One afternoon, during lunchhour, I was teaching 6th graders while my 9th graders were out for lunch. I was sitting in the classroom and one of the 9th graders barged in and bolted the door. He said that she is going to come here too and she will harm me. On asking him who was out there, he told me that Laddoo's mom had come to take him but Laddoo was in school and she had refused to believe that. So, she was checking each and every room. She was on drugs, torn clothes and she was using lots of swear words with other staff members.
I came out. I saw a woman sitting on a bench. Her head was down, She had a fluid in her hand. That was just a water color tube which she consumes. All 90 children were standing in the hallway, looking at her, making fun of her, discussing what all she had said in past few minutes. I entered the office and asked her whereabouts. Managers told me that she has a legal right to take away the kid and that they were going to hand him over as soon as he returns from the school. I really couldn't do anything about it so I came back to my class and started teaching again.
Almost an hour later, my student reentered and said didi stay here, don't come out. I did anyway. Apparently, laddoo had come back from school and just outside Ummeed when his mother was taking him back,, two of my students saw her beating laddoo on the road. They brought him back and hid him. When I came out, one of my students was ruthlessly dragging the woman out of the home. He was angry clearly but there was no excuse for his behavior. When I came out, his first reaction was "Didi you go back inside!". There were other female teachers standing there. He didn't say anything to them. I thought he knew that I would not approve of any barbaric behavior and he just doesn't want me to be a part of it.Of course, I stopped him. He went away. I started talking to the woman. She started threatening me. She said she will take her all clothes off. She took her pajama down and all my students ran away. By the edge of the tube of her fluid, she took out blood from her head, mixed with fluid and drank her own blood with the drug. I was aghasted. Her skin was all burned and brusied. She was about to take her kurta off when a housemother stopped her and got her back the pajama. I used a very authoritative voice and said "You are going to sit down first, give me your fluid, have a glass of water and then we are going to talk." The only words she was able to manage and that were echoing in the home "Mera bachcha do!" (give me my son!). But I grew more authoritative and made her sit. Once she did that. I softened my voice and said respectfully, "I am going to get your son back but you have to promise me that you are not going to shout here anymore. This is a home of children/ Respect this home." I don't know what worked - my civilized clothing, my authoritative voice or my respect for her as a human, she grew quieter.
My students and all the small kids were all looking at us when I told one of the managers to get all the kids inside. I shouted at all my students, "get back into the room, the show is over." They refused to even move. Meanwhile, the student who had hid Laddoo brought him back. Little laddoo had a small icecream cup in his hand and tears in his eyes. He was so scared and numb. I told the woman that "We have got your son back and you will not shout at him. You are going to take him away happily. He is your son and is studying really well. He is going to grow up, become educated and make you proud. You are going to take him respectfully and bring him back." My voice had softened and I had started talking to her as a human not a drug addicted mother. By that time she had calmed down a lot. I looked at Laddoo and thought may be he won't come back ever. I was wondering about the vision I had for these kids and the reality of their lives. I was wondering what a disjoint this is, two worlds apart. And I have no control. All I could say to his mother was send him back as soon as possible and he should not miss his education. He is going to be very successful in life. Then I said to laddoo that "Be happy with your mom, enjoy your break and come back soon." He didn't say a word. I took them to an autowallah. No autowallah was not ready to take the woman. Finally one did only on condition that I give him my number so that he can ring if she creates any problem.
I was very emotional when laddoo left and without looking towards anybody else entered back into my classroom. I sat there silently for few minutes. I could not believe what had just happened.
Later, I got to know from my students that they couldn't see me talking to such a scary woman and that was the only reason that they brought laddoo back. Their perspective was such kind of a woman does not deserve a child and that we should have never handed over laddoo. I could relate to them. Most of them have parents like that which had given them a very tortorous childhood and now when they are in their late teens they understood how cruel all of it was. And laddoo should not go through the same thing which they did. I told them that the way to treat that is not be hatred but by respect. I told them that the statement that "Laddoo is going to make her proud" will make her bring back. Every mother has a modest hope and she would definitely want good things for her child even if she herself is not able to give it to him. They agreed on this.
I was a hero for all the younger children in the home. Four of them jumped towards me and said "Didi you never got scared, all other teachers did. Didi you were the only one who made her quiet. Didi, you know laddoo knows the way back to Ummeed. He is going to come back on his own even if his mother doesn't send him. He has done that before". A six year old could come all the way from connaught place to qutub minar. This was unbelievable.
Two days later, in the dining hall, I saw laddoo again. The field worker from Ummeed has brought him back and his mother didn't say a word against that. Laddoo smiled when he looked at me. I hugged him tightly. I couldn't believe he was back so soon. He was calm and happy. I asked him how his mother was, he said she was good.
I looked at my students and reminded him power of good words and how much difference that they can create.