She was a remarkable mother. I was totally enthralled by her account of her little 4 year Shreya. With sparkling eyes, dancing hands, vivacious smiles and giggles she tried to paint the picture of her daughter. At times tearing up, struggling to calm the rising lump in her throat she was absolutely determined to make me see the beauty in her daughter. She did not have to try. I was totally sold!

Rhea was a charmer. Girl of a few words, she spoke through her beautiful big eyes. She would walk into Children First (our centre) and everybody, right from other parents in the waiting area, our office boy, receptionist and other team members would fall under her spell. Shake hands, high fives, little tickles, hugs (for a chosen few) and shy smile (for all) would lift everybody’s energy level and happiness quotient.

As I listened to her mother’s enchanted narrative, I was struck by her faith in her daughter, “So what if she is not speaking much yet, we just need to give her time”, “I know she is not reading and writing like other kids in her class but that is alright. I know she is very intelligent”. However, I could not help but wonder. I did not say anything then but I wanted to.

I wanted to tell her to keep that faith no matter what. Because there would be times when it would be shaken terribly. When her little Rhea would get red marks all over her notebook. When her teacher would tell her in PTMs that she was just not keeping up with the rest of the class. When the principal would call her to tell her either to keep her back for a year or put her in another school for “special children”. When other children would tease her as being “duffer” or when she would not get invited to any birthday parties. Or when despite all her efforts as a mother, she would not see any “signs” of ability. No medals on sports days, no limelight on stage, no stories in school magazines, no poetry or painting on class board. Just years and years of invisibility…..

I wondered if she would be able to talk about her Rhea with the same delight? Or would there be heaviness, disappointment, resigned acceptance? Would that shy charmer whose smile could launch a thousand ships also let it fade away? Would she also become like one of those teenager girls who sits in our waiting area, avoiding eye contact, furtively fingering her slashed wrists, looking blankly into space, deadening her world of misery through drugs, drinking and thick wall of “don’t give a damn”!

And as I sat there, lost in her mother’s delightful story, I suddenly became aware of two watchful eyes. I turned around to see Rhea looking at me with those big beautiful eyes. She seemed to be asking me something. As I held her gaze I realized what the question was. I answered, “Rhea is a star. She will always be a star”. She went back to her play with a smile. Happy, playful, loved. And I went through my day. With renewed faith. No matter what. “Rhea is a star. She will always be a star”!

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