Janani frantically packed her 4-year-old daughter Mira's backpack. She packs fidget toys, crunchy snacks, noise-cancelling headphones, and water bottles. Janani had to pack all these things everywhere she went, as her daughter Mira was autistic, and these were her needs. She is always prepared because she has seen Mira's meltdowns in the past due to sensory-overloaded places. Today, they are getting ready for the birthday party of Mira's friend Diya. On regular days, Janani would have avoided parties or crowded places because of Mira's condition, but Mira rarely gets invited to any of these parties, so Janani didn't want to miss it.

For the past few days, she has been preparing Mira by repeatedly telling her that it is her friend's birthday. Today, Janani dresses Mira in her comfortable but covered clothing and cheers her up one last time before they leave. She mentally checked if she had missed anything and finally locked the house.

It was half past 6 in the evening when they reached the birthday venue. The birthday hall was decked up with Blue and white balloons, indicating it was a "Frozen-themed birthday.

Bright fairy lights were hanging in every corner. There was a beautiful cake with white and blue icing with some sprinkles on top of it. Many little children were running around and playing on one side of the hall. The parents were seated and busy chatting, and the music was on in the background. It was a lively scene, but Janani was worried about how Mira would react to such a cacophony of noises and bright lighting. Her eyes were always on Mira because she knew Mira was fond of the creamy textures of the cake and liked to apply them on her face and hair.

"Mira, always be with Amma and do not go anywhere.", instructed Janani.

Even though Janani knows that Mira can't communicate as others do, she keeps telling her things, hoping she will understand.

Mira giggled as usual and ran away to explore the venue. She was jumping, running, screaming, and spinning to her heart's content as it was a spacious venue.

"Yippie, I love this place. I don't understand anything that is going on, but there is music for me to spin to, a creamy cake I can apply on my face, and huge balloons. And all my friends are playing under the bright lights, which are too bright for me, and I might have a

meltdown, I will better be alone here spinning and jumping."

There was an ocean of thoughts in tiny Mira's mind.

Janani heaved a sigh of relief on seeing her daughter self-regulating by spinning and running. Still, her heart was heavy to see the other kids playing in a group and Mira being left out.

Janani knew her daughter wasn't social like other kids, and it still felt like an achievement when she was around other kids, even if she didn't play with them. But after all, Janani was just like other moms, and she longed for her child to play with other kids. Her eyes were moist while she was looking at Mira spinning around a corner.

"Just pure innocence!" thought Janani to herself.

Mira saw her mom in a fleeting second from the corner of her eye while spinning and noticed her mom was sad.

"Why is Amma always upset? I am happy here!"

And then, amid all the noises, was an announcement from Diya's mom.

"Everyone, please gather for cake cutting!!"

Diya was dressed in a white and blue tutu frock and looked like a fairy. She was standing in front of the cake with a sparkle in her eyes. All the children gathered around her to sing birthday songs for Diya.

Mira saw Diya and all the children gathering in a group. She noticed Diya in her gorgeous dress from the corner of her eyes while jumping.

"Wow, Diya's frock is all sequins and glittery, but I cannot wear a frock only. Someday, I will try wearing a frock paired with my favourite leggings.

Mira was spinning in the corner, unaware of everything happening around her. Janani reached out to Mira, pulled her gently, and made her stand among the crowd.

"Also, why are there so many people around? I am starting to get uncomfortable, but if I cry, Amma might get upset. I should do some stimming now."

Knowing her daughter, Janani made her stand a little farther from the crowd so she wouldn't get overwhelmed.

"My Amma is the best. She understands me!!"

All the adults were holding their mobile phones, capturing the moment. Janani gently reminded Mira to clap her hands as they sang a birthday song. Mira was nonverbal, so Janani had made sure she taught her basic instructions like clapping and asking for water. She had also trained her daughter to clap her hands while singing a birthday song to Mira.

While Mira followed some instructions, she was just a child and always wondered why her mother directed her constantly.

"Amma always instructs me, why can't she let me be me?"

Once the cake-cutting was over, the children started playing again. Mira went to her favourite corner, jumping, spinning, and rocking. Mira noticed many of the parents' eyes were on her, and she heard a conversation between two moms while she was running here and there.

"Look at that girl in white tees and black leggings. She is very naughty and looks hyper. I feel sorry for her mom.", gossiped two moms.

"I am not naughty, I am not hyper, and my Amma feels great about me. Why would they say such things about me when I am only fulfilling my needs, and above all, why is Amma silent?" Mira thought but continued with her jumping.

Then Mira heard some rhyming musical in the other corner of the room.

"Ring around the roses,

Pocket full of posies,

Hushes Bushes

We all fall down."

A group of children formed a circle, held their hands, and were spinning.

"Spinning!! Rhymes!! Music!! Things I love... Ooops, but there is a crowd!! But still, I have to be there." Mira ran towards them in excitement.

Janani was happy to see Mira making efforts to play with other kids, but she was more vigilant now and sat near the group. 

Mira smiled and watched other children playing Ring Around the Roses, including Diya. She wanted to go, but something stopped her. She went near the circle and then moved back a little, giggling, and again went and came back. For some reason, she was hesitating.

Janani saw Mira struggling with something, yet she was watching what was happening. After a while, Mira broke into the circle and held the hands of the other child there. She wanted to participate. Seeing this, Janani had happy tears, but that was short-lived.

"Move away, you are not our friend!!" shouted a tiny girl from the group, pushing Mira.

For a moment, Janani trembled and bit her lip to control herself. She gently pulled Mira out of the group and hugged her.

"Why is Amma sad? Why is she hugging me? Why did she pull me out of the group? I liked it there. My friend Diya is here too", wondered Mira.

Janani hugged Mira for some time. Mira pulled herself out of her mom's protective arms and ran towards the group again. This time, Janani followed her as a safety net.

"Hello, kids! Mira wants to play with you all. Please let her join." Janani regained her composure and asked again with a smile.

"Why is Amma even asking? I don't see other kids' moms asking the same?" Mira tried to join the circle again.

"No! No! She can't play with us! Get out!" shouted the tiny girl who seemed to be the group's leader. The other kids listened to her, and Mira was being pushed again. But Mira laughed and giggled.

"Oh! I think these kids here love me, and I think they are playing the push game with me.", concluded Mira, who couldn't stop giggling.

Seeing her daughter's innocence, Janani couldn't control her tears. They flowed like a river from her eyes. She felt hurt when she perceived her daughter being insulted. Her sense of helplessness increased when she saw the other parents watching these episodes unfold without comment.

She didn't want to shout at the other kids because, after all, what right did she have to do so? She held Mira's hands tightly and walked away from the venue.

She was angry that no one stopped her.

She was angry that no one asked their child to be kind to Mira.

She was angry that no one even intervened.

She wondered what kind of unempathetic world this was.

Her fear for Mira and her future seemed even more darker.

What would she do?!!

She walked away, taking a big but heavy step. She was breathing heavily and could feel drops of sweat tingling at the nape of her neck. She exited the venue and looked for a deserted spot. There was a children's park outside, but it was empty because it was a quarter past eight at night. There was a bench on the extreme corner of the park, and she went there, tugging Mira with her. She sat there, and Mira stood

before her, still holding her mother's hands. Janani carefully looked around to see if anyone was watching her and let out a loud cry. The cry of helplessness.

"I feel sad to see Amma like this. Why is she crying? Did I do anything wrong?"

Mira was clueless about what was happening but looked at her mother with a pitiful face.

Then, a cold wind blew, and Janani could feel the breeze. She inhaled the breeze deeply, and it calmed her. She saw Mira standing still without her not moving an inch. She felt ashamed to have cried in front of her Mira because she knew her daughter might not communicate but could understand emotions. Janani felt guilty for a moment, though she also felt relieved. She wiped her tears with tissue, adjusted her unkempt hair, corrected her eye makeup, and neatly applied the lip balm. Mira stood there looking at her mother in awe.

"Amma looks beautiful when she smiles and applies that red thingy on her lips. I feel like touching it. Why won't she put it on me?"

Mira was in her world of thoughts,  thoughts that spiralled in her head like a continuous stream. Janani realized she was being emotional and heaved a sigh of relief that this moment had passed. She held her daughter close to her chest and kissed her.

"Mira, in life, you might come across people who would reject you for who you are. But autism is your identity. There might be situations where people ridicule you for what you are. But always stand your ground and don't be ashamed of your identity. Like today, smile and move on, or fight your stand. Both are valid. Do what you feel. Mommy and Daddy will always be proud of you."

"And there it is!! Amma is worried about my autism and my future again. She is confident and strong on some days; on others, she cries too. I wish her to always support me and my needs and not cry over me. I wish she always stays happy and doesn't see me as a challenge. I am fine!"

Janani saw her daughter's small, bright face with sparkling eyes in the moonlight. She also came to the sense that Mira was with her the whole time, neither running nor jumping. She realized her daughter was standing, looking at her intently, just holding her hand. For a moment, she was confused about whether she needed her daughter more than her daughter needed her.

Janani wondered what would be going on inside Mira's mind. She couldn't read her expressions. She did not know if Mira was angry or sad. But she knew that she should move on.

"Mira, there is a swing over there. Amma will take you there and swing you. Let's go", Janani said gleefully.

Mira's face brightened, and she started to giggle again. She again began to jump with joy, and she kissed her mother.

"Yippee! Amma is happy again, and I am going to swing!".

Janani had always worried about Mira's jumping and spinning. But at this moment, she was happy and relieved to see her do so.

Both Janani and Mira moved ahead towards the swing, leaving the past behind and moving on to a fresh start.

Author Bio

Swathi Chandrasekar, a former software engineer professional, is now a full-time mother to a 5-year-old autistic daughter. She spreads awareness about autism and various facets of autism through her Instagram page (@swathiandbabysammu). She developed a passion for writing while creating content about her daughter. She aspires to be a children's book writer. 

You can follow her on Instagram at @swathiandbabysammu

Swathi wrote this short story as her final assignment for a six-week Creative Writing Workshop

These are her thoughts on the Writing Workshop and Mentorship :
This workshop was beneficial for beginners like me. Before joining the workshop, I had very little experience in writing a fictional story. After taking up this workshop, I learnt new things and nuances of writing a story. The assignments were challenging. But it sparked my creativity and interest in writing more now. The feedback Shweta gave after every assignment was useful and encouraging. Overall, it was a very satisfying experience, and I am confident now to write more.


  1. Beautiful ❤️ more power to u mama and the world is yours baby girl 💞 be you


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