“Aunty!” Meera was startled by a soft voice as a fragile hand reached out to her pink chiffon kurti. Dropping a flat paintbrush dipped in fiery red, she turned around to see a young ten-year-old girl in a bright floral dress wearing a curious smile.
“Hello Aunty, my name is Ria. I frequent this park with my parents. I see you every Sunday evening under this canopy hurriedly painting a picture. This brown easel with a blank canvas, some brushes and some vivid colored oil paints are your only companions. I am an art enthusiast myself and every canvas with a new permutation and combination of colors has its own story to tell which attracts me towards it like a magnet. I take a sneak peek at your artwork from behind that pole. Unlike most artists, you paint a similar picture every time with a girl in a brown hat with that garden as the backdrop. The face is different every time with a long face and narrow eyes one time, a round face with big wide eyes the other time. Today my curiosity got better of me, determined to rub off the dusts of perplexity surrounding this picture as it is said every picture speaks a thousand words. Is she your daughter or a friend? Or is she an unknown?”
Being a typical inquisitive girl of her age, Ria unknowingly had struck the right chord. Meera, donning a painful expression, sighed to solve the riddle behind the picture.
“Yes she is an unknown. I was a naïve teenager when I started coming to this park with my little brother after having shifted to this city from a small town with our mother after our parents had separated. The scorching sun of June was shining bright that afternoon when my hyperactive ten-year-old brother wanted to get out and kill the boredom that accompanied summer vacations. Our mother was still struggling with her stitching job. On her request I accompanied my brother to the park. The park as expected wore a deserted look. Taking a water break under the canopy, we saw that girl in the brown hat with a baby soft skin playing right in the center of that garden. To this day I question that how could God conspire with those ruthless abductors when the girl’s mother’s phone rang at the wrong time giving the conspirators the golden chance. Traumatized, my mother made me swear to not go to the police and report an eyewitness account in fear of losing her own. I still have nightmares of that day.”
Streams of tears were interrupted by a phone bell. “Yes Sir, I will be there shortly.” Meera started winding up. “By the way I am IPS officer Meera Sharma. I couldn’t save the unknown girl that day. But much against my mother’s wishes, I vowed to join the forces and save as many kids from child trafficking till my last breath. This is my repentance.”
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