‘Smiles’ in Solitary Confinement

By Ipsita Sinha, volunteer FHI Bangalore

Held up in tedious responsibility, the kids of this unknown world have a subtle sparkle in their eyes that says and is yet unheard. Yes! You got me right. I am yet another NGO volunteer who aspires to bring some change. But wait, before you judge me with those ogling eyes dealing in immense poverty of hope. I don’t aspire to change the world but just “ME” and just as they say “Charity begins at home”, I believe the disparity between the heart and mind begins within one’s own self.

To tell you, it was one of those sleepless nights where I was dying to live another day and fight ‘em demons marching every inch of my body when I suddenly tripped over a beacon of hope. It was Instagram but wait again, before you judge me as the disobeying brat wasting my night over social media. Because this night was different. I was scrolling but not through a ‘sad quotes’ page but my senior’s profile. She happened to be smiling in all her pictures which a bunch of kids holding a banner which read “Fly Higher India”. NO! I didn’t envy the smile. I felt the word “Fly” hit me hard in my gut. Then what, in no time were the words in the banner stalked but a message to the organization was also sent.

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To my surprise the spontaneity was something I was fetching all this while. In no time was I taken in as a volunteer and attended my first event in Srirampura, Bangalore. While I was and am still “kannada Gotilla” my dance elicited quite an unexpected response from the kids in that residential school. They thereafter named me “Jimki Kamal Akka”. Funny! Right? How I was finally feeling home. Well, it was not the first time that my demons were seeking refuge in another persons’ presence but it was the first time they were feeling sheltered and safe. What Kannada Primary Govt. Girls School, Srirampura gave me was not just a home but helped me observe through smiles which shared no common tongue but indeed were ‘lost’ too seeking their identity in this complex world. Their spirit and enthusiasm was to die for. How else could someone hug you in the first meet and not let go off you?

I interacted with volunteers and had this happy demeanour about me but inside within those shackles of despair, anxiety and pain I was somewhere creating my path to a hopeful future. Such was the impact of these little girls busy in their hustle-bustle of activities and holding your hand throughout. That day, Ramya, an eleven year old clinged close to me precisely because she knew I lacked the ability to interact in Kannada. We often shared a smile or two and I caressed her giving what she might have missed quite often –Love!

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When the event was nearing its closure, Ramya looked into my eyes and unlike every other kid just gave me a bright smile and insisted to drop me till the entrance gate. She didn’t say “Akka Banni” meaning “Come back again” like others did with tearful eyes. She kept looking and at last gave me hug assuring through that gaze, “This is your new home, come here whenever you feel lost.”

I let loose a painful stream of tears and the rest is history….

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