Mouth watering aromas wafted through the Dining Hall from the kitchen beyond. They reminded me to visit my new friend, Tathagata*. It has been a very short time since Tathagata became a part of the Mission family. However, in that short time, the extent to which she has adjusted and blended with the people around her has astonished me. Every day, neatly dressed in a salwar kameez (Indian dress), she sets out of her home, radiating a cheerful smile and greeting everyone she meets along the way. If by chance, I am too engrossed in a conversation to notice her passing by, she gives me a loving tap on my shoulder; an acknowledgment that she saw me and is happy about it. That’s Tathagata’s specialty!
She has had a speech and hearing impediment since birth. In addition to these challenges, Tathagata also has a disability in her left leg but this wasn’t from birth. Her parents came from a very poor background and could not afford to buy her a cradle. She was placed on a little mat on the floor of her mud hut and, as space was cramped, her mother used to cook the meals right next to little Tathagata.
It so happened one day that Tathagata’s mother, who was preparing the afternoon meal, slipped out of the house just for a moment to meet the neighbor. In those few seconds, Tathagata rolled off the mat and pulled the burning stove towards her. Fortunately, the stove did not fall on her face or head but fell on her left leg, leaving her ankle seriously disfigured.
As if that wasn’t heartbreaking enough, later on in life, Tathagata met a young man whom she thought would be the man of her dreams. But she fell into a trap and the man later deserted her, leaving behind a growing son to care for single-handedly. The son has been adopted by a kind family. As for Tathagata, she needed a place to call home.
Not in my wildest imagination, would I have reckoned that Tathagata had so much to offer. Certainly, in the eyes of the world, she had absolutely no future. Her hopes and aspirations had come crashing down. But Tathagata is now in a safe place and has the opportunity and freedom to open up to those around her. She loves to befriend people and merrily communicates with her sign language. Her eyes speak volumes.
Tathagata enjoys her work in the Staff Kitchen and her supervisor says that she is a very welcome addition to the busy crew there. She loves to work and is known for her delightful laughter and habit of breaking into dance when she realizes that music is being played. Her teammates say that Tathagata is really good at heart and lives it out. Truly the Lord has added a new dimension to her life. Tathagata has every reason to smile!