Congratulations Debalina Haldar for being the winner of Anubhuti A short story writing contest organized by Sarthak Foundation during Literary Festival 2014
The Little Crayons
The lanes of Mumbai were glowing on the winter morning. The paanipuri stalls lined themselves by the footpath. The cars got impatient with every passing minute as they moved in the dirty air. The roads got filthier every day. As the sun got hotter, vada pav and tea proved again to be an integral part of the city.
“What an odd place to sleep,” a passerby screamed, “We don’t have any place to even walk.”
Raju and her elder sister, Deepali broke open the winter shackles to face a new morning with new difficulties, new hardships and new stories of livelihood. They lived on the footpath in their small one room home made out of large plastic sheets with their mother. Their mother worked hard all day and usually left home while the two of them were still sleeping.
‘Deepali’, said Raju, rubbing his eyes, ‘what shall we do today?’ Deepali yawned loudly and kept sitting on the torn blanket. She took the paper ball and rolled it repeatedly. The ball was their only means of entertainment… their toy, their joy, their frustration, their destitution. Raju stared at the ball as it went up and down. ‘Let’s do something different today’, cried Deepali,
‘We’ll make Rishabh Bhaiya a gift’ said Deepali.
‘Raju… Rishabh Bhaiya tries so hard to teach us the LMNOPs…”
“And counting 123”
“He loves us so much.” They looked at each other and smiled.
“But what should we give him? We can’t buy her gifts. I don’t have money, do you?”
“Remember what Bhaiya said on the first day in school, Raju?”
“To wish each other good morning?”
“No silly! He said that in this world no one is rich or poor. We all are gifted! So Raju, when we all are gifted, can we not gift him us or our gifts?”
“I can’t understand… what do you mean?” Raju was confused. He looked at Deepali as she scratched her once white sweater.
Deepali took out a white paper and a small wooden box.
“So you see this box, Raju? I found it lying near the City School back gate.”
“Very small pieces of crayons. Let’s make a painting for Bhaiya.”
“Don’t you think we must give this to the guards of the school?”
“I doubt if we should. I was thinking the same. But children in the school have better bigger newer crayons. We can have the smaller used ones.”
“But what will we make on this paper?”
“First, I need a table… which we don’t have. I need something hard.”
“The ground is dirty. The white paper will turn brown. And then the background of the painting will be brownish,” Raju put his tiny thumb inside his mouth and giggled.
“Do you see that bike on the other end of the road, there, near the photocopy shop, beside the brick wall?”
“There are two of them, one and two, a red and a black bike.”
“No. The black bike, it is there since morning. The red bike has just come, I didn't see it since morning. I think the black one will make a very good table.”
They quickly crossed the road. Deepali carefully opened her notebook and put it on the bike seat. Then she placed the paper on it.
“What do you want to make?” Deepali asked.
“I can’t draw… will you make a jumping mouse for me?”
“Sounds very nice. I’ll make a jumping mouse and a colourful, smiling crow.”
“But crows are black and they don’t smile.”
“But I've got crayons which will give it colours and I’ll make it smile.”
Deepali used shades of blue, green, orange, red… they laughed all the way down the beautiful picturesque moment.
“The mouse!” Raju shouted.
“What’s with the mouse? Does it look funny?”
“No! It looks absolutely like the movie Bhaiya showed us last day in school.”
“Really? It looks like Jerry! I think my crow looks more like a parrot!”
“Do you think Rishabh Bhaiya will be angry that your crow isn't like a crow?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t ever imagined an angry Bhaiya. I don’t know if he gets angry.”
Suddenly, a pair of hands in black leather jacket hugged both of them from behind, “So what are my little friends up to this morning on my bike?” Raju and Deepali turned around.
“Rishabh Bhaiya!” they shouted.
“Bhaiya, do you get angry?” Raju asked.
“Will you get angry? The crow doesn't look like a crow,” Deepali said.
“Yes I do get angry at times. And when I do, it’s bad. But a crow can always look like something else if you want it that way, Deepali. The crayons are in your hands and you’re absolutely free to do anything with it… you’re in complete control of the way you want things to be! So is this beautiful drawing for me?”
“Yes, Bhaiya it’s for you! A gift!” Raju said.
“What’s this written on your bike? I can see a two and a zero and a zero,” Raju said.
“That makes a two hundred, Raju. We’ll learn all that very soon.”
There was a little gift shop nearby. Rishabh Bhaiya bought Deepali and Raju a new box of crayons. The two of them walked back towards the other end of the road.
“What will we do with this new box of crayons? We have one already,” Raju turned towards Deepali and said, “This is so new and we've never had new things.”
“I was wondering if we should go back to the City School and give it to the guards. And when these crayons become as little as these, we can bring them home.”
“What if they don’t give you when they’re small?”
“Don’t worry, Raju… they’ll be near the back gate of the school.”