Delhi Diaries

Page 2

The Williams! could the girl have this photograph?

'Who are you? And how do you have this photograph?' demanded Neil.
'Who are you and why should I tell you anything?' forgetting her injury, the girl sprang up from the sofa and retorted in a familiar nasal twang.
'Janet William! But how......alive and here! You had.........?'
'Neelotpal Patra!

The Williams house had been attacked and burnt down by masked fundamentalists who believed the missionaries to be running a conversion campaign in the village. An asleep Janet was picked up from her bed by one kind soul among the perpetrators and left on the railway station nearby. The station master heard the wails of the little white girl and took her to the city church in the hope of finding her parents. Sally was sheltered in the church orphanage, studied in the convent school run by the nuns and served in the chapel to earn some pocket money.

Always a bright student with a flair for baking and cooking, she had been selected to intern under Mr Raul De Silva, the celebrity chef, famous for his patisserie. She had honed her skills in Paris and had ventured out on her own only recently. Mr  De Silva treated her as his daughter and had willed this apartment in a South Delhi suburb in her name. Currently, she operated her business from the apartment, explaining the early morning sweet smells.

She had always longed to find out about her roots, her parents and her early days in the small village she only faintly remembered. She had searched all the similar names on the internet and finally located the ancient village temple on a travel site.

This photograph of the Williams was taken on her sixth birthday by the soft spoken village photographer and carefully preserved in his dilapidated, musty shop in the hope of finding a claimant. He was the one who had helped fill in the gaps in the fading memories of her childhood and the attack on that fateful night when two happy families were entirely wiped out with one cruel stroke of the matchstick....... except one survivor.

And then Sally gave Neil the brown packet!


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