The day was warm and the path long as the two made their way toward the temple. At times, Amishi carried the child, but when Jeya grew restless, or when her weight became cumbersome, she was allowed to toddle along on the ground.
Jeya was happy to be released, exploring every stone and leaf in their path. A smile shone on her face, as she babbled about each new discovery.
The previous weeks had been traumatic for the little one, and the joyful expressions touched Amishi’s heart…for a moment. She reminded herself. “The decision is made. It is for the best, after all.” She knew, with no family ties, the Hindu temple would gladly receive this little one.
Sultry air and the unpleasant obligation carried her thoughts back two months. The typhoid epidemic had devastated their village. Many had died, including Jeya’s entire family. Not yet two, Jeya was alone. Amishi had brought her home for a time, but now it was necessary to make other arrangements .
Jeya picked up a green feather from the ground, then studied it carefully, and finally turned around and offered it to Amishi. “Fedder, fedder!” she exclaimed.
“Yes, a beautiful green feather.” Amishi recognized anew the bond that existed between her and the child, and it made each step more difficult. There were no resources to raise someone else’s child, and yet she must be cared for. She was much too young to fend for herself.
Others had insisted, “It would be an honor for her to be a devdsis.” With that thought, she felt a shudder pass through her body. Being wed to the local temple deity would resolve the problem, but Amishi had heard the rumors. “What honor is there in prostitution, even in the temple?” Reaching down, she picked up the toddler and held her tightly for a moment, before moving on. In spite of her resolve, a single tear escaped and rolled down her cheek. Then a little finger tenderly caught it away, and a quiet voice tenderly whispered, “You ‘kay?”
Stoically, Amishi quickened her pace, reasoning to herself as she went. “Jeya will be well provided for.” “She’s so young, she’ll never remember anything else.” “This is the only opportunity for an orphan of our low caste.” Instead of reassuring herself, though, her mind only responded with, “If she was my child, I would not allow this to happen.”
“What choice do I have?” “Food is scarce and there are no jobs. How can I provide for her?” Her conflicted mind looked for another way, but there was nothing else.
Lost in thought, Amishi blindly followed the steps of the little girl. Finally, she looked about her and realized she had taken a wrong turn. She seldom used this road, but the building before her looked familiar. Hope came alive in her heart as she approached the entrance to the Christian Mission Home for orphans. An hour later, she left, her task completed and her soul rejoicing.
One set of eyes, dark as midnight, meets the gaze of another, bright as the summer sky. One small person reaches out, welcoming an embrace from another, full grown. The delight of a little girl greeting her beloved grandfather puts a smile on my face as I watch, unseen. One from India, the other from the USA, born oceans apart, yet destined to become family. My eyes tear up, as I wonder in awe at how different Jeya’s life might have been.
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