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My brush with miracles.

I saw them sitting at a table of a busy restaurant their backs facing me. What drew my attention to them was their conversation. It was a little girl about 8 years old and a middle aged man. The man was animatedly in conversation with this little girl. I could see him smiling and engaging her in talk, as she ate her dosa. There were several others who threw a sideways glance at this odd pair and went about their business of ordering or collecting food at the take away counter. It was not my turn yet and I was in no big hurry. I had this incredible urge to pull up a chair at the same table as the man and the little girl and join them in the conversation they had submersed into.

Would I have interrupted any other conversation between two people, you wonder. No. I wouldn’t. This couple was special. They were odd. The man was Indian. The girl was African. A native of Africa with the typical color of skin and hair texture. As I looked closer, I realized that the girl was special. Even though she was around eight, she was eating like a toddler. The dosa was cut into several smaller pieces like you would serve a toddler who was just learning to chew on solid food, there was food spilt on the floor and her nose was leaking. The man didn’t seem to notice. Or even if he had, it did not seem to bother him or his flow of thoughts as he continued his conversation. I saw that the girl had fewer fingers on both her hands and they were malformed. It looked like the man had to repeat everything he was saying, slowly, for the girl to understand and respond.All this while, I was standing behind them, making my observations and drawing conclusions.

I imagined that this was a man who was spending his Saturday afternoon with a child who needed some company. He probably was someone who volunteered for an NGO that worked with children of a lesser God and was spending his Saturday doing something meaningful. That thought warmed my heart. I decided not to stand there, furtively stealing glances at the backs of the two of them and decided that I had to confront the man and find out.

I waited for them to pause in their conversation and I stepped right up to the man and asked him if I could sit next to him. He obliged with a smile. I took that up as invitation of a conversation starter and asked him how he knew the girl. “She is my daughter” he said proudly. If you have ever wished that you could take back something that you said and hoped for another chance to say something right, you will appreciate how I felt just then. I had to make up for my gaffe and so I quickly said something like oh- I-would- have- never- known. I found out that he had adopted her from Africa when he and his wife lived there. I introduced myself and asked the girl her name. The father had to reword the question slowly and in a language that comes easily to you and me. Tamil! I am sure my jaw dropped four inches closer to the table when the girl replied to that question, with pieces of dosa flying about as she said her name. As I found out, the girl was five when they claimed her as their daughter and she was eight now. The dad was keeping her company while his mother and wife went shopping at a store near by. Anything else he said was a haze since my heart was pounding hard and I was fighting to keep my emotions in check.

My token number was blinking on the counter and I got up to pick my take away masala tea not before I quickly dug into my wallet for a calling card that I offered to the man and said that I would love to know more.


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