Open 2021 Open Stories - Sneha Das


A Rainbow of two colours
By Sneha Das


“Right”, “Right”, “Right and Left” and back again. Bindia carefully watched Durga’s feet forcefully landing into each of the red squares, carefully drawn with one of the little red pebbles bordering the semi-constructed village road, about two-minute walk from Bindia’s home.

It was a pleasantly sunny September 2014 afternoon in the little village of Dhausa, where Bindia lived with her extended family, aunt, uncle and two cousin brothers. Due to an abrupt halt in the nearest town’s construction site two years ago, Bindia’s father, Motiram along with his wife, Sushma were left jobless. They moved to the city, entrusting his only sister, Sajan with the responsibility of little Bindia’s well-being.

Though Bindia was just five when her parents left, she had heartening memories of her time with them. Like how her father often brought her those yellow flowers, plucked from the long stretching fields of rapeseed cultivation, extending up to several yards. An ecstatic Bindia would jump with joy straight into his arms soon after collecting her prize. Or how her mother would wrap her shivering daughter during the harshest of winter nights with the loose end of her sari, pallu, while spooning her into the warmth of the most tranquil sleep she ever had.

Once Durga left for her residence two blocks away, Bindia headed straight towards the traditional four-legged woven bed or charpaion which her grandmother lay so nonchalantly that sometimes she would be completely oblivious of her presence. A few years ago, Bindia could be seen sitting attentively on the floor, her legs neatly crossed in front of her with her petite face firmly resting on her palm, when daadi would encaptivate her with the mysterious and enchanting stories of Indian mythology.

The tales of Lord Rama valiantly beheading the ten faced monster by shooting his magical arrow before heroically rescuing his wife from captivity, the chivalry of Lord Rudra, mightiest of the mighty gods with a trident in hand from Rig veda or the three iconic stages of life starting with Pralay or dissolution, followed by Srishti or creation and lastly Sthiti or maintenance

Bindia gently rubbed her grandmother’s head to witness her slowly half open her eyes and weakly blink at her in acknowledgement. She was relieved her granddaughter was back. Bindia then paced towards the earthen pot to gulp in some water, still anxious about her chest pounding after a seemingly short walk.

“Seven multiplied by four is not thirty budhu, stupid. It’s twenty-eight” exclaimed an annoyed Gudiya. She was the Superintending engineer’s daughter, still coping with her dad’s fourth and her second transfer to a new location, desperately missing her friends from previous school and residential colony. Nevertheless, she started finding solace in her newfound friendship with Bindia who had a surprisingly indomitable will to learn.

“I am certainly not a Budhu, and if I am then you are a bigger one than me, he he” grinned Bindia at her one and only tutor who would happily take a pass on her momentary failures without judging her based on her class. She would steal few priceless moments every afternoon, after Gudiya came back from school to commence her lessons.

“Bindia, run fast, I need help with these vegetables. There’s a lot of groceries I need to fetch today. I told you right? Saabji and Memsaab are having guests over tonight” screamed her aunt with her usual high-pitched voice from across Gudiya’s room.

“Wait I’ll tell her you are in the middle of finishing the table” suggested Gudiya, to which Bindia instantly shook her head sideways. “No no wait, she’ll be angry at me if you tell her and will give me more work to do henceforth. Just tell her I am folding your clothes and making your bed”.

While carefully piling up the tomatoes inside the left-hand corner of the kitchen shelf, Bindia suddenly visualized black stroke of colour in front of her eyes, followed by a quick white one, as if her face were stroked by a painter’s brush. Next thing she knew, Pooja didi was holding a yellow torch into her eyes, examining her meticulously with a tense face.

Pooja was a doctor at Dhausa local dispensary, posted less than a year ago. This was the second time Bindia fell unconscious out of the blue and had to be brought here for diagnosis. Bindia was particularly fond of Pooja, not just because of her amicable and caring nature but also for her talent and skills that rendered her suitable to treat hundreds of children like herself back to sound health.

“Hmm…how do you feel now? Still short of breath? I hope you haven’t been running and jumping around off late. Anyway, don’t worry, get up slowly”. Pooja shifted her gaze to Sajan, “I have prescribed some antibiotics for her, make sure you give these to her every day without fail for two weeks. Ensure that she eats full meals and performs no rigorous activities. Keep me updated about her heath progress two weeks from now. There you go”.

She handed her the tiny bottles of molecular white shaped particles of medicine. Sajan stared back at her all this while with a blank and disinterested expression.
“Didi, why do I pass out like this all of a sudden? Is there something wrong with me?” Bindia pronounced finally with a little hesitation. “Arey, no. On the contrary, you are very special and unique compared to the rest of the kids your age” Pooja smiled convincingly. “That’s why you should eat more fruits and vegetables to strengthen in your body. Understood?” she assured.

There were no return visits ever made to the dispensary to obtain feedback on her health. All that Bindia ever got in the name of care were full meals and lesser workload at Gudiya’s house for subsequent few days.

Things had drastically changed in the recent past. For example, no one in Dhausa moved around freely to go to work, plough fields, play cricket or gossip about the day’s events while waiting in queue to fetch water from the well. Everyone religiously covered their mouths and nose with handkerchiefs, shawls or dupattas before stepping outside their homes.

She could never understand what triggered such uncanny behaviour in the village, Some said there were insects invisible to human eye floating in the air and whoever comes in contact with them for long would suffer lethal consequences. Others said it was a plague that passed on between humans as a communicable disease. And the rest told her that the Gods were furious on humans, so much so that their wrath had taken the shape of microscopic demons to punish them.


These were the same people who organized jam sessions in groups of twenty to thirty villagers, singing religious songs overnight, pleading the Gods for mercy
Bindia had multitude of queries in her mind, such as why wouldn’t the invisible demon harm Sheru, the mustard-coloured thin village dog or the cows in the stable? Or was this synonymous with the age-old tales of Maha-Pralay or great dissolution which her grandmother used to narrate to her, the one that leads to extinction of all life forms only to re-create new ones later.

While majority aspects of livelihood started getting back to normal couple of months later, people still kept their faces covered. Amidst all this, Bindia experienced another attack post which she fell unconscious and this time her lips had turned slightly blue. She was taken to the local dispensary again.

“Feeling better? Is there any weakness now?” Pooja enquired after her usual dose of medication. “I hope you aren’t skipping any meals.” She helped Bindia sit upright on the bed. “And why don’t you bring her for follow up consultation ever? I iterated so many times before” Pooja complained to Sajan, who nervously shifted her eyeballs left to right, aimlessly thinking of an excuse.

“Bindia just wait outside in the bench, while I have a word with your aunt” Pooja requested. Bindia sat and gazed at other fellow patients waiting outside, some even children like her, accompanied by the elders. A fat old matron, wearing the most disgusted look in her face,carrying bundle of papers in her left hand, strutted across the corridor.

Her fleeting gaze somehow rested on Bindia’s. She considered a bit before walking up to her and asked “You are the girl with a hole in your heart, right? You visited couple of times before. Did your parents return?” the words were thrown at an off-guard Bindia, left spellbound first few seconds. Before she managed to fumble out a response, the matron consoled “I see, they haven’t. Well, the sooner the better, I tell you. Your formal treatment needs to start soon otherwise the suffering only increases.” She continued “god forbid, that callous aunt of yours. No one should be misfortunate enough to have a guardian of her like. God Bless” with these words she walked away.

Sajan bumped into her childhood friend on their way back from the dispensary. Impulsive high-pitched laughter and patting of shoulders seemed endless. Bindia, having little part to play, slowly drifted away towards the opposite direction of the road, placing her feet one in front of the other. Meanwhile, a bunch of boys in their pre-teens appeared from the other end, three of them trying to reach out to the fourth one, trying to snatch a phone from his hand.

“Just hand it over to me…arey once na…. what’ll happen? Is this studded with diamonds and rubies?” snapped one of the boys relentlessly trying to get hold of the phone, chasing the other.“Told you. Later. It’s brand new…I don’t want you guys to tear if off to pieces” asserted the proud owner. “Who are you? What are you looking at?” Bindia had caught one of the boy’s attention.

“Shouldn’t you be in school, wearing uniforms this time of the day?” enquired Bindia curiously. “Which world do you live in foolish girl? Schools have closed since the pandemic. Teachers are taking classes online, through phones like these” he waved it at Bindia assuming she might be looking at it for the first time.

“Reckon you guys were studying in these rugged uphill lands then?!” exclaimed Bindia. “The internet connection is too flaky for uninterrupted video calls from our village, we keep losing it. Damn these backward villages, I am going to leave this wretched place once I get older, mark my words” the boys walked far towards the end now.

Later that afternoon Bindia pulled out a piece of paper and a pencil which she had stealthily sneaked out of her cousin brother’s school bag.She allowed herself a deep thought before penning down her first ever letter. In the evening, when Bindia lightly lifted the lid over the vessel to check if the rice was boiled, she heard heated up arguments between her aunt and uncle. “Are you even listening to what I am saying? I don’t know what to do with that ill-fated girl. Her doctor says she needs urgent cardiac surgery and her parents have clearly abandoned her. As it is, we have little reserves since March to feed our own family, on top of that your shop sales have declined” summarized Sajan earnestly looking at her husband.

“I have spoken to Gokul kaka. They are a wealthy and prosperous family, also can help with your loan. Give it a serious thought, will you? Let’s invite them to see Bindia” Sajan insisted. After a deep thought her husband responded with an affirmation.

It was much more exhausting and painstaking than what Bindia had imagined. Every five minutes she had to halt, catching up on her breath. Luckily, she managed to carry some water with her for an early morning climb.

“You can’t make it till the top today. Go back girl” taunted the boys Bindia had met the previous day. They were significantly ahead of Bindia. When she finally made it to the top, she could barely breathe normally, owing to her deteriorating condition.

To Bindia’s surprise, there were two more girls along with the three boys, taking the virtual classes. It was the pompous boy’s smart phone, with a conveniently big screen, used to connect with the teacher.

“She is from another village Sir. We don’t know her. She just followed us up here today from nowhere” clarified one of the three boys. Bindia was so busy gasping for breath that she could hardly interpret what was going on.

“Bacche, are you all right? Cover your mouth and nose if you feel better now” came a deep voice of a presumably middle-aged man.“Suraj, give up that condescending attitude. She is just one of you who aspires to learn” schooled the teacher. “What is your name child? Are you enrolled in any school?”

“Umm…. Bindia” that was all she could utter. “Ok, ok fair enough. So Bindia, my name is Kailash Mohapatra. I am forty-three years old. I have been teaching in Bairamgarh Kendriya Vidyalaya for approximately ten years now. I like talking to and teaching small children like you” he smiled. “Besides that, if I may be so presumptuous, I also practice singing Indian Shastriya Sangeet. Now tell us something about yourself, what you like, dislike and what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Bindia was perplexed. Nobody in her village cared least about her dreams and aspirations. He reminded her of the warmth with which Pooja didi welcomed her.
“I…I actually live in this village” Bindia pointed towards the left with her finger “here...Dhausa. Aunt, uncle and two cousin brothers also live with me” she managed. “Ahh…lovely. So, did you ever happen to learn how to read or write, in Hindi?”

“Yes, yes” Bindia slowly started gaining confidence “I learnt all the syllables much before, should I say? ‘a’, ‘aa’ she continued reciting all of them in one single breath, before Kailash could even respond. “Wonderful! Girl. And since you are so well versed with these, can you also write something?” To this Bindia already had her answer ready “I wrote a paragraph recently. All by myself. Without any help. But…umm…I didn’t bring it with me” she remorsefully realized her inability to share it with the rest.

“Doesn’t matter. Fair enough, we were reading a beautiful poem curated by a renowned author and trying to decipher its true meaning. Rajni just share the book with her” the same girl who had assisted Bindia, now carefully placed the other half of her book on Bindia’s lap.

They delved into the obscure, abstract yet fascinating exploration of the world of literature. She learnt about the zeal and vigour with which freedom fighters revolted against the white foreign invaders for freedom, while some used guns and swords, others used non-violent protests and very few, just like the poet, used the mighty power of their pen.

Though there were some mild interruptions due to connectivity issues, Bindia enjoyed learning new facts about the world and people. She also gathered that the invisible air-bound virus infecting humans too had a name, something like “krona”, which in a different language meant something like a crown.

While the rest started departing, Bindia wished to stay. Although she felt quite weak physically, she felt an air of freedom and empowerment like never before. With each succeeding step on the rocky terrain towards the wilderness, every cold wave that brushed through her face whispered that she didn’t belong where she came from.

Motiram and his wife gulped in numerous glasses of water hurriedly, left parched from their month-long journey on foot, back to the village. Once finally settled, his first thought was about Bindia.

Looking for his daughter frantically he stumbled upon her belongings at the corner of a room. There laid a crooked rectangular tin case filled with yellow petals from the rapeseed flowers he brought her during childhood. Also preserved was a letter Bindia had surprisingly written using graphite on a white paper, most likely urging them to come back soon…



Sneha Das from India is a management consultant assisting one of Big 4 companies. An avid reader and passionate writer, she writes newsletter and articles as part of marketing & communications in international MBA b-school and a Korean multinational. She is a fitness enthusiast, swimmer, and a dancer.


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