It's hard to put into words what Leslie and I are feeling right now, but we'll do our best. As it turns out, the Ashraya Children's Home is only a block and a half from our hotel, so after the longest and most anxious hour of our lives, we set out on foot to meet our little boy. We were greeted as we entered and asked to have a seat in the office. While seated there we had several youngsters come up and say hello. They all called me Uncle. Auntie and Uncle are the titles taken by the cargivers at Ashraya. Many of these little ones have never known anything other than that, so they naturally assume that all men are "uncles." After a short wait and a few greatings by other staff members we were asked to remove our shoes and come back into the nursery. And there he was, placed on the mat in the center of the floor with several other children and lots of toys. We had to control ourselves and ease into introducing ourselves to him, but as it turns out, Manu loves everybody and he took to playing with us after only a few minutes. He has the most beautiful smile and cute little laugh. We were told many times by the staff just how loved he is there, and on a couple of occasions, we noticed some of the Aunties crying a little at the thought of him leaving.
After playing for about an hour, he drifted off to sleep in my arms, and we placed him in his crib for a well deserved nap. Usually the children don't nap before lunch, but these were extenuating circumstances! This turned out to be a blessing as it gave us time to play with the other little ones in the room for a while. They are all so cute, and though their circumstances are unfortunate, and a children's home is less than an ideal situation for a child, they are looked after as if they were the Staff's own children. Many special needs abound, but Ashraya finds most of them a loving family somewhere in the world.
Manu awoke at feeding time. One of the aunties brought a bowl of cereal made from a combination of rice, dal, ghee and a small amount of indian spice,plus a sippy-cup of water, and layed it down in front of Leslie. This is when we realized that we were unprepared for the type of food he would already be eating. And though he does take a bottle of milk at night, it's solid food the rest of the time. Guess what we didn't bring? More on that later.
After eating what looked like an insurmountable bowl of food and finishing with a whole cup of water we played for a few minutes more, then put him down again so Leslie and I could get something to eat. On a recommendation from one of the Aunties, we walked about 5 blocks to a vegetarian Indian restaurant. The food was fantastic, and after eating more than we needed, the bill for both came up to 180 Rupees (about 3 and a half dollars.) After lunch we headed back to Ashraya where we played with Manu for the rest of the afternoon. We said goodbye around 4:30pm with plans to be back there at 10:00am tomorrow morning, where we'll play some more and then be given his passport and paperwork to take with us to the Embassy in Delhi. And though we hated to leave him after finally holding him, we understand it's best for his adjustment, and to allow us to recover a bit from a now-severe case of jet-lag.
But before we could rest, we ventured out into the bustling city, risking our lives on several occasions attempting to cross the road (traffic rules here are completely optional apparently, but horns are manditory). We happened upon one of several "pharmacies" that sold boxed infant cereals, formulas and general baby food. And though we got some good ideas for preparing his meals upon returning home, we bought a little of each to get us through the rest of the trip (We found some Lactogen Nancy!)
After that we found an elevated coffee shop and stopped for a cappuccino and watched the hustle and bustle below while reflecting on the days events. The more we think about it, the more emotional we become, as it grows more real in our minds.