We had been waiting for them. All preparations had been made by my team of very fine teachers and officers. Our effort was to make arrangements with all sensitivity as to make our tiny little young guests feel comfortable as a matter of course and not for the asking. I was wondering how would they -being in age group of 6-14 manage away from home but I was told that their parents/ teachers would be there in ratio of 1:1 on an average and it was comforting. While overseeing arrangements for their arrival was shocked to find the whole system utterly unfriendly to my esteemed guests with little or no provision of ramps, unruly stair cases, distant bathrooms and high headed drinking water posts. Even our schools were not found to be equipped to make comfortable our special guest children coming to participate in the third tournaments for the children with special needs. They were to come from all over the state so our first and foremost priority was that they should have neat,clean, safe and healthy stay and hygienic, tasty food while with us. And lo! they arrived descending from the buses in twosome, threesome and I saw, in a row of over ten students each one holding the other one from the back shoulder led and followed by a guardian/ teacher. They were spirited, beaming,excited to be in a strange land.
Some of them were using plain sticks as crutches to move, some just hand on the knee but their speed was amazing, their zeal to quickly do things something to marvel at.
Sadly, we had not anticipated that the tables we had laid for them would not be a friendly serving either. At the spur of the moment, mats on floor were laid to seat them, plates brought from gurudwara and we all were there serving in langar/bhandara mode!! My angels were so disciplined, standing in rows and taking seats quietly when available.
Soon a circle of mutual appreciation seemed to have built up and a group of children came with a notebook in their hands with questions scribbled: what's your name? What's your job?
Where do you live?
My heart went out to them on seeing their mute questions. we were soon getting photographed together !
During the time of serving of meals while I was standing there awed by the hundreds of live symbols of fortitude and resilience, suddenly a row of children of Bhiwani started bending to touch my feet much to my discomfiture and I was unable to hold back my tears -neither could I stop them nor let them, I struggled but hugged each of them blessing.
In one out of four venues where activities were being organised, a child was crying miserably , I went near her, hugged her and wanted to make her comfortable. Offered her some sweets and I was about to leave and saw her crying again gesturing she wanted me to be sitting with her!!
And how they ran on the track-with sticks as crutches, on wheel chairs or spreading their hands in front and running ! I wish all the children ,wherever such sports events take place, must watch for only seeing is believing what 'we shall overcome' means literally despite odds, barriers, disabilities!!
The two days that the angels were with us were different from the rest of the days. Most of the time my eyes were tear soaked -no..not out of any sense of bechargi, sympathy but out of overflowing admiration and appreciation for what my angels showed unknowingly, without a sense of 'display'.We may thank our stars on seeing them that we are not them but I realised in those two days of the Special Sports for the Children With Special Needs that we often miss out on something which they possess abundantly- that there is no choice except to succeed,the never-say-die spirit to overcome, to prove, to be despite anything and everything and above all the ability to smile simply, purely the divine smile. They are angels of hope for sure.