(Continue from here)
"Why do you come here everyday?" she asked?
"I...I love to look at the school...students..." Nitin said with difficulty.
"Oh!" she said. "Ok, Could we be friends?"
Nitin could not believe his ears. The words came like a long-awaited shower on a parched land. He nodded with a shy smile.
From that day, life seemed different for Nithin. Every day, he would wait for the clock to strike three. Every day, Sheetal would tell stories of her school and he would tell her of his dreams of joining a school. He also told her of how, as a baby, he was abandoned near the restaurant and how Lal took him as a free worker in return for food and shelter.
"I work as a waiter the whole day, and in the evenings, I work as a servant in Mr.Lal's house", he confided with tears to Sheetal.
One day, Sheetal gave him a painting she had done. It portrayed a rose plant surrounded by weeds and garbage."Something beautiful may be in dirty surroundings but it doesn’t lose its true beauty and value," she said. "Keep it with you in my memory."
The next day, Nitin did not see Sheetal near the school. And the next. Days passed and Nitin began to wonder what the matter was with Sheetal. He did not know whom to ask. One day when Nitin was busy at work, a couple entered the restaurant. They went to Lal's office. They seemed to be be there for a long time. As Nitin was cleaning the tables, Lal sent for him. Nitin wondered what wrong he had done and hoped that he would not be thrown out.
He entered Lal's room dreading what was to come. Lal looked up at him thoughtfully. "Your miserable days are ove, Nitin", he said in an unusually gentle voice. "Your life is about to change... for the better." Nitin was confused. He looked at the couple who were looking at him with kind eyes. The lady smiled at him, but there were tears in her eyes.
"We are Sheetal's parents," said the man.
"Er... where is sh ... Sheetal?" asked Nitin, gathering all his courage.
There was a long silence. The woman finally said, "She is no more." There was again a long silence. "She had brain tumor" said the woman. "She was a girl of strong determination and lived her life to the fullest. She did not want anyone to know about her ailment. Her end came suddenly. We hoped she would live a little longer ... and it was you who made her last days happy. Her last wish was that we should bring you up as our own son in her place. "
Nitin stared at the couple, shocked by the sudden news.”We would like to take you home," said Sheetal's father. "Will you please come with us?"
"Go son," said Lal. "And don’t forget me when you make it big in life."
Two drops of tears escaped Nitin's eyes. God had at last heard his prayers. One moment he was an orphan struggling for a living and another moment, he had a home and parents!
"Sheetal! I have been calling you for so long. What is keeping you so busy?"
"I will be right there Dad!"
Nitin watched with an amused expression as his daughter, Sheetal slowly prowled into the room trying to keep a serious expression on her face that somehow looked very funny instead. Yes, there had been no turning back in life, ever since ‘that’ day. He had worked hard and was now a successful civil engineer. He led a life filled with joy, comforts and most importantly, lot of love.
“What is that in your hand?”
“Have a look Dad! It is for you…hope you like it”, said Sheetal, beaming, handing something to him.
It was a sketch of a rose plant … in a beautiful garden.
(P.S – The illustration was provided by the in-house team of the magazine and reiterated strongly that pictures do indeed speak a thousand words. Wow, Nitin did look handsome!! ;))