Surprising Turns


Maeve has been blessed with beauty and a pencil. Her beauty comes from within she is honest and kind-hearted, and the pencil – a gift to open up her creativity. The other day when she was begging for food in a crowded town in Calcutta, a shiny white car stopped at the curb of the road. Maeve ran towards it with a plastic bowl as a woman stepped out from the car. She waved her hand as the gold bracelets jingled and hid her beautiful leather black purse behind her back. “ I do not have any money to spare, go away. ” She began walking off.  She pivoted sharply back towards Maeve, “here take this pencil, it may help you.” The yellow pencil bounced a couple of times on the dirty road and then laid still on the side of the road. Maeve walked up quickly and picked up the pencil very gently in her small hand. From that day onwards that became her treasure.

She picks up torn, wrinkled papers from the side of the roads, from the fields, from the school grounds and last time she struggled with a cow for ten minutes to drag a perfect white paper from cow’a mouth. She collects them and in her spare time draws pictures on them with the perfect yellow pencil. Her father does not like her spending time in useless things instead he wants her to spend more time in begging. Every night after Maeve returns home, her father snatches the plastic bowl and takes all the coins. He spends her daughter’s begged coins in drinking cheap liquor. Her mother on the other hand encourages Maeve to draw. “Maeve, take a break. Your father will return late today so spend your time in drawing whatever you want to.” Her mother says in a warm voice placing in front of her a thin piece of white bread and cup of black tea in a chipped cup. Maeve is grateful to the woman who gave her the pencil and to her mom who allows her to draw. She wraps both her small hands around her mother’s waist. Delight blooms on her face.“Thank you mom, you are the best.”

But life is very moody just like the humans. It is a one long curve, full of turning points.

It is a rainy day in December. The rain continues for a long time, the thunder lasts for more than an hour rumbling low and long. Instead of staying inside the patched gray tent which is their house, Maeve’s father decides to take her to another bigger town. “ But dad, it is raining outside and I am not feeling well. Let’s go tomorrow.” She begs as she tries to cover herself with one of her mom’s torn blue saree and concentrates on her drawing. Her mother insists not to let go of Maeve but father’s deep voice echoes. “ Yes, she has to go and I have already talked to the woman.”

“ What woman? Where are we going?” Maeve asks her dad. But no answer. “ Go get ready, we have to go today.” There is nothing to pack except one dress and her pencil and drawing papers in a plastic bag. As they leave, her mother hugs her tightly. She cries muttering repeatedly to forgive her. Eight year’s old Maeve’s simple heart does not understand anything, but she leans into her mom’s frail body. “ We will come back soon, don’t worry mom and I will surprise you with prettier drawings.” Her mother stands there outside the tent, in the rain, crying loudly and begging her father to stop.

Life is moody; sometimes it brings you joy and sometimes unbearable sorrows.No one can predict the next moment.

It is a long walk. In one point of the day, the rain stops and the sun tries hard to peep out from behind the cloud. Maeve and her father sits under a dull green woody tree waiting for a bus.His father sits looking out with his back against the tree trunk. His knees bent and feet flat against the red-brown sand. In front of him the landscape is speckled with a few trees that stand either alone or in group. Maeve opens the lunch bag that her mother packed. After lunch she asks “ Dad! Are we going to the doctor? If not sick then why are we going to another town?”

“ Have patience.” His father’s voice is dry and irritated. Maeve decides to talk to the tree nearby and ask the same question. The tree at one point clears its woody throat and says, “ I can not answer your question but I am very thirsty and can barely talk.” Maeve runs to her father’s side to get the water bottle and pours all the water on the tree. “ I hope that quenches your thirst.” Her father screams, “come here and sit quietly.”

As Maeve turns towards her father, she notices that the water that she poured over the tree has risen to her father’s face and they drip from his eyes.

As they drive off in the bus, she waves goodbye to the tree but surprises at his father’s tears. He never cries!

After a few hours they reach in another town. It is almost night. A harmony of shrieking metal-wheeled carts, barking dogs and gentle rhythm of human noises. They unroll a thin gray blanket under a tree. Maeve sits there staring at the zig-zag white patterns that pierced the woven sky and slowly drifts into sleep. Next morning is a cloudy day.They start to walk and arrive at the destination after three hours; a two-story red house squats upon the  hill with a group of wind-tormented trees opposite to it. The bricks are chipped, sharp and eroded at the corners The guard at the gate lets them in. A narrow stony staircase leads to a tall red door. As you enter it opens up into a long, narrow hallway which is lit by a single light bulb. A faded plain beige carpet with painted flowers on the sides is on the floor. At the other end of the hallway there is a thick  maroon colored curtain and a small bell on the white wall. Maeve’s father rings the bell. A tall woman appears in a fancy saree. Her arms are crossed, her eyes narrowed and eyebrows lift over icy brown eyes. “ You are late!! Leave her here and go back home.”

Maeve’s dad nods his head and shifts her attention to his daughter. “ It is all my fault darling. I do not have any other option.” He moves forward to hug Maeve as he hears a strong commanding voice from behind.

“Leave now.” The guard thrusts a thick envelope into his hand.

Maeve glances at his father’s face.Their gazes touch and from him she feels  terror and panic. “ Father do not leave me here.” She holds her pencil tightly in her hand as warm tears roll down on her cheek.  Her small body thumps on the floor. “ Listen dad, I just want to draw pictures, if you want then I will sale them and bring a lots of money to help you. You do not have to worry. But do not leave me alone with strange people. Give me a chance to your little girl. Dad! Dad!”


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