Today, I am going to share a story with you. Story of a little girl I loved. Back then when I was little too.
I was a young girl of 14-15 and a new family had come to stay in an apartment below ours. The family of a mom, dad and their 3-year-old little kid Ananya. I don’t exactly remember the first time we met (like we don’t remember the first time we met more than half of the people in our life), but I remember that eventually within 2-3 months, she would come to our house daily, Or I would rather go and get her everyday in the evening and we would such have a great time. She was quite intelligent , and would tell me stories of things that had happened in the day. She would roll her Rrrs the way kids do when they learn to say it, and look for words that had an R. Her parents were adorable too, and her mom used to help me with my Maths problems. Both used to work full-time, but they always had time for Ananya. And her gimmicks. They looked like a perfect family.
This went on for 2 years. Then Ananya started staying with her mom’s parents, a couple of lanes down and she would rarely be seen in our building. On the rare occasions that we saw her mom, I realized that she was unwell. We later found out that she had some sort of cancer but that she was feeling better through chemotherapy. For a couple of months they even shifted back to their own home and I started meeting Ananya again. Her mom’s illness had definitely taken a toll on her, but the sparkle in her eyes was still intact.
Then in the summer of 2005, they had a birthday party for Ananya, and we saw that her mother was very sick. She had a brain tumor and one part of her was paralysed. I could see it in her eyes, that she knew that this was the last birthday of her daughter where she would be present. Soon after, she passed away leaving 5-year-old Ananya and her dad alone. And her parents with whom Ananya was staying later on.
Then it got weird. Ananya’s dad took her away, and began staying with close to his sister about 40 kms from Mumbai, denying permission for her grandparents or any of us to meet her. Her grandfather tried to go and meet her in her school, but her dad banned that too. Eventually we heard he got re-married, but I have not seen Ananya since that day after her mom passed away.
Her disappearance from our lives, left a hole. And a lot of unanswered questions. Our predicament is nowhere as painful as her grandparent’s but its sad nevertheless. I dearly miss her. He angelic face floats in my dreams several times.
Then about 4 years later, I started working with a local orphanage, 3 hours a week. Doing whatever is required in the orphanage and working with 2-3 year old kids. And one day, I came to know that Ananya’s grandfather was one of the trustees there. He had joined after retirement, at the time when Ananya’s mom passed away.
Different paths might have led us there, but I suddenly realized that underlying current was that both of us missed Ananya very much. In different ways and at different levels. There was an Ananya-shaped hole in our lives that we were striving to fill.
Its been about 10 years since then. The pain of not being able to meet her, know her as a person has diminished with time. But there are moments, when something reminds me of her, and I can still feel the dull ache in my heart.
Eggless Maraschino Cherry Shortbread cookies:
Makes about 25-30 one inch cookies, or less if bigger
What you will need:
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tsp maraschino cherry juice
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- 2 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup maraschino cherries, chopped
- granulated sugar, for sprinkling
- Chocolate chips or Hershey’s chocolate kisses, unwrapped
What to do:
- In a big bowl, beat the butter until creamy and pale, for about 1 minute.
- Gradually add powdered sugar and almond extract and continue beating till mixed. Add the cherry juice to the mixture.
- Add the flour in parts and continue whisking , scraping the sides of the bowl at intervals.
- Once the flour is fully incorporated and chopped cherries and whisk till mixed.
- It will be a robust, yet sticky dough. Shape the dough into 1 inch balls and place on a baking sheet, 1 inch apart.
- Press the cookies lightly with your thumb in the centre.
- Sprinkle each of the cookies with granulated sugar.
- Bake the cookies in a pre-heated oven at 160°C for about 14-15 minutes till they are browned at the bottom. Do not overbake or they will start browning from the top.
- Once removed from the oven, immediately press some chocolate chips or the chocolate kiss on top and slightly press in.
- Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack to cool.
- These are shortbread cookies and hence have a softer texture rather than a crisp note.
- Fresh cherries or any other berries can also be used in place of maraschino cherries, just replace the 2tsp cherry juice with equal amount of sugar syrup.
- If using unsalted butter, add 1/8 tsp of salt along-with flour.
P.S : I wish I meet Ananya again. Someday. And give her a big hug.
If you would like to share a similar story of loved ones lost, please write to me in the comments section. Me and others reading the post, would definitely like to read. 🙂