I had been busy cleaning my house on a Sunday morning and it seemed I had more to do than usual. My husband, Sadanand, was ill with chicken-pox. He very seldom got ill, but when he did, he was worse than a child! He didn't like to take his medicine, he didn't want to drink extra water and he hated the idleness of lying in bed. He wanted me to be close so we could carry on a conversation or he wanted the children to play at his bedside.
Sundays are busy days for me. I am a teacher and I make all my lesson plans on Sunday. i also do all the marketing on that day and because I had to get some more medicine for my husband, I planned to make a special trip to the Doctors' dispensary. l had my day planned out and I was on a mission.
The house was clean by ten in the morning. Sanjeev, our six-month-old, was fast asleep. Seven-year-old Albert was playing with his blocks at his father's bedside. The lady we employed to help with the housework was busy folding the baby's napkins. I asked her to watch the children while I went on my errands. I decided to take my nine-year-old daughter, Nita, with me to the market. I collected my marketing bag and we left. Nita was delighted to go with me to the market and being a great chatter-box, she had many questions for me. We headed for the dispensary first, then waited in a long line to get our medicine. Nita and I played our "word game" until our turn came. Once we obtained my husband's medicine, we set off for the market.
"Now, Nita, be sure you hold on to my pallu," I warned, holding out the free end of my sari, "then you will not get lost." Nita was a very responsible child and we moved from stall to stall quite smoothly. I was busy buying potatoes at one stall when I asked Nita a question. When she did not respond, I turned to see what she was doing. I was quite astonished to see she was nowhere in sight. I called, "Nita, Nita" in a loud voice but received no reply. Like any typical, anxious mother, my immediate thought was that someone had kidnaped her and fear almost took away my rational thought. I quickly retraced any steps and at each stall I asked, "Did anyone see my daughter with me when I came here before?" Some said, "Yes, she was right behind you." Others didn't remember noticing her.
Now I started praying silently, urgently, "Lord, help me find my Nita. Send her back to me. You know how much I love her and I can't live without her. How will I answer Sadanand?" Then guilty thoughts started pressing upon me. "I did the wrong thing by taking her with me.
She was playing happily with her friends; I am the one who called her to come. How could I ever be so stupid as to take her into such a crowded bazaar? I will never forgive myself if I don't find Nita?' I searched the entire market in vain and finally realized I would have to go home and tell my husband that Nita was lost. Fear took strength from me. I tried to walk quickly but felt weak and faint.
I turned a corner and came upon a small police chauky (station). A policeman was standing there, I gasped out the story of having lost my daughter just 15 minutes earlier in the Fancy Market. He asked me her name and wanted to know what she was wearing. I couldn't even remember! He then asked me if I could describe her. I was so anxious, I couldn't even do that! I just kept crying and pleading with him to run and find her. He did not move an inch so I tried hard to hand over my market bag and purse to him. "You keep these safe and I will find her. just hold these things 'till I return." The policeman looked astonished when I tried to give him my purse and it was obvious he thought I was out of my mind. I started walking away, but he called me back, returned my things and assured me he would find Nita.
A large children's playground was located a few steps away. I knew our house was on'the opposite side of the playground; in fact, I could see it from where I stood. The knowledge of what I had to say once I reached home drained my last ounce of strength and I sat down on the footpath. I hailed a passing taxi and asked him to take me home. "Where is your home?" he inquired. Not having enough energy to even speak, I pointed to my house. With an incredulous look on his face, he muttered, lazy, crazy people in this city," and drove away.
Sitting there on the roadside, feeling utterly helpless, my shopping bag beside me, purse in my lap, began to pray once more. At once a terrible thought roared in my mind. Bombay is a large city and many children are lost daily. Some are never found. I feared my Nita had been kidnaped. I pleaded, "Lord, if this is so, please force the captors to set her free. She was with me all the while, holding on to my sari pullu and now she is gone!" The tears began to fall and I couldn't see my house.
Suddenly I heard the shouts of some children. They were running towards me. Brushing the tears from my eyes, I recognized some of the children from our building. Nita's friend Shaila was leading the group. I decided to ask them if they would help me find Nita. As they drew closer, I recognized the face in the middle of the crowd. It was Nita! I shook my head to make sure I was seeing clearly. Then I leapt up to greet the children. My purse fell to the road, my shopping bag fell over and potatoes and tomatoes ran unheeded across the road. All the children surrounded me, each telling a different story about Nita. But Nita had no story to tell; she only came close, grabbed my hands and held them tightly. She had found me and she was so happy. My feeling of joy was beyond description.
The children chattered constantly as we walked to the house. When I walked into my husband's room, he took one look at my face and recognized the anguish I had experienced. I began sobbing and explained how I had lost Nita. He caught my hand and smiled as he said, "Nita came home to tell me that Momma was lost, I explained to her that Momma was not lost. She was searching everywhere in the market for her daughter. I told Nita to take her friends and go together to the market. I said, 'Go to the very same spot where you ran away and stay there until she comes for you.' That is why they were running to the market when you met them."
The loss of my child that day brought mountains of grief, anxiety and almost unbearable sorrow upon me. My spirit was broken and my happiness was temporarily turned to misery and confusion. The loss of Nita left me desolate.
Fortunately, our God does not leave us comfortless or without hope. He hears our prayers. Sometimes the answers are slow in coming and other times, like in this case, God permits us to know real sorrow just long enough so as to appreciate other people's true sorrow. This experience made me realize the meaning of love and experience the joy of regaining one who was lost. It helped me to think of God's supreme love for us. He sent His only Son so we might be saved.
Matthew 18:12-14 records the parable of the lost sheep. The shepherd owned 100 sheep and when one of them wandered away, the shepherd was filled with anxiety. He loved his sheep and went in search of the lost one. He didn't care how late it was; he didn't think about his weariness. He only cared for the safety of that sheep because he loved that one as much as he loved the other 99 which were safe from the danger of their enemy. When he found that lonely, frightened sheep, his joy knew no bounds. He called his friends to rejoice with him and so great was his joy, the impact of his love for this lost one led his friends to rejoice also.
Our Heavenly Father loves us even more than our earthly parents do. We may understand God's love through pleasant or unpleasant circumstances. Let us give thanks to Him for each experience that keeps us in tune spiritually and helps us to trust Him more. Let us give thanks to Him for the privilege of knowing Him.