They say that the world is a scary place. But it’s a lot more frightening when you’re in a strange, new environment, and your kid, your little brother-someone you love, someone you care for, someone who’s entirely your responsibility-is lost without a trace.
Mustafa, from DB, was under my care for three days of camp. On the second day, he went missing. My co-mentor Rahul Ramakrishnan and I spent over an hour running all around the place, leaving no stone unturned, looking for our kid. After all the panic and anxiety, we finally caught him with a couple of his friends in another mentor’s room, treating himself to a good movie on TV, without any regard for mine or Rahul’s worry and concern. I hated having to scream at him and ruin both his and my morale, but he left me with no choice. Disappearing without notifying your mentor is not a joke, and I had to make him understand the seriousness of the issue. That night both of us went to bed with a heavy heart, not feeling good about our respective deeds.
The next morning had volunteers and kids rejoicing because we finally had hot water to wash our hands, and this was a necessity in the freezing cold weather up there. The water might have come as a blessing to others, but not to Mustafa. He went up to the basin to clean up before having breakfast, and the water, being flaming hot, burnt the insides of his palm, making his skin a pale, yet intense red. Mirthuna and I immediately rushed him to the nurse and had her smear cooling cream on the burns. After he was given the necessary medical treatment, I got him a plate of food and fed him Puri and bread. On seeing this, his friends began ridiculing me, saying, “Enna na ivalo periya paiyyanuku neenga ooti kudukkareenga? Ungalukkum yedhavchu aachu na yaaru na ootuvaanga?” (Why are you feeding a boy this big? Who will feed you if something happens to you?) This made Mustafa angry beyond control, and he furiously bellowed at them saying that if anything were to happen to me, he would be there for me, and provide for me with his own two hands.
After I was done feeding Mustafa, I was sitting with my other kids around me, chatting and sharing our anecdotes from camp. Mustafa came up to me with a plate of food and sat himself right next to me. That very minute, I was overwhelmed by emotion when I saw his tender, reddened hand quivering as he tore the Puri and fed me the delicacy, piece by piece. He didn’t care that it stung every time he stretched his fingers. He didn’t care that the burns caused him to flinch every time he used his hands. He endured it all, just to show his Anna how much he loved him. Despite my trying very hard, I couldn’t hold back my sobs. I could feel the cool air on my tear-soaked cheeks as I chewed, considering myself lucky for having found a reason for my every breath.
I might say that I was born in 1995, but over the last 20 odd years, I seem to have lost myself, lost my way, and lost my purpose.
It was this golden moment that brought me back to life.
DC 2016 easily became the best thing that ever happened to me for giving me the moment that showed me reason to live, and made me cherish life.