night.


 


For some time, she showed him shiny pictures from an animal encyclopedia. Then, handing him a book of nursery rhymes with audio support, she ventured into the section containing the series ‘100 remarkable women’. But she did not stray too far, to make sure she didn’t lose sight of chotu. Taaya was thriving in her role as a big sister. The last month had been a whole a new experience for her! She found out what it meant to be protective of someone, and to think about them before thinking of yourself.


The parents hadn’t been able to go too far either. After browsing through a few shelves across from the children’s section, they sat themselves at such a table at the bookstore café, that they could see these two mini bookworms, but not be seen by them. They were still settling into this new family structure. The transition wasn’t easy. They were still finding out new things about their adopted son every day. They wanted to make sure that their daughter didn’t feel left out during this integration. And they had to figure out how to love both their kids equally! But seeing taaya and chotu interact gave them faith that everything was going to be okay.


As for chotu, he had entered a whole new world! He had never felt this way, ever before. He was holding books which didn’t have missing pages or spillage on them. The concept of being able to own some of these books was alien to him, and he was still in disbelief about his mother telling him, ‘If you read all of these books carefully and take good care of them, we can keep coming back to the bookstore’. But, the most exciting part was still the doorway he had found to the many new and unknown worlds; it opened right at the entrance to the bookstore.

CONTEST

Image of New beginnings
4

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Image of Prajakta Kataria
Prajakta Kataria · ago
You always had it! Keep up at it! Lots of love and blessings
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Image of Sau
Sau · ago
Means a lot, tai. Much love to you too
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Image of Dipti Kawediya
Dipti Kawediya · ago
Beautiful ... Just beautiful... Your writing gave life to those characters.. Loved it... God bless you... Keep writing..
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Image of Sau
Sau · ago
Thank you so much Niki :)
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Image of Chetana Kothari
Chetana Kothari · ago
Very nicely written.. I could visualise the characters .. loved ur style of expression Sayali.. will be following for more such stories.. looking forward..
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Image of Sau
Sau · ago
Thank you for your encouragement Chetana di :)
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Image of Manjusha Kancharla
Manjusha Kancharla · ago
Nicely written. I really liked this sentence: " They wanted her to know what it means to have someone to always share with; be it a chocolate or a memory". Keep it up!
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Image of Sau
Sau · ago
Thank you so much mommy :) :*
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Image of ARR
ARR · ago
Crisp writing.. great job!
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Image of Sau
Sau · ago
Thank you for your encouragement, ARR. Appreciate it :)
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