In the little village of Cherra Poonje, in the cool hills of northern India, Ananya Gupta was growing up in an India in turmoil. A young person in India must watch out for dangers every day, even more so if one is a Christian, but so far no tragedy had directly touched Ananya’s life.
Today was Ananya’s 15th birthday. She danced and sang through her morning chores, anticipating her parents’ gift later that day.
“You’ll wear yourself out, little Ana,” grandmother Lajjawati scolded affectionately.
“I know, Nonna, but I can’t help it,” Ananya said. “Do you know what the surprise is?”
“I’m not about to spoil it. Your mother said to meet at your father’s shop just after closing, did she not? You’ll just have to wait till then.”
As Ananya took a favorite shortcut to meet her mother in the early evening, she noticed a group of boys huddled in her path. Suddenly the boys shouted and rushed in her direction. She looked behind her to see who might be their target. A chill went up her spine; no one else was in the street. Turning back, everything seemed to happen in slow motion: The measured arc of the homemade bomb. Her leaden feet, seemingly rooted to the spot. Arms rising, trying to cover her eyes. The missile landing, spraying its deadly shrapnel. Ananya crumpled to the dusty ground.
What might have been eons later Ananya became aware of the soft touch of fingers stroking her forehead and the gentle voice of her grandmother pulling her back from the blackness into which she had fallen. Aches and pains sprang to life along with her consciousness. . . consciousness with no sight! Panicking, she struggled to sit up and immediately felt herself enfolded and rocked in her grandmother’s strong arms. “It’s all right, you’re safe now. It’s all right, my little Ana.” The repetitive phrases from a trusted voice soothed her. She sank back into a healing sleep.
Days later Ananya awoke much more clearheaded and demanded to be told what had happened. “Ana, my little flower,” her grandmother said softly, holding Ananya’s hands in hers. “You were in an. . .accident. On your way to your father’s shop. There was a bomb.” Ananya gripped her grandmother’s hands tightly. “Dr. Shakib worked for hours to remove the metal fragments from your eyes. Then he bandaged them and said the rest is in the hands of God.”
Ananya instinctively reached up to touch the thick bandages. Pleading for reassurance, Ananya asked, “Am I blind, Nonna? Am I?”
“Have faith, Ana. Dr. Shakib is confident your wounds will heal and the blindness will be temporary. You and I must pray to the Lord every day that this will be so.”
During the weeks that followed, her grandmother insisted on being her sole care giver. Daily she washed the many wounds on Ananya’s body, and slowly they healed. But the eyes. . .Lajjawati saw that healing was not happening.
“Why must my eyes stay bandaged, Nonna? Aren’t they getting better?” Ananya asked one day. “I thought you said the blindness was temporary. Didn’t Dr. Shahib promise it would be?” she added plaintively.
“Ana, my little dewdrop, don’t lose hope.” Lajjawati hesitated, hating to reveal the truth about the infection that seemed to erase what little healing there was. “Your eyes have healed a little, but there is also an infection taking away that healing.” She sighed. “I will not hide this from you any longer, Ana. Much time has passed. Dr. Shahib says you may not get your sight back.”
Ananya drew in a sharp breath. She thought she had come to terms with her injuries, but now she experienced a new layer of grief. Absorbing this news in silence, she finally said, “Nonna, if ever there was a time to trust the Lord, it’s now.” Her words sounded brave, but there was a quaver in her voice.
The acuteness of the infection finally passed, and her grandmother was able to remove the bandages, but no sight had returned. With time Ananya came to accept the possibility of permanent blindness. But one day, as she sat rolling yarn with her grandmother, the two of them talking companionably, Ananya suddenly sat bolt upright and grew quiet. Was she mistaken? she thought. No, there it was again! From the corner of her eye she saw a hint of movement. She was sure she saw something! Thank you Jesus, she breathed quietly. Then, excitedly, “Nonna!”
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