The morning sun’s bright yellow light fell on the damp green wall of Paru’s room giving it a fluorescent touch. The chipped wall reminded her of her father.
The ten-year-old pulled her hands out to make a heart with hand shadow. “Morning, Dad!”
Her hands delicately twitched to lub-dub the heart that bled a beautiful red in her eyes; in those brown eyes that dreamt a thousand dreams each minute of her living moment.
“Paru, chaya..” Granny’s voice reverberated from the hallway as she placed a cup of tea on the table.
While still lying on bed, Paru’s hands twirled delicately holding an imaginary cup brimming with hot milky tea. She savored each sip by tilting her hands a little and being lady-like. The next moment she chose to make a loud and noisy lapping sound, slurp!
“Paru kutty, here you are still building tall tales with your hands and there you friends are ready with water balloons and colours.” Granny stood at the threshold of the room.
“Really? Are they ready? Already? Mishi and Dhani also?”
Paru hurriedly got off the bed and landed on her feet making her anklets jingle in excitement. She peeped from the window to see the street still empty.
“Where are they? I can’t see anybody.”
“They will come in five minutes. Why don’t you get ready too?”
“What should I be ready for? We are going to make a mess anyway.”
Paru frolicked to the other room hopping, skipping and jumping. She forgot all about delicately drinking the hot tea. While calculating the number of water balloons she had to be ready with, she glugged the tea in one go.
Immediately, she ran the back of her hands to wipe her mouth clean which landed on her cream camisole leaving a brown stain over some previously left brown stains.
“A million times I have asked you to not do this, Paru.” Granny sounded a little irked. “I will tell this to your mother today. Let her come home in the evening.”
“I will tell this to your mother today,” the girl mimicked her granny stooping and acting frail.
As the old woman tried to reach for the little girl’s ear, she dashed to the balcony howling.
“Shhh.. What will people think, Paru?” Her granny’s hands reached her head. “The world thinks I torture her here. Rarely anyone knows the reality.”
Just then, an old man tip toed to the balcony. “Boo!”
“Aaaaa!” Paru let out a real scared scream.
“Grandpa! Not fair. I don’t like this game. I will tell this to Amma when she’d come home.”
“I will tell this to Amma when she’d come home,” Grandpa mimicked Paru stomping his feet and marching his hands.
“Noooo… Don’t.” Paru’s big bulging eyes welled up.
“Oh! My little princess, I am sorry.” The old man scooped his darling in an embrace.
“Are you ready with the water balloons?” He whispered into her ears.
She shook her head in negation wiping her face clean and rubbed her hands on her camisole again.
“Tch!” Granny harked over her.
The grandfather and granddaughter duo mimicked granny with hands on their waist, “Tch! Tch!”
With this the Menon household pulsated with laughter forgetting all about their past miseries.
The twinkle in the eyes of the old couple hid the ache of losing their only son in an air crash.
Their frail hands did not speak of the unbearable pain of releasing his remains in the Ganges.
Those crouching shoulders camouflaged the throbbing sensation they felt on seeing Paru, an exact replica of her deceased father.
Ten minutes later, Paru wobbled with a bucketful of water balloons to the main door when the phone rang.
“Good morning, Paru.”
“Amma, I am ready with the water balloons. Grandpa helped me. I had my breakfast and I am going outside. I bet Dhani must be sleeping till now. Granny lied to me in the morning that they were already paying outside.”
“Aha.. Did you oil your hair?.”
“Ok. Please oil your hair. Be careful while you are playing. Do not hit strangers with balloons..”
“Or the ones driving a vehicle. Wash your eyes thoroughly if colour goes into your eyes. I know it, Doctor Suma.”
“And.. Aaa.. Aaa..”
“Don’t let anyone apply colour on you without your permission.”
“Yes. Of course. We have already set the rules, Amma. Don’t worry. Oh, I forgot the dress code is white. I need to change. Here, I’ll give to Granny.”
Paru rushed to her room to change into an old white frock that had frayed at places. But, it still looked beautiful.
As Granny brought some oil for Paru, restlessness grew on the little girl who darted out of the house in a matter of seconds.
“Paru.. Paru.. Be right here. We should see you from the balcony. Don’t go anywhere.”
“Yes, yes!” Paru’s voiced trailed from the staircase as she rushed downstairs.
The street grew abound with children aiming each other with their water guns. The air grew colourful with the pinks and blues entwining in the wind. The giggles and gushes brought a cheerful smile at the old pair eyeing their little one diligently.
Within minutes the tarred lane looked like an artist’s canvass that was generously loved that morning. The kids gobbled up sweet treats and stuffed their mouths with crunchy pakoras.
Soon, the sound of drum beats from a distance made the kids rhythmically tap their feet. Their hands suspended in the air stirred to the tune. As the music became louder, their intensity gathered speed. Their excitement and cheer let out gleeful chuckles that made it difficult for them to dance anymore.
There, right in front of them, a group of drum beaters marched towards the party. With their metallic coloured faces and their gait trembling under the influence of bhang, they jostled together among the pool of unwary children.
As one of the performers started his acrobat somersaulting, a crowd gathered to rejoice. With each back flip, cartwheel, headstand and pirouette, the cheer gained momentum.
People hooted, clapped and whistled whilst swaying to the music. The gaiety continued with ear shattering drum beats till they earned some money.
As they left the street, still breaking the silence with the deafening music, Grandpa tried to spot Paru. His hands reached his partner’s, “Bhanu, where is Paru?”
Four desperate eyes searched for their little doll while they restlessly called her name. The music still loud enough sent their efforts in vain.
They rushed to open the door to search for her.
She stood there right in front of them.
Smothered in black vicious paint.
Granny hollered agonizingly, “Paru.. What happened? Who did it?”
The little girl stood still yet to understand the brutality she had faced.
“I said no many times. That uncle didn’t listen.” She trembled and hiccupped in Granny’s arms.
As they took her in, Grandpa’s eyes stopped at her greased hair, neck full of aberrations and two huge hand prints crumbling the creases of her frock at her chest.
He muffled his cries.
Imaage by Nika Akin from Pixabay
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