For World Down’s Syndrome Day

Dear Avani,

It’s been more than a decade now, yet I clearly remember the day I met you and your mom at Sapling Nursery School in Pune. My family had just moved to India from the US, and it was Varun’s first taste of schooling in a country that was not yet his home. He was just four years old then. You were one of his first friends in the new school and cared for him deeply. Since we lived in the same neighborhood, Shirene Garden, you guys began to play together every day and often spent time together in each other’s homes after school. It was heartwarming to see the ease with which the two of you connected. I was an anxious Mom those days, and constantly overworked and overwhelmed myself with worries. What if the kids fell sick? How would they cope with bigger classes and less personalized attention in school? What if they didn’t fit in? In addition, It was discomforting to demand work of the maid and the driver and I was petrified to cross the unruly traffic laden streets at Parihar Chowk with little children in tow. All these petty troubles bogged me down. But you with your bright spunky spirit and pure love taught me a few profound lessons about life. Every day was a battle for you yet you rallied on and never let anything stop you from enjoying all the little moments in life. With your simple no nonsense attitude you worked your magic into all our hearts.

Once, when you were over for a play date, you were hungry and I hadn’t finished making lunch yet so I offered you what was ready, a bowl of plain daal and white rice with ghee. You ate this with such relish, stopping every now and then to compliment me on what a great cook I was! Watching you thoroughly enjoy every bite of what you ate, I learned that it’s not just the ground spices, tempered gravies or roasted veggies that add to the taste of a dish but the gratitude and awe in your heart. It’s the attitude that elevates a simple dal to the status of Hyderabadi Biryani.

Another time at an outdoor birthday party organized for Varun, all of the kids were running around and playing and their parents, my friends, were busy talking. It was a pleasant day in August and a slight evening breeze blew. Amongst us all, you were the only one who stopped what you were doing and stood with your eyes closed, head tilted upwards, hands stretched out welcoming the waft of the monsoon wind. There was utter joy on your face! Happiness stems from the littlest things if we allow it, I learned that day. And, breezy moments are not just for the pretty women draped in chiffon in Bollywood movies.

I will never forget is the sports day at Saplings. All the kids were dressed as Santa, and took part in a race where you had to grab glittery parcels placed every few feet on the race tracks, throw them into their sacks and haul it to the finish line. At one point Varun stopped running and enamored by the shiny package started to play with it. You were way ahead of Varun but when you saw your buddy lagging behind, you stopped, ran backwards to him and then, a wise soul that you are, held his hand to stop him from dilly dallying and the two of you crossed the finish line together in last place. What you taught me that day was winning a race is not as important as having a friend to slow you down. and savor every moment of it 🙂.

Thank you for all your love, dear child and reminding us time and again on what truly matters.

Love,

Vidya Aunty.

Pic. – Avani and Varun after the race.

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