Count your Blessings

It doesn’t take a scientist’s brain to comprehend basic conversations. Yes, sure! But when it comes to sarcasm, I guess it takes way more than that, especially if you are someone like me. Well, it is not that I am a dimwit or anything but I have a penchant to dig for goodness even with sarcastic spears.  So, with me, most times, efforts employed on sarcastic grounds pass unnoticed.
Yes, go ahead, call me WEIRD! That’s not the point though.

Now, my less-than-smart brain has discovered that people have the tendency to say the weirdest things exactly when you least expect them. And all you can do at times like such, is remain seated with pursed lips and maybe at the most add some nods, because you do not know of a justifiable response.

As it happens, a spare weekend took me and my friend to an orphanage I frequently visit to spend some time with little orphan girls raised by a married couple. These girls are taken in at the age of eight and are raised with every possible facility that can be provided. We were astonished at the efforts the happy couple is investing in doing the great job that too with least assistance from independent parties or government. The girls are well-mannered and are being raised with high standards under personal supervision and observation of the couple.

In the few hours that we spent talking and chatting with the girls, I noticed one girl of about 15 who was aloof from the gang of girls. She would barely talk and was on her own since I time we were there. I was surprised that the other girls who were otherwise so close to each other never once checked on her.

I had learnt this from the caretaker lady that new girls who joined the house took some time to mix up with the other girls and I convinced myself that she must be trying to adjust with the new surroundings. Very soon, I learnt that she was staying with the family from the age of 8 and had been different from the family ever since.

Now, she appealed to the best of my curiosities and in no time, I was sitting next to her, trying to strike a conversation. It was clearly evident that she was least interested. She not only made me repeat everything at least a few times before I could extract a reply from her but she made it even more difficult with her single-word replies or mere nods, at times. Surprisingly, in 20 minutes time, she had uttered only few countable number of words whereas as I had almost constructed a mountain of loose talks!

After about 5 or so minutes of awkward silence, she asked me, “do you count your blessings?” Now, this totally threw me off-balance. While I was happy that she was finally opening up with me, I was clueless as to what I should say to that.

I don’t remember her name, for she never helped me with it, but I so wish I could forget what she had brought up. Now, this is why I always prefer books over people. Books tell you things only when you are ready to take them unlike people who will bring up things at most awkward moments.

She kept looking away so I could not figure if she was being sarcastic or plain rude. She asked again. Well, now, we sure do, don’t we? Count our blessings, I mean. Appreciate what life is despite the hardships and challenges it brings. Thank God for his mercy and love. But then it is not the first thing we talk about!

Sure, I do, I replied. Just what you mean when you ask me this, I asked her.

Not all do, she said. Maybe. Maybe not, I said. Why do you ask anyway? I asked. And what she replied was terribly sad and left a void in my heart, that I doubt will ever be filled.

You should count your blessings because you have everything that I don’t. You’ll never know what that feels like. I was still searching for a reply and she went on. With that far away look, she said, I hate to come back to a family that isn’t my own. I hate to accept someone as mum and dad when there are 30 other kids your age calling them the same. I hate that I cannot seek the affection that I would get from my own parents and that I cannot be the one child that I would’ve otherwise been, she paused.

I hate that no one cares enough to come and talk to me. That I have to think so many times before asking for anything, maybe a dress, maybe something for school, maybe a chocolate. Anything for that matter. Because then they will have to bring the same for every other girl here. I hate to talk to these girls here and I absolutely hate to be reminded every time that I am supposed to consider them my sisters and behave like one.

I totally hate that I cannot ever feel normal among people like you. I hate when my teacher asks me twice but asks others only once before moving on to next topic. I have lost my parents, I am not mentally retarded. I hate to be treated like one, she added dejectedly.

I hate all the sympathy. That you’ve come to talk to me while I lament. That you get everything that I too deserve. I hate that you will go back to a family that is your own. I hate that you have friends, normal ones whereas all I have is these girls to talk to, she said enviously. I hate my life and I hate everything about it. And most of all, I hate God, if there is anything like that, to have let me suffer like this, she finished.

It was like a flood of emotions that had unleashed itself after years of self-agony. Like a tornado of pain that hits you so bad that you stumble without control. I do not remember how many seconds had passed before I could utter a word again. She didn’t bother disturbing my thoughts. It’s like I was transported to a different world. A world where there was only misery and loads of anguish, an ocean of pain.

Coming back to the present, I failed to understand if the other girls were right in accepting their lives the way it was or this girl was right in lamenting over her life. Was I even the right person to judge?

Something about her sullen outburst numbed my senses. I wanted to talk to her. I wanted to say something that would make her feel better but didn’t she say that she hated sympathies? I wanted to be angry with her for abusing everything God had blessed her life with, no matter the past. I wanted to make her see sense, to drive out the negativity, to see a solution, find one. Most of all, I wanted her to look at the other side of the coin which was begging for her attention. And that thing was happiness. I so wanted to talk to her. But all I did was get up and walk away.

At the door, I turned just once to look at her and she did too. In all those 20 minutes of being together, that was the only moment our eyes met. I saw she was crying all this time while I thought that her words were quavering with anger. The tears now dried had left her eyes moist and cheeks pink. Her face emotionless.

Although, I had no words left to justify her arguments and accusations, I am sure, my eyes conveyed what I was thinking at that moment. And that was although I do count my blessings, I was not sure if she did.

Asha Seth