This is the story of a girl who remembers being upset ever since she began making memories. In an attempt to deny herself of the melancholy that ate her up, she built a world where she believed in something unique. She wanted to fight her demons with something that was alpervasive. She wanted to fight but she had no way of knowing if her make belief could be true someday.
The clock kept reminding her of the seconds slipping away. She couldn’t wait much longer for what was about to happen. Then again, she could not do anything but wait. The decision was drastic, yet it had a sense of planned precision which she took pride in. It was the kind of decision that would only make sense to those who’ve been through something similar. But who has? Who has ever felt that they were made of light?
The sliver of blood flowing from her wrist oozed with a gentle grace, reminding her of the dance lessons she went to with her mother, every Sunday. The mudras and the expressions, the sound of the tabla, the shower of the ghungroo and the walk back home that was usually filled with mango ice cream dripping on her frock. Mango was her favourite fruit and her favourite colour. Nani used to seal baby mangoes in jars and keep them in the sun while they turned into pickle. “Would we turn tasty too, in the sun?” She always thought Kalu kaka needed pickling. Why else would he fight with Ma for a few rupees every morning when she sat down at the door for the day’s bazaar? The door had a tiny step. Every lakshmi puja, Ma and nani used to soak rice powder in water for her to draw the tiny Goddess feet. It brings good good luck, shona. She would trace the foot steps of the goddess till the Pujo room where it always smelled of incense and rose petals. There were two hibiscus flowers and a few dozen Nayantaras scattered, waiting to be kept at the feets of the Hindu Gods that Nani worshipped, by her. Nayantara. That’s how she got her name.
Every evening after drinking her warm milk from the special copper glass, she would sit at the verandah and count cars. Some days she would wait till five hundred. Five hundred cars passing by, with more than five hundred people. Each with a new story, with a tiny glimpse of a girl sitting at an inconsequential verandah. Five hundred vehicles heading toward five hundred destinations, all in the matter of one evening, while little Nayantara sat under the opalescent moonlight that sieved through the grilled extension of the floor above. Light had enchanted her ever since she had learnt to move. The sifting of light through the spaces between her fingers in the dead of the afternoon, while all the adults slept (sleep, or else how will you study, shona?), the resilient entrance of the street lamps’ light at night, after everyone else was busy with dreams and the darkness that awaited beyond closed eyes, kept her awake. She stayed up conjuring patterns on her skin. Skin that metamorphosed from fair to dark because of light. Skin, that changed with time and age. Skin, that bore the only acknowledgement to being a receptacle for the light that existed in her world. Skin, that carried a surface for light to paint on. Skin, which a dozen men would trace, but none as sensual as light itself caressing her.
The dance lessons gradually became and impediment. How will you go abroad to Bablu Mama if you don’t study, shona? So the sound of dance made way for books, and in books, she found the science of light. With each new formula she understood how it traveled and where it came from. With each new paragraph she unravelled more than she ever had, and yet none of the books could tell her why she fascinated the entity rather than the logic. None of the books in Dadu’s library had the questions she wanted to be asked and didn’t know the words for. Was she really made of light?
As she delved deeper into the physics of it, she grew accustomed to the night. And the light of the night. The sun in its reflected glory. The sun, when it was beautiful. The sun, when you could look at it directly and talk. She felt like a moth trapped in a kaleidoscope; there was just one light yet so many places it came to her from. It confused her. It gnawed at her from within, asking to be let out. She was bursting at the seams. Ma could never empathise with her. How can light be destroying you from within, shona? But it was! A ball of light, as beautiful as it would look from afar, was a burning lava of heat, an intensely packed pouch of energy that could not be contained any longer within the frail body of Nayantara. She needed to know if she was made of light. She had to know. And it had to be let out. There was no other way. It had to be done. The very weapon she had chosen to fight had let her down.
As the blood pooled by her side, she saw the reflection of a reflection. She noticed the gentle bulge of the body and trace of sharpness bordering at the verge of just becoming a blur. She saw the moon shining off her blood, and smiled. She felt light. She felt the light.
Ma opened the door to the verandah where she lay. Drink some tea, shona.
“Ma? Save me..”
The light reflected off the fear she saw in her mother’s eyes. What have you done, Nayantara? Why..wh..why?
“Ma, we are made of light!”
Indeed she was made of light. She saw it in her mother’s eyes when she danced at the age of three. She saw it in her nani’s love when she arranged the flowers before pujo. She felt in her baba’s voice on the first day of school. She saw it in the blood that was reflected on the moon that night.. No wonder she liked the moon more, it could see her rather than the other way round. The light she sent off was the light she saw.
She was the light that she was drawn to.