Prompt:It's a freezing cold night. Shiela finds a family on her doorstep and invites them into her home to sleep. The next day the family does not leave.
It was freezing cold outside, the temperature had suddenly dipped below zero. Sheila had gone to check on the main door, a habit she had acquired when her daughter, Nitya left home for further education.
She was now living alone in the house, her husband, being an army officer was posted to different parts of the country every three years. Initially, as a young bride she had accompanied him but later for Nitya's school education and her own job at the local college, she decided to stay permanently in one place.
Sheila, was just about to switch off the light of the entrance when she heard the sound of a child crying outside her door. She opened the door to find a young couple with a small child in their arms.
The mother had covered herself and the child in a thin shawl and the man in a torn kurta and worn out pajamas was shivering in the cold. Shiela immediately told them to come inside her house. She switched on the heater and ran in for a thick blanket to cover the little one, while Anita the maid was told to make hot tea for the couple and organize a hot water bottle quickly.
The next hour was spent in warming up the child who had nearly stopped breathing. Luckily the child was fine after sometime and started sucking at her mother's breast.
By the time Sheila settled the couple and the child, it was nearly mid-night. Herself, feeling emotionally and physically exhausted, Sheila told Anita to put them in the spare bedroom across the garden, which had been occupied by the live-in gardener, Ram khush. Ram Kush was away for a month to get his daughter married.
Shiela woke up in the morning to the voice of the child's whimpering and remembered the incident of the night. She got ready for college and went into the kitchen for breakfast and found the couple seated on a mat on the floor and Anita was serving them tea and bread.
Anita, quietly came over to her and whispered, "They say they have nowhere to go." Sheila had not prepared herself for this situation, she had housed them for the night not realizing what she was getting into.
Not knowing how to deal with the situation, Shiela, acknowledged the couple with a nod, said quietly, "We will discuss this further in the evening," and left for college.
When Sheila returned home that evening, she was in for a big surprise. The front lawn had been mowed and cleaned, the pots and the gate had been freshly painted. The man was washing the leaves of the tree with a pipe. Anita, took her quietly to the back of the house and she saw the woman cutting mangoes for making pickle while the little kid crawled on the floor.
The house appeared to be bursting with energy, as if the couple had always been a part of the house.
After eating dinner that night Sheila with an envelope that contained cash, walked to the couple's room and thanked them for their hard work during the day.
The man promptly replied, "We are poor but we still like to earn and feed ourselves." The woman folded her hands and mumbled her appreciation for providing them with shelter for the night. "Our child would have died if you had not taken care of us last night," she said quietly, with tears in her eyes.
Sheila was wondering what to do next, when she felt a tug at her shawl. She turned around to find that the child, had crawled up to her and was pulling her shawl with her tiny fingers. Sheila looked at her smiling and innocent face and was suddenly reminded of Nitya's childhood. Nitya too would pull her sari when she left for college every day. Often, Sheila had to bribe her with a piece of chocolate to distract her.
Sheila, bent down to hug the child and closed the door behind her. She walked back to her house with the envelope still in her pocket.
Sheila could hear her phone ringing in the house and she knew it was a call from her daughter Nitya. Sheila was suddenly excited, there was so much to tell her daughter. She knew Nitya would understand and would be happy to find someone to share her chocolates with, when she came home next week for Christmas.