Updated: Jun 9, 2022
Tuli would go to the park in her neighborhood with her grandfather every evening. She had turned six last month. With light eyes and dark brown hair, she resembled her mother in many ways. The sun had not yet set totally. Its vestiges were still visible in the crimson blue tinge of the sky. She intently gazed at all the other kids taking the swing as they flew high towards the dawning sky. In spite of repeated insistence by her grandfather to sit on it, she would not budge. Creepily, she set her feet towards the merry-go-round. She twirled around as she looked at the sky in merriment.
"Grandpa, look the sky is moving in circles," she shouted while her hair tossed on her face.
Her mother worked as a housemaid in the morning and cooked for a family in the evening. Every day while Tuli left for the park, her mother would go to work. Her father was a security guard in a nearby locale. His duty was mostly scheduled at night. Tuli went to sleep listening to stories narrated by her mother every night. Stories of Goddess Kali, and Durga, folk tales spanning thousands of years, of heroes and princesses.
Every morning, as she woke up from sleep, she would play around with those fables in her mind. How one day she would gather enough courage and sit on the swing and fly like the princess in the story to some neverland. But as she went to the park in the evening, the sight of the swing would grapple her with a nameless fear. She imagined herself falling off the seat and rolling onto the ground while other children laughed at her.
"Maa, could you ride the swing when you were of my age?" she asked her mother with a worried look on her face as they slept together at night.
The two-room house they lived in belonged to her grandfather. It was a cemented house with layers of brick held in plasters of cement. The roof was covered with heavy tiles. Streaks of moonlight escaped through the gaps in the tiles and fell on their bed.
After much thought, her mother tossed herself toward her daughter. Running her fingers through Tuli's hair, she replied, "I never got a chance to sit on a swing. My mother died when I was five. My father had no time to take me to the park. I never went to school. But you are. I work hard so that you can study and enjoy your childhood. Why are you afraid of a swing? You are born to fly. Don't think of what others will say..." she dozed off to sleep before she could complete her sentence. But Tuli understood what her mother wanted to say.
The next day, as soon as she came back from school, she dragged her grandfather's hand and went to the park.
"First have your lunch Tuli. Then we can go," her grandfather's words trailed off into the air.
Standing in front of the swing, she stared at it for a long time. Holding the chain, she sat on the wooden seat. A rush of unknown fear passed her entire frame. She closed her eyes, and thought of her mother and her shining eyes, looking at her with expectation and hope. Her tiny trembling hands could hardly hold her mother's dreams. The chains became moist under her sweating palms.
"Grandpa, look I am flying with the sky..." tears of laughter smudged her small round face.
How could she let her mother down!
"fly and fly high
for you got a chance
your feet know the way
to school and freedom..."
By Nandini Sengupta