When Shawez, who had given up his studies to work with his father, returned home without his parents, the landlord had locked them out, saying he would give them the key only after the rent was paid. His uncle borrowed money to cover some of the debt so that Shawez and his siblings could collect their belongings.

Shawez’s younger sister, Kahkashan, 9, has been hit the hardest. Nearly every day, she picks up the phone and dials her mother, talking to her as if she were on the other end.

“Mother, when will you come? I miss you,” she says.

“My only dream is to educate my siblings,” Shawez said. “My mother would call me when I would be out for work and ask, ‘Son, it is getting late. When will you come home?’ Now no one will call me anymore,” he said.

In Pattapur, Sonali, too, feels as if she has lost her most powerful protector.

In a thick diary, on the page next to the one on which she has noted the dates of her parents’ deaths, Sonali jotted a poem dedicated to her mother.

On a recent day, she read it aloud to her siblings.

Undergoing the ups and downs of life, our mother brings us up.

Our mother is the tallest in this world, she is the one who can keep us well.

This world is barren without mother, this world is not the same place without her.

Mother bears the pain on our behalf, but we fail to bear the pain on mother’s behalf.

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