The ship sailed. White steam rushed out of the heavy nozzles. I grasped the chains on the deck of the ship and was waving out to my friends on the shore. That’s when he caught my attention. A tiny little toe peeked out of that hole in his red sock.He pushed a few strands of stray hair, off his forehead and looked at me. His eyes twinkled like uncut diamonds. His chubby cheeks resembled ripe tomatoes. A drool ran down his chin but that seemed to be least of his worries. He gurgled and giggled incessantly. Unguided and crawling on all his fours, he made his way down the ship’s aisle. He appeared to be not more than an year old. My eyes welled up with tears as I watched him from behind. As I shut them to let the tears flow, I lost track of that pair of tiny buttocks which was dangling a few feet ahead of me. I turned around to search for him, and saw my husband standing right behind me. His piercing look was enough to unveil my hidden pain. He threw up his hands in the air and exclaimed “Not Again!”. I averted my gaze and fixated it on the dancing waves of the sea. His irritation seemed to vanish when he noticed the marks of dried tears on my cheeks. He took my hands in his and squeezed my palm. We stood silently at the altar of the ship, gazing towards the roaring sea.
Last year, on this same fateful day, I had lost my only child. Cancer, they declared. Fate, I reiterated. A vital organ of his body swelled up and my love closed his eyes forever. I am not allowed to discuss the pain I went through because my therapist terms it as ‘prodding raw wounds’. A volley of counselling sessions were arranged but nothing brought me solace. After all, if therapies could substitute lost love, there would have be more hospitals than human on this earth today. They say, time heals the deepest wounds but with each passing day, my wounds ran deeper. I started to slip into depression. My mind was so suffocated, that it was becoming increasingly difficult to breathe. My husband did not want to lose his leftover family. So, on my therapist’s consultation, he decided to take me out on a trip. With an official meeting scheduled, he decided to take me sailing with him to Jordan. Before leaving for the trip, my friends and family members gathered around me and said ‘Never lose hope. It will reinforce your faith in God’.
Faith! The word has lost its familiarity for me but I didn’t want to disappoint them and so, agreed for the sail. This is how I found myself in this floating vessel surrounded by crashing waves which were burdened with the responsibility of vacating my mind now.
The ship was huge. So was our room. With about 100 sails and 95 luxury suites, it suited the likes of a mixed upper class crowd. 2 huge pools adorned the deck. 13 multi cuisine restaurants added to the grandeur. People seemed to be enjoying themselves. But, I could not feel the reason. I felt nothing. Just emptiness. But the pain did not sting as hard. Maybe I had gotten used to it now.
It was a 3 day sail before we reached the first stop on our way. I had my breakfast, the second day and went to relax by the infinity pool. Reading was the only activity which diverted me from the thought that permanently lurked in my mind. I settled on a lounge chair and opened my book. It was about a boy who sacrificed his life for friendship. Poignant as it was but prelude seemed interesting. I stopped for a break after the first part. That’s when I saw him again. Dressed in the same red socks and denim playsuit, the toddler sat 20 ft away from me on one of the restaurant steps with twinkling eyes. I strained my eyes to recognize him. He made the same gurgling noise just as the other day. I looked into his blue eyes and felt that sharp tinge of pain again. There was something very strange about him. I got lost in his eyes each time I saw him. My reverie broke when he turned and started crawling back towards where he came from. This time, my suspicion arose. A barely 1 year old toddler, crawling about the floors of a huge ship, unguided. This did not seem right. I got up from my chair and looked around to spot his guardian somewhere nearby. After a few futile moments of search among the bystanders there, I started after him. He climbed up the stairs and moved into a narrow alley of the residential side, which had a set of rooms on the either side. I followed him hurriedly, in order to catch him. I was scared he would hit a corner and hurt his head. But he was very deft. Swiftly, he moved forward and suddenly took a sharp left. I dashed left after him and ended up, almost banging my head on a dead end. The kid was nowhere to be seen. He seemed to vanish in thin air. Baffled, I stood there for a moment. A door of a corner room stood at my right. It was left ajar in a way, a stream of light seeped out through it. I decided whether to knock on the door and check if he is inside. His security troubled me. After some consideration, I raised my knuckles to knock on the door but the familiar sound of giggles stopped me. He was inside, indeed. Probably, safe with his parents. I dropped the thought of disturbing them and went back to the pool.
I spoke to my husband about the baby that night. He guessed that it might be a slipped off kid from the children’s play room. The play room was located in a way that it overlooked the pool. But how does one little kid manage to slip off from the room everyday? I tried to think but was too sleepy to stress my mind. I fell asleep, tired. That night, I dreamed of him.
It was the last day on the ship. I was standing on the sideboard, leaning on the rails. I was gazing at the sea. It seemed so vast. The strange thing about the sea is its tranquility. No matter how huge an ocean is, how turbulent the surface might seem, the inner layers calmly take in millions of living creatures under their covers. Yet, the human mind goes all crazy, if a thought decides to reside permanently in it.
I was lost in my own web of thoughts when my ears picked up a familiar sound. That Gurgle. It felt like a distant wind was voicing broken syllables into my ear. I turned back to search for the source of this familiar mellifluous sound. Except for a few adults and a handful of teens on their skating boards, I could spot no child in my surrounding. Taking it to be an echo of my imagination, I turned back, towards the sea. The lapping waves were calmer. I wanted to get back to my trail of thoughts. But, as soon as I set my eyes back on water, the sounds came back to me. I knew the source. Startled, I turned back again. But, the same crowd greeted my attention. I went about the place looking for the child. He was nowhere in sight.
Bewildered, I returned to my room. My husband heard out the entire episode and decided that I need rest. He gave me a pill. My thoughts wore down on me and I fell into a slumber. He appeared in my dream again.
Next day, our first stop came into view. A small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Pretty is a small word to describe the beauty of that heavenly place. Water had donned a shade of greenish blue. But its nature remained crystal clear. I could see the weeds floating, lazing below. For a few moments, I forgot who I was and most importantly, what I had been through. Yes! Travel does that to you. It’s better than any therapist in this entire, wide world.
We headed for the hotel straightaway after the ship stowed. The feeling of setting your foot back to land after 3 whole days on water is something else. I felt more relaxed than ever. My husband opened up his newspaper as soon as he entered the room. I went into the attic and looked out. The blue ocean roared in front of me. It was beautiful. My husband came out looking gloomy. I asked him what was it that changed his mood. He informed me about the killings in Syria. It was sad indeed, to know that people are slaughtering each other. But it wrenched my heart to hear about the plight of children there. It’s inhuman to kill human. But what would you term those who are responsible for incessant and ruthless killing of innocent children? He handed me the newspaper. Sadly, I turned the pages. What I saw next, froze my blood. Front page news screamed about the death of a toddler whose body was found in the shores of a sea. He was clad in a denim playsuit and red socks. The length of his hair hid his eyes partially and he lay on the shore, life washed off his body. The same tiny body I saw ambling on the ship’s aisle. The only difference between both of his versions was that the earlier version of him was much livelier, like what he should be.
The newspaper slipped out of my hands. My mind went blank. Hands went numb. Blood rushed in my nerves and my body burnt hot. Was any of this real? A part of me wished it was a dream and my husband had just woken me up. But he was standing right next to me, screaming at me. I could not hear what he was saying. All I could notice was his lip move. That’s when I fell down and everything went dark.
I found myself in the bed when I woke up. My husband had called up the hotel doctor who was taking down my blood pressure. After advising rest and a prescription full of medicines, he left. As soon as we were alone, I narrated the entire incident to my husband. He did believe me. He did not think I was a lunatic who was making things up or all of it was in my head. He listened very patiently and then grew quiet. After a few seconds, he spoke ” Think about it. Why did you see him? Why only you? Isn’t this an indication enough that you should give yourself a second chance? When thousands of children are dying or turning into orphans in one part of the world, you have the privilege to provide a better life for one such soul and turn him into someone who would make this world, a beautiful place to live in.”
I did not need a reason. I did not need an explanation. I knew what destiny wanted from me. I had always believed that I am a special child of God. I had always lived a positive life. With one major blow, my faith in God had shattered momentarily. But he was kind enough to make me see that life is all about a second chance. I wanted to enjoy my vacation now but before that I had something really important to do. I googled and found a center where orphaned Syrian kids took refuge in Jordan. In a course of few days, I found myself at their doorstep. The formalities took 3 days but it was worth it.
When we started our vacation, we were not incomplete anymore. Two tiny palms held our hands. We knew we would always miss the one we lost. But the one we adopted was very special, maybe because we realized that amidst a lot of bad stuff in this world, there is a category of human who will always remain pure, kind and innocent, who are endowed with the most beautiful way of looking at this world, CHILDREN. And then there is a category of the same human kind which does not deserve the right to be called a human. The ones who harm these innocent souls, are the worst forms of our human race. I hope people understand that killing one innocent child is equivalent to the killing of the entire humankind. I hope there is more love in this world, just like I have right now, in my family.
P.S. – Children of Syria are the most suffered souls right now. All they need is a little love to understand that they can lead a life they deserve. Our donations may help some people who have joined hands for this quest. Wishing less pain and more love for the departed innocent souls. Amen!