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The Girl in the Floral Dress



I was born in India and although I came back to England on the cusp of two years old, this part of the Indian Subcontinent had wrapped it's hedera like shoots into my life-stretch thus far.

I have no memories of my life there, save the black and white images hidden in huge albums of thick black paper. Always wriggling free from the grasp of hinged corners as I struggled to smooth the acid free tissue paper, whilst turning the pages.

I've never wished to return and witness the horrors of begging, mutilation, heat and slums - the tales of a black hole that has now been nicknamed the City of Joy. 

And yet, India's hold was so strong that I would have named a daughter after it. I smile wryly today to think that would be a name the infamous self-publicist, Katie Hopkins, would approve of!

My earliest memories are of meeting my father in an underground restaurant, at the end of his working day. Before the addition of my much loved sisters, I would sit, with my hair bunch, eating poppadoms and bombay duck. My father would outrageously inform the waiter that I was born in India - to which appeared a pint of beer or snack treat to celebrate this fact.
On the train journey back to suburbia, my father would momentarily switch the lights off, by pressing a screw hole by the window. I caught my parents exchanging smiling eye contact as my attempts to re-enact his magic, proved futile. It's a secret he took to his grave but I suggest twice daily journeys and an engineer's knowledge of electrical circuits had something to do with it. They were rice belli-ful, happy days.

Much, much later, it was my affection for the country that connected me to an amazing lady and her mission to save boys like Prem, whose name meant love (although he was named, less romantically, after a hospital); Raju, who was found unconscious, his skin pitted with cigarette burns; and Bubu, who was blind and deaf and had been strapped to the luggage rack on the train. 

I was told that it was more than likely that this tethering was because he had been loved by someone who had acted out of sheer desperation. Sending him to the City where there may be hope and strapping him down for safety.

Which brings me to the title of this story


The girl in the floral dress has no name. Orphan is scrawled on the back of this photograph and that is her label to own. I understand that she had a connection with the church and visited our family - which is why she is part of this captured image.

I have no way of finding her, knowing what happened to her. I wonder, I always have. Did she become a lawyer, does she work in a sweat factory or is she a sex worker? 
This wouldn't be like looking for Mike. There is no fairy-tale ending. I just hope she didn't have to make a decision like strapping her severely handicapped boy to the luggage rack of a train.
Sometimes, the worries of a Return to Work Mother seem very insignificant indeed. 

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