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In Tokyo, we did find a school with separate classes for the retarded children. Sapna was admitted to this school and instantly took a fancy to the musical instruments that were available in the school. The girl was fascinated with the variety of toys which Japan provided. She started differentiating between the sounds of drums, guitar and flute etc. She showed a great interest in playing the piano which she seemed to find fascinating. We decided to buy one for her at home and later take it to India so that she could continue practising on her own. We could provide her with a private coach too. We dreamed.

In the streets of Tokyo, the music shops often played different kinds of music and Sapna would suddenly stop before a shop and start dancing to the tune on her own. We thought she had an ear for music and encouraged her to play or dance as she liked but this interest was not intense or regular. She was a girl of her own moods. She did not do as we would tell her to do or play. We realised that it was not easy for us to inculcate in her the discipline that was needed to learn music. At seven, we were told that her mental age was not more that that of four and may never exceed that of a child of a five or six. It disappointed us.

The Japanese doctor advised us to take her back to India where she will be exposed only to her language, the mother-tongue while in Japan she was exposed to so many foreign languages. Her vocabulary at eight was still limited to three words – Papa, Mama and Didi. Although she could recognize her brother, she could not call him by name or Bhayya. However, she could understand a lot more words than she could say. She started taking orders like laying the dinner table as her mother did it, bringing a glass of water or switching off the lights.

I sought a transfer back to India when she was nine years old. On arrival in Delhi, we were advised that the Okhla Institute was the best one for these kind of children. After some wait, Sapna was admitted to the school and a new regularity came in her life. Instead of using the school bus, my wife decided to drive her to school and asked if she could stay in the school to see how such children were taught so that she could coach her similarly at home. The school Principal was not in favour of this as she apprehended that Sapna may not learn to act independently. However, when my wife told the Management that she was trained in the United States in Library Science and would voluntarily work as a Librarian, they agreed her coming to school. Under this arrangement, she spent all her time in the Library but also got a chance to interact with the teachers regarding what was done in the class room. This enabled her to repeat similar activities at home. The system worked well as Sapna became interested in going to school willingly. A few months later, my wife stopped driving her to school to enable Sapna to be more independent by using the school bus.

Another transfer led us to New York with Sapna. By then she was fifteen years old. Here again, we were able to get her into a government run school meant for the retarded children. The school management was happy to allow my wife to come with her child in the school bus itself and help the teachers in doing some chores. In fact, they encouraged my wife to come with her as it was easier for them to communicate with Sapna. My wife accompanied Sapna to various picnics for the children and acted as a help for teachers. She accompanied Sapna also to plays, where Sapna was supposed to participate. She went with her to inter-school competitions like fashion shows and other activities. Our other two children were now active in their respective schools and independent. We had a lady to assist us with the domestic work and cooking. For the first time, my wife could devote her total attention to Sapna.

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