The messenger ladybug.

Host of memories came crashing down by an inconsequential ladybug. As I turned on the ignition of my car, harried and stressed and late for work, a lady bug landed on the windshield with a light plop. And it brought back memories of a curly haired little five year old girl squatting on the driveway, brows furrowed in fierce concentration, counting the dots on a ladybug.

My daughter was born in India and was raised by not only her parents, but by a village. Her universe consisted of parents, grandparents, a plethora of uncles and aunts, little friends who grew up with her, adopted grandparents (our landlords), adopted uncles and aunts (our friends in the Indian city where we lived), domestic help, who was an integral part of the family. Her life was enriched by the love and nurturing of all – family by blood and family by association and friendship. For the first five years of her life, it was a party every day. Playdates, frolic in the parks with little friends, visits to Kolkata whenever opportunity arose, travels to exotic places with mom and dad. And peacocks and lady bugs. We had three resident peacocks in the neighborhood, who sometimes came to visit us in our balcony. When Sahana, Sean and I went for our walks in the neighborhood, Sean made horrible peacock noises, much to the chagrin and embarrassment of his wife and amusement of his toddler. He expected to get a response back from the peacocks, but his peacock call wasn’t authentic enough and he never heard back from them. The aunties and uncles who walked around our neighborhood always chuckled at the white man’s perseverance.

And there were lady bugs galore. Ladybugs or ladybirds, was a huge topic of debate between me, the native of a former British colony and my husband, an American, the pollutant of Queen’s English. The ladybugs/birds featured a lot in the children’s play. They counted them, counted the dots on them, let them crawl on their hands and laughed at the sensation. Despite the usual sicknesses, Sahana had a fulfilling and happy time. She thrived in the love.

Then we moved. We came to a new country, a new state, a new home and to loneliness. Before we built a new circle of family and friends around us, that is exactly what we came to – loneliness. From the constant buzz of family, we moved to the thrum of crickets outside our suburban home. During this time, one day, I saw little Sahana crouching down and looking at a solitary lady bug in the driveway of our new house.

‘What are you doing, baby?’ I asked as I lowered my heavily pregnant body next to my little girl.

‘Mama, look!!! A ladybug!!! Mama, do you think this lady bug has come all the way from our neighborhood in India to see how I am doing? Do you think it missed me? Now that it has seen me, will it fly back to Anushree and Rohan and tell them about me!’

As I write this today, eight years later, my eyes tear up at the intensity of her homesickness she must have felt then. That was the magical age of unending possibilities and ‘anything can happen’s! I kept the magic alive and said,

‘That is exactly what the ladybug will do, honey! It will take your news back to your friends!’

She turned her attention back to the ladybug and said,

‘Ok, go tell Anu and Rohan, I miss them. And tell the other ladybugs, I miss them too!’

With that she walked away with a stick in her hand to explore other treasures.

She doesn’t look for ladybugs anymore. She deals with the complicated world of high school, she reads “To kill a Mocking bird” and writes papers on “Female infanticide in developing nations”. She is slowly becoming a thoughtful, mature woman. Dreams have changed, magic is dealt with skepticism. But since I am the treasurer of HER childhood memories, I chronicle this faithfully, in my heart and in this post. I do this for her, and perhaps, more for me. Who knows one day, when she turns back, she will look for this little nugget of gold. A forgotten moment, yet etched forever in her mother’s memory.

How many more will it take?

Another mindless killing. Little children this time, between the ages of 5 and 7. They must have woken up in the morning, hugged, kissed and coaxed by their mammas and papas, fed wholesome breakfast, dressed warmly to fend off the cold and sent off to school just like any other regular day. Moms and dads waved goodbye and said, ‘Have a good day, sweetheart! Listen to your teachers and try your best!’

Did they realize that would be their final goodbye? No they didn’t. The thought of saying their final goodbyes didn’t enter their heads because they didn’t live in a war stricken country. They lived in an upscale, quiet, peaceful town of Newtown, Connecticut with a total population of 27000 people. People migrate here in America, legally and illegally, to pursue that American dream of leading a better life. And people here own the right to bear arms to defend themselves – the arms which end up taking the lives of innocent children, again and again and again. Those arms fall into the hands of people with mental health problems and they cease to be means of self-defense, they become deadly weapons that shed the blood of innocent, of babes, of little lives who had gone to school like any other regular day!

Our President is shocked, I have no doubt. He shed tears and I do believe those tears are genuine. He is, first and foremost, a parent. He feels the loss, he grieves. But will those tears bring forth any truly meaningful actions as he promised? Will he have the courage to tell the members of National Rifle association that “Enough already, too much blood has already been spilled because politicians, over the years, needed to appease you for those precious votes!” Will he do something right about bringing stringent laws about gun control which, it is obvious, this nation needs.

Sure guns don’t fire by themselves, people pull the trigger. But due to the easy availability, too many people have easy access to that deadly trigger! People who have mental issues, people who should have received psychiatric treatment instead of access to guns. The young man, Adam Lanza, who shot the children and adults took the guns of his mother, supposedly a substitute teacher of Sandy Hook Elementary (that fact hasn’t been ascertained), who had legally purchased the guns. She was a collector, you see. She paid the price of her hobby with her life and a score of children paid for it too. The children had just seen six or seven summers before their life was brutally ended.

I am shocked, angry, scared. As I made dinner for the children, wrapped them in my arms, kissed them goodnight last night, my heart cried for those parents in Connecticut who waved their final goodbyes to their little children on that fateful morning. Death can come anytime, I understand, but the sad thing is mindless deaths such as these can be prevented. I firmly believe, gun control measures are a solution to gun related crimes in this country. Are our elected officials going to take the right step this time, do you think? At the cost of angering major votebanks, will they bring in ban on assault weapons? Will they rise above politics and vote counts to protect and preserve life, which, by the way, is part of their job description? We need stringent gun control measures. Oh wait! Have I said that already? Pardon me for repeating myself, I am a little flustered right now. I feel if I harp on one point it will finally happen. Naive me!

Some fourth graders were rushed to a store-room closet by their teacher, while Lanza was carrying on his bloody carnage, and since there were papers and crayons available, the teacher set the youngsters to draw pictures while they waited for the police. I would love to see their artwork, what did the terrified little souls create that morning? Some six-year olds were confined in their classrooms by their teacher who explained to them that there was a bad man outside, and they will wait for the good men to come and rescue them. The teacher went to the children who were crying and told them to smile, they will be ok. The children said they wanted to do Christmas, they wanted to go their mommies.

Children die unnecessarily every day, all over the world. I read about their deaths and shudder. Bad, evil people hurt little children, I get more vigilant about keeping mine safe. Sean comes back from different refugee camps and share stories of suffering that tv channels and news papers do not tell us. We grieve for the suffering as a family, we look around and see the splendor surrounding us and hope people don’t forget to remember the people who are hurting all over the world. We try in our little, tiny, inadequate way to make some contribution towards healing a few. And then, we look at the bright, beautiful faces of our two children. We feel blessed to be able to live in a part of the world where we do not have to constantly worry about keeping them safe. Incidents like these shatter our delusion of safety. Safe, our children, are not. And safe, they will not be till guns can’t be bought easily as part of our constitutional right!

How do we explain to our children these shoot outs in a place they consider the safest next to their homes – their schools? How do we tell them, we now worry about their safely when they are at school? We worry that any madman (woman) at any time can use them as target practice when s/he feels the world deserves retribution.

I am stunned, I can’t seem to get over this incident. This one hit home and this one hit hard. I look at the snippets of news where they show the parents crying and think that could be me, any day. This incident will fade away in news channels as America gears up for Christmas, I will laugh, joke and make merry with friends and family, exchange gifts and sing Christmas carols. Life will go on, I know. But I also know, Christmas lights are twinkling less brightly for me right now as I struggle to make sense of it all. For once, I am desperately looking for positivism and I can’t find any. Then I hear about the teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary. Amidst all this evil and carnage and anger and despondence, I bow to the teachers of that elementary school. Some threw themselves in front of the bullets so the children could get away. Some herded the children to safety and hunkered down till they all got rescued. Teachers, you are my heroes. You reinstate the faith in me when all seems lost and the evil gets so powerful that I struggle to breathe. Your actions bring in the fresh air. Goodness is not lost, can not be lost.

Finally, to the little ones who got the most precious gift of all – a second chance at life. Preserve it well darlings. Make something of it. Grow up big and strong, right the wrongs, spread the love, carry the fire, spread the warmth so that the likes of Adam Lanza get the help that they need and don’t ever feel the need to pick up guns to seek retribution.

Let us pray – for PEACE! And an end to easy accessibility of guns. Its time, its time!!!!