It was the baby’s piercing cry that brought Smitha out of her house to the street, just in time to see the baby struggling with a piece of chapathi, which a mongrel was trying to snatch from her tiny hands. Smitha darted across the street. With her heart pounding in her ears, she grabbed the baby with one hand and chased the dog away. A dirt and tear-streaked face looked up at her, still possessively holding onto the torn piece of chapathi.
Smitha carried her back, pushed open the gate and placed her down on the porch. Delighted with her freedom to move, the baby toddled around. With the chapathi still clasped in her hand, she was now more intent on exploring the porch. The gate creaked and Smitha looked up to see the ironwallah standing there.
“Next time you leave her alone, the dog will bite her and I will not be there to help,” Smitha almost yelled.
“My wife left me. I have to deliver clothes and I have nowhere to leave her,” he replied quietly.
“I will take care of her, leave her with me,” Smitha offered impulsively.
Just then the baby tottered up to Smitha and gave her the chapathi. She looked down at the tiny-fisted palm and then again at the innocence-streaked face. Sometimes prayers are answered in the most unusual ways, Smitha thought as she recollected years of struggle with infertility and childlessness.
She picked up the baby with an easy familiarity and was jolted by that moment of deep connection. Can I find peace taking care of someone’s child? Something urged her to do more than just take care of the child.
Why not give her a permanent place in my life? She thought as she decided to give the child a chance to change her destiny.