Jessica and Timothy - My New Friends!
After Aziz, my search for a house in Clermont continued. I read up many advertisements in newspapers, went through many agents but nothing worked. At last, I came across an ad that seemed to fit our requirements in terms of availability of space and also in terms of our budget. I called up and fixed up an appointment to see the house. At about 6 in the evening, we found ourselves at their doorstep.
I was a little apprehensive. I looked at those rows of houses with small beautiful gardens and wondered what kind of people lived there and how the houses would be inside. I was now actually going to see one and was a little anxious.
A middle-aged woman answered the door and she stood smiling at me. She introduced herself as Martine Roudet. Martine immediately disappeared inside the house and we were left wondering what it was all about. A few seconds later, she came back smiling and behind her stood a little girl. This little girl kept peeping and when she came closer, she sprang out and smiled and giggled that was when I solved the riddle. This little girl was darker and she looked so much Asian, more so Indian and that was when, Martine smiled and said something touching her cheeks and smiled at me that I presumed to be my skin colour and Jessica's!
From that very moment, Jessica , the little girl, came up and started speaking in French. Jessica, Martine explained was adopted and Martine was so happy to have we Indians as tenants as Jessica would be happy. We then went to look at the house and all along Jessica came behind me and giggled continuously. It was like humans meeting other humans in outer space. It was so much like that. Jessica was so glad that we are Indians. She perhaps never ever had imagined in all her entire life that she could have Indian neighbours. For Jessica it was magic at least, that was how she behaved. Martine was more than welcome to have us and she was willing to do anything to have us as tenants. Although, I did not exactly like that house, Martine was so accommodative that we had to relent and decided to take it.
As we sat with Martine and discussed about the formalities and paperwork, Jessica brought along another boy who looked a year older than her. She introduced us to Timothy, her brother. Timothy was French and as they both spoke and laughed, I was so surprised how two strangers could become siblings. Martine seemed to be very proud of them and I thought who would not be.
A few days later we moved and in and Jessica and Timothy now were my new friends. Jessica and Timothy spoke only French and I could hardly understand them. Inspite of all those communication hassles, a bond grew among us that cut all those cultural and national barriers. I was surprised how intelligent these children were because they would do everything to make me understand even simple things they said. Timothy would run up and down the house and pick up small things only to make me understand what he or Jessica said. They would not give up till I completely understood. I was surprised at their patience and their ability to communicate with a complete stranger who knew little or even no French.
Jessica, was showed me an atlas one day and she pointed out at Sri Lanka - her hometown. It was only then I realized that Jessica was a Sri Lankan and that she believed that Sri Lankans and Indians were all the same. That little kid made me realize that territorial borders were on maps and not in human hearts. Martine explained that since Jessica's biological mother had no money, she had to let Martine adopt her and whenever Martine spoke about Jessica, she would tell me how Jessica's biological mother cried when she gave a year old Jessica to Martine. Since then, Martine took Jessica to Sri Lanka and India whenever she had the time and money. Jessica was a mixture of everything. She could speak only French and she wanted to look like French but she loved having all the Indian toys and she simply loved talking to me. She showed me her Indian Barbie and was happy that the Barbie was wearing a saree just like the one Jessica has. In the meanwhile Timothy would explain how Jessica has those colourful bindis and bangles just like the one I have and he would immediately fish them out of Jessica's jewellery box. I wondered how Jessica and Timothy could love each other like actual siblings
I somehow felt Jessica loved me only because my skin colour matched hers and she could somehow identify herself with me. What Jessica wanted was to be like the rest and she used all those creams that could change her colour immediately to white!!
Jessica was very loving. She always needed someone to tell her that she is loved and that she is a beautiful child. On the other hand, Timothy was very different. Timothy, also an adopted child was equally adorable. He loved to play all the time and talk endlessly about cars and computers. He would take me to all the shops around and also guide me through the entire neighbourhood. Over the months Jessica and Timothy became my best friends. They would take me to their school and Jessica would proudly tell everyone about me as if to indicate that there are others in this world like her. I never got bored. Timothy and Jessica spoke endlessly in French and I would speak in English. My French which till then was so bad now seemed to improve and I was glad. I would accompany Jessica and Timothy to the church or to the 'patisserie' (the cake shop) or to the swimming pool.
Martine seemed to be a loving mother. She never differentiated between Timothy and Jessica. They both went to the same school and did the same things. I could tell that Jessica would not have got all those worldly comforts otherwise. Martine went at length just to make the kids happy and comfortable. She took time off from work to see the kids off at school and be home to receive them. She took them to picnics and vacations. It was surprising how three strangers could live under one shelter as a family. Nobody could tell them apart and they all seemed so much in love with each other. It was strange but the lesson I learnt perhaps will last my lifetime.
Every now and then, Timothy would draw wonderful pictures of mine and present it to me or Jessica would give all those colourful hairpins. The three of us would hug and take pictures in the garden or bake a cake and eat in the kitchen. But like all good things come to an end, the day when we had to leave Clermont was nearing. I was scared of telling Martine. I was afraid the children would be disappointed but I had to break the news. The moment I said we had to leave the children started crying and Martin told me the next day that they had not slept the entire night. We all wanted to celebrate our friendship in an Indian restaurant and that day the entire family was dressed in Indian clothes, which we had carried as gifts for them. The evening soon came to an end and we had to kiss goodbye. Timothy and Jessica tried hard to convince Martine about their headaches and stomach aches to abstain from school. But Martin said she could leave Timothy at home but not Jessica, as she was not sure how Jessica would take it. Martine kissed me good-bye and was off. Timothy helped me with a lot of packing and when it was time Timothy stood at the doorstep till our car reached the end of the road.
Today, three years later, as I look back I can still see Timothy waving his hand at the doorstep. It is a small world after all so, I hope to meet Timothy and Jessica in some part of the world some day.