Have you ever had a nightmare where you are trying to speak, but the words aren’t coming out? Or trying to yell for help, but no sound will come? I have had several nightmares like that throughout my life, and I can’t forget them because they are so disturbing. I recently realized that I know children who live there lives in this nightmare.
Abb is a 12-year-old boy with severe autism. He has a smile that lights up a room. He is very thin, but seriously adorable. He has a deep voice, but cannot speak properly. He is able to communicate through signs and gestures and makes basic statements. His most common word, “Amma” which means Mother. He always says, “Mein jaunga” which means “I’m going”. And we ask, “Kahan ja raha hai?” (“where are you going?”) He responds, “Amma”. When we ask, “Amma Kahan hai?” (“Where is your mom?”), he stretches out his arm far in front of him and up and back while making a prolonged “oooooo” sound, indicating she is very far from where we are. But he cannot tell us the name of the place, nor navigate how to get there. All Abb knows is that he needs to find his mom.
Yesterday, a local woman came to our home looking for work sweeping our floors or washing the children’s clothes. Whether it was her small thin frame, her dark weathered skin, the large gold ring in her nose, or the bright magenta head covering she wore, this woman must have, in Abb’s eyes, resembled his own mother. When she came through the gate, Abb immediately thought it was his Amma. He quickly realized it wasn’t. What cruel torture to his poor little heart. How it must have sank when he first believed it was his Amma! Then it must have shattered, no it DID shatter, I witnessed it and I scrambled to pick up the pieces, when he realized it was not her.
As I came out to meet the woman, Abb ran to me with tears in his eyes, “Mein jaunga, Amma. Amma.” This time his deep voice was rattled with weak and hopeless squeaks of, “Amma.” He refused to sit down next to me, he was so disturbed at the presence of that woman now. Finally agreeing to sit down between us, Abb held his hand on his head, trying to avoid looking at the woman to his right. I explained to her that Abb thought she was her mom. With her kind heart and gentle nature she said to him, “Don’t worry I will also be your mom.” This helped Abb to recover a bit from the trauma of the situation. But honestly there is nothing that can replace our Amma. Without his Amma, will Abb be able to handle life? He is tormented, knowing his mom is somewhere, remember her love for him, how she used to lovingly place her hands on his cheeks, when she would buy him chocolate and snacks from the shop, how she took care of him. He will remember her, and be tormented by the fact that he can’t tell where she is.
Abb is not the only boy living in this nightmare. A majority of our boys have similar horrors. That same day I sat and watched our children as one of our staff members taught them an action song. I looked over my shoulder to see one of our boys, Nitesh, was in the room alone sleeping. I went in to see if he was ok. “Are you sick? What happened?” Nitesh was reluctant to reply. He covered his face with his arm. After persuading him, Nitesh finally said, “I want to go home…to my home.” I was at a loss for words.
Nitesh, 14 years, has no recollection of where he is from. He doesn’t remember his mom, dad or if he had brothers and sisters. When he was very small, someone must have abducted him, or he was sold. Being that he has polio in both legs, Nitesh was seen as having “great potential” as a child beggar. So, from the time he can remember, Nitesh has worked for a man by begging in the streets of Delhi. Thankfully, last year he was rescued and brought to our home.
So there Nitesh laid, wondering, lamenting about his family. “Where is my mom? Is she searching for me? Is she worried about me? Does she need me? Does my dad cry for me? Does he pray for me? Who am I? Why is my life like this? Why am I in this home without anyone to really love me? Why me?!” I can only guess these were his thoughts.
I have dealt with situations like this many times, as many of our boys struggle with the same plaguing thoughts. But this time was so different. After trying my best to give some encouraging and loving words, I told Nitesh to sit up so I can pray for him. We held hands and closed our eyes. As I started to pray a wave of emotion came over me, and I could barely speak, the tears were flooding my eyes, and my lips were quivering, “God please be close to Nitesh now. Give him your comfort. And wherever his parents are, please comfort them also. And if it is your will that they be reunited, then please bring them here. And if it is not your will, then God please give them all peace in this difficult situation…” were some of the things I managed to pray.
I told Nitesh that I love him very much and will continue to pray for him and his family. I also promised that I will help him with anything he needs in life, as I am his Didi (big sister).
But again I say there is very little comfort I can give compared to these boys’ own mothers. There is nothing like a mother’s touch, a mother’s word, a mother’s presence. It comforts our very souls, it is a connection that only mother and child can understand, a bond that is so necessary to our confidence, growth and overall well-being in life. I am so broken. These boys even sometimes say, “All you staff have your own families. You know your moms and dads. But we don’t know ours.” They are so right. We can’t really begin to understand their emotions, the pain and doubt, worry and fear that floods their hearts.
I do feel very small when I stand in the midst of their challenges and difficulties. I feel insignificant and incompetent. But still I will stand with them, holding their hands, praying for them, doing my very best for them with complete faith in God that He will see them through.

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