Shilpi looked at the frail little girl sitting on the couch, the daughter of her next door neighbour she hardly knew. She had been killing yet another evening of loneliness,when the bell had rung. Her agitated neighbour had cited an unavoidable emergency before thrusting the girl inside and disappearing.
There she sat,hugging a shabby old teddy bear, wearing a dainty little dress and a flowery cap so fitted on her head, not a single hair could be seen.
“Hi sweetheart, what was your name, again? How old are you?”, asked Shilpi.
“I am Tanya and I am seven.This is Mr. Ted”, holding up the teddy bear.
“Hi Tanya, hi Mr. Ted”.
“Why are you sad?”
“Me? Why do you think that?”
“I don’t know. I just feel you are sad”.
Children can sense things adults cannot. She thought.
“I am just a bit tired”.
“Who is that man in the photograph?”.
My ex-husband. Who left me because I could not bear him a child.
“Where is he? Office? My dad also works late sometimes.”
Before Shilpi could answer, the little girl continued.
“Hold Mr. Ted for sometime. He can make you happy.”
She handed the teddy to Shilpi. Not knowing what to do, Shilpi hugged Mr. Ted.
A few minutes passed. The little girl was watching intently.
“Feels better, no?”
The warmth of the teddy and the honest eagerness in the child’s voice broke her. She felt tears streaming down. Tears that she had held for long, since the night her husband left a month ago. Tears for a future that could have been and that now could never be. Failed IVFs, doctor consultations, medicines, nothing had worked. Motherhood was a distant dream now. The love of her husband she had lost, the home she had built was now as barren as she was.
She felt the little girl’s arms wrap around her.
“My mom says we can stop tears if we say five magic words”.
“Oh, whats that?.”Shilpi asked, between her tears, hugging the girl back.
“I choose to be happy.”
“I wish it were that easy, Tanya”.
“It is, really, it has worked for me!”
“You are a child, it will work for you because you have not a thing to worry about, dear.”
“No, really. Look, I wanted that Princess dress that Elsa wore in the movie Frozen. Mommy said that I can only have it when we have enough money. I was still happy, I chose to be happy even if I did not get it”.
The sincerity with which the girl said this made Shilpi smile.
“Haha, there, you smiled! My dad says I can make anyone smile!”
“You sure can”.
As the evening melted away, the home and the heart where loneliness lurked filled with joy with Shilpi listening to the bubbly little thing chattering away.
“I choose to be happy”, those words had struck a chord in her heart.
As she watched Tanya dig into a bowl of ice-cream, all of a sudden, out of the blue, realisation stuck her. She could adopt a baby! Barrenness was an ugly word she had labelled herself with. She could always be a mom. Everyone could be a mom. And she needed no man in her life to become one.The more she mulled over the thought, the happier and more hopeful she felt.
Tanya’s mom arrived.
“Thank you so much for looking after her. I simply had to get this thing done today as tomorrow we have Tanya’s chemotherapy session.”
Seeing Shilpi’s look of shock, Tanya took off her cap.
“Oh, I talk so much, I almost forgot to show you this! Bald is beautiful, Aunty, no?”.
Words failed her. She nodded and bent over to hug the happy little girl, sobbing, shocked.
There was too much sadness in this world, her own worries now appeared trivial.
“There is a parcel for you, Tanya”, said her mom.
Excited, she opened the package.
In it, was the most magnificent princess gown she had ever seen or imagined. Layers and layers of blue and aquamarine and sequin beads.
“Who is it from,mom?”
“No name, dear. The note just says-To a Brave Little girl- I chose to be happy…because of you.”