Seasons change! Life moves on. Some like to watch leaves turn yellow, orange, and brown, gently swaying in the breeze get entangled in branches, or pepper the ground as they land on the earth, weaving a veritable carpet.
I like to see the barren branches, bursting with green buds, which in no time create a verdant canopy, welcoming in its bosom twittering birds, sprinting squirrels, and laughing kids. Spring, springs hope like none other. Especially in a prison cell.
Long, long ago I would get second glances from all who crossed my path, even third and fourth… they would stare sometimes shamelessly. Oh, so embarrassing! … I wanted the earth to part, so I could just disappear… my face would feel flushed, my ears felt warm, and I would just hasten my pace, sometimes stumbling over rocks and roots.
My mother was always scolding me… ‘put your dupatta on your head,’ ‘growing like the grass in monsoon’ and she would roll her eyes. The mirror reflected back a village girl with two eyes, one nose and one mouth. The colours were slightly different, did I tell you? Eyes greyish green, mouth slightly pink and my skin was embarrassingly fair. My friends were lovely shades of honey and molasses and could play for hours in the sun without any problem… but my pale skin could not stand the Sun God’s caresses for long! I looked so innocuous like a white crow in the flock. Luckily, my friends never gawked, but played as fair as they could, making me the den always… whether it was langdi- taang or hide and seek.
I don’t remember how old I was when one evening I was returning home from playing, it was getting dark…. My mother would definitely scold me for hours, if she didn’t kill me, I thought. Suddenly a fat man emerged from behind the banyan tree. I froze… was it a ghost? How many times had we children been told there were ghosts in this tree? That they lie in wait for unsuspecting victims.
I found this ghost was neither light nor transparent, he laughed so loudly too… like Ravana in Ramlila. He pulled me behind the tree, before I could shout leave me. He pushed me down to the ground and fell on top. I could feel his hands all over, I could feel pain deep inside me, tears streamed down my face, and I struggled with all my might. I remembered Ma Kali and got some energy to get up. As I tried to run home, that Ravana came after me, I swerved to the left and picked up a big stone, and threw it with all my strength at him, right between his nose. All that pithoo came in handy.
At home, my mother took one look, hugged me and cried as never before!
“You look different Ma!” I said before fainting in her arms.
The judge said I had killed the fat man…. Was it not a ghost?
Langdi -taang : Hopping catching (Game played by one child hopping while trying to catch others running around)
Pithoo : seven stones (game played by children to break a pile of stones with a ball, then stack it up)
Ravana: The antagonist in the epic Ramayana
Ma Kali: Goddess Kali, a form of the Divine Mother who is said to destroy demons
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