This weekend we had a very special guest. I'd met him briefly a few days ago, on the day he'd landed from the US. Jet lagged and exhausted from all the travel, he went straight to the diwan, curled up and slept. When it was time to leave, he was prompted to say Hi.
"Hi", he said.
I had to refrain from going forward and touching him, as I'd normally have done with any child. Nonetheless, I knew autistic children were particular about having people in their space. So I was going to wait till he allowed me in.
A few days later, when he came to stay with his mother, I was apprehensive. His mother was going to leave him with us for a day, while she went out shopping. Also, I wasn't sure if he'd take to Adiv who is relentlessly demonstrative and chatty. I wasn't sure of how we'd console him if he missed his mother. He didn't play with toys, so we wouldn't be able to distract him with anything. He only listened to a DVD of the Wiggles, an aussie band. I didn't have to worry so much about food, as his mom would bring along his stash of comfort foods; some organic jelly beans and gluten free cereal and rice cakes.
When he finally arrived, he flashed us his winning smile, and charged right in. He ran from room to room, exploring. He touched everything that came along the way. He felt the water can, Adiv's toy horse, the walls, and the cushions. He even felt Adiv's hair and smelt it. Adiv stayed close, saying Hi repeatedly and smiling. He got on his horse and called out to him.
"Sit with me", said Adiv.
The 8-year-old got on behind him. A few seconds later, he lost interest. He ran around, followed by his mother who made sure he didn't drop or throw anything. After some running around, he climbed on to the bed, and snuggled up between the sheet and the mattress. Adiv was ecstatic. Why hadn't he thought of that before? Then they both jumped on the diwan like two happy kids. However, Adiv was in his space for a bit too long, and he responded by pushing him off the diwan. My heart skipped a beat, but luckily Adiv landed on a pile of cushions. "Keep Adiv away. He doesn't understand that Adiv is a baby", explained the mother apologetically.
"Adiv is fine", we assured her. We understood it wasn't his fault, but we had to be careful.
By the time I woke up the next morning, our little guest was at the table eating his cereal. With some prompting, he turned to me and said Hi. After breakfast, he came close and held my hand.
"Hi there", I said gently. He pulled to the kitchen. He was curious about the pressure cooker, and all the activity in the kitchen. We put on his DVD for him, while he ran around feeling things, smelling hair, and poking cushions. I attempted to distract him with one of Adiv's videos, but he was bored. So the Wiggles were1 back on. Even though he'd seen it thousands of times, he loved it, chuckling happily on his mother's lap.
When she left for her outting, we were worried, but he seemed fine. If he sensed she'd left, he didn't seem upset. We watched him and Adiv in turns, before he was fed lunch. He enjoyed his broccoli, and ate up some rice with a teaspoon of dal and veggies. After lunch, he was given a pill to calm him down. As he was already getting comfortable with Rohit, he was able to rock him to sleep. Adiv wasn't very pleased though. Adiv insisted that Rohit carry him. And when Rohit was feeding him broccoli, Adiv emphatically declared, "I like cauliflowers also." While I attempted to entertain Adiv, he said angrily, "This is my house. Tell him to go."
In the evening we were all intending to go out to dinner. The little boy hadn't yet woken up, and we were beginning to wonder if we should wake him up for a meal. He hadn't eaten in 7 hours, and was sure to be hungry. When he refused to wake up, we employed other tactics like switching on the light (he'd burrow himself further beneath the comforter) and putting a grain of rice on his lip. We weren't sure if he knew he was hungry, and hoped a taste of the food would get him to wake up. He didn't, and that's when we discovered he was running a temperature. Then we made more desperate attempts to wake him up. We knew he didn't like liquid medicines, but we only had liquid Tylenol. So while Rohit held him, I poured in a teaspoon of Tylenol little by little. He didnt' seem to mind it. By the time his diaper and clothes were changed and he was fed, his mother came back. He flashed her a happy, bright smile and climbed onto her lap. They were leaving in a bit, and his mother got busy packing. Meanwhile Adiv was lying around pretending to be very ill. In a medicine cup, I poured him some juice and coaxed him to drink it as we'd done with the older fellow. Adiv wrapped himself in a blanket and said loudly, "I also very sick."
Adiv was happy to see the 8-year-old leave. He now had his mother and father to himself. However, Rohit and I missed the little fellow. We hadn't spent a lot of time with him, but we'd grown used to him. In his own way he'd begun displaying affection. He would casually climb onto Rohit's lap, or pull me along to show me something. Though we were strangers, he had warmed up to us. When it was time to leave, he surprised me with a hug, a smile, and eye-contact.
In a week's time they'd leave for the US again. I wondered when we'd see him again.
"When we go to the US, we will go see him", said Rohit.
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