Sandhya Bhagyesh Kadle!” five-year-old Sandhya declares proudly with a huge smile when asked her name.
The bubbly girl, who can be shy at times, has completely changed the atmosphere at the Kadle household since her arrival eight days ago.
Sandhya was four when she was orphaned in the Lucky Compound building collapse in Mumbra on April 4, 2013, in which 74 people were killed. She was rushed to the Thane civil hospital with injuries to both her eyes. She was moved to Sion hospital on April 6, where nurse Veena Kadle first saw her.
Little did either know they would find themselves as mother and daughter in a Dahisar house a year later.
Veena and her husband Bhagyesh were at the time trying to adopt a child when Veena learned that Sandhya had been orphaned. After discussing the idea of adopting her with Bhagyesh, the couple broached the topic with Bhagyesh’s parents, Mangesh and Sudha.
“My in-laws did not even pause to think before telling me to go ahead. Their support has meant a lot over the last one year, which has not been easy. Every time I felt discouraged or disheartened during the lengthy bureaucratic process, they were the ones who lent support,” Veena recalls.
The first month after the collapse was the toughest for Sandhya, who was battling physical injury as well as mental trauma. She would baulk at the touch of a stranger and would only feel comfortable with policemen, with whom she had grown accustomed to interacting.
Over time, Veena and Sandhya became attached to each other, and Veena ultimately approached the Sion Hospital dean and expressed her wish to adopt Sandhya. With the Dean’s support, Veena started the legal formalities.
The couple first met Sandhya while she was still in the hospital, and the nurses taking care of her told her they were her parents. Neither Bhagyesh nor Veena will ever forget her response.
“So God took away one set of parents from me, but gave me another?” the four-year-old asked innocently. The next few months were fraught with paperwork and frequent trips to various authorities, which kept both Veena and Bhagyesh on their toes.
In the meantime, the Kadle family enthusiastically started preparing for Sandhya’s arrival. The entire house was repainted a classic pink and an air-conditioner was installed in the bedroom for Sandhya. Clothes and toys were bought amid lengthy discussions.
As the months passed, DNA analysis confirmed that Sandhya had lost her parents in the collapse, making it officially permissible for her to be adopted. Her father Ajay Thakur and step-mother Kiran Thakur had died in the collapse.
Last week, Sandhya came to stay at the Kadle residence, meeting Veena again after nearly a year.
She has already become a part of the Kadles’ life. She calls Veena “aai” and Bhagyesh “baba” or mom and dad in Marathi. Sudha and Mangesh are called “aau” and “aju” or grandmom and grandad.
“Sandhya is very sharp and notices things quickly. The other day, she simply came over and started pressing my legs because she has already noticed that I get pain in the legs sometimes,” said Mangesh.