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Alo sat deep in thought.
Would it be red and green or yellow and blue? Which colours would go well with the theme?
It was a tough choice for her. The colours have been failing her. She hasn’t been able to give a shape to her thoughts. Her indecisiveness and her inability to paint has plunged her into depression.
Maybe a walk outdoors would do her good. But the chilly drizzle since the last few days has made it difficult for her to venture out. The mud and the slime made the path slippery and risky. A wrong step and it might send her tumbling down the slopes. Also, she was scared to venture out alone.
What if….Alo’s mother found her fast asleep beside the window. On her face was a myriad colours. Tiny yellow circles highlighted her cheeks and her nose, red patches on her forehead, streaks of green on her chin and variants of blue on her rosy cheeks. She was a colourful sight. Her mother parted her hair with great tenderness. She did not want to wake her up. The night before, had been a troubled one. The little girl had had tossed and turned in her sleep, occasionally crying and pleading for the nightmare to end.
A child prodigy, Alo was known for her beautiful paintings. The colours, the strokes and the themes had had a powerful impact on her audience. Till date, she had held two exhibitions and received rave reviews. All her paintings had sold out and fetched a hefty amount. There had been no looking back for the family ever since Alo was declared a prodigy.
“I wish I could take away those nightmares and give her some solace,” sighed the mother. “Only if she could sleep in peace.”
It was exactly a year that Alo had stopped filling her canvas with colours. The brushes lay strewn around. The canvas stood empty, waiting for a stroke. The mother wished she could forget that dreadful day; the day when she had to rush out for an emergency at the clinic. She had requested the old and trusted gardener to keep a watch over Alo. It had taken more than an hour. Mother had returned home to find the door ajar, broken vases and pots everywhere, colour-streaked walls and a bloody Alo lying atop her canvas, writhing in pain. A FIR, a criminal case and an arrest followed. But the colours in their life had ebbed out. Alo was lost in her own world, fighting those demons which called out to her to end her life. The counselling sessions with the Psychiatric worker did help her. But healing was a long way ahead.As the night progressed, the drizzle gave way to a steady downpour. Temperatures dipped further. Alo was still awake trying to keep the demons at bay. That’s when she heard the tap. It came from the back door.
Frightened, she snuggled deeper into the comfort of her blanket. The tap was soon followed by scratches. It seemed someone was trying to scratch the door with sharp claws. “On nights like these, wild animals are on the prowl,” her mother had cautioned. And then she heard a distinct squeal, followed by a whimper.
Ahh, a dog! It must be cold. Let me get it something to eat. With a biscuit in one hand, she opened the door, but did not find anything. “I must have scared it,” thought the little girl. She went back to her cocoon. Stretching her legs inside the blanket, she encountered something warm and furry. “A puppy! Oh my God. How did it get in?”
Grabbing the tiny little ball, she hugged it tight.
What followed was a lick on her face and then a lick on her eyes. The little ball curled up against her chest and slept. She cradled it and looked out of the window. A strange night! No, a blessed night, she decided. That night every time the puppy slid off her chest, she would grab it, cuddle it and keep it warm. And she would be rewarded with sloppy kisses all over. Later in the night, they both drifted into a peaceful sleep, nestled in each other’s comfort.
Mother woke up to find the house quiet. She went about her chores quietly lest she woke up the child. It was late in the morning when she entered Alo’s room with the breakfast tray laden with fruits and cereals. To her surprise, Alo sat painting. Her canvas was full of colours. Hearing her footsteps, the girl turned around. Her face gleamed with joy. On her lap instead of the palette, was a little furry ball.
“Ma! Meet Ludo, my little friend.” As if taking a cue from his friend, the furry ball jumped on mother and licked away her tears.
Her Alo – the light of her life was back.
Note: Alo in Bengali denotes light. There are many such children fighting for light. Child Sexual Abuse is on the rise. Being a survivor, I would urge all parents to be vigilant. Also make your children aware of it. Abuse knows no age. So begin it early. And trust no one. Only you and your child can prevent it.
Image via Pinterest
Sreemati Sen Karmakar holds a Masters in Social Work (MSW) From Visva Bharati, Shantiniketan. She
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