In the cubby holes enclosure, the artisans were engrossed in idol making. Aromas of wet clay in the damp, ill lit lanes were evaporating. It was the dingy locality of potters with rows of cramped workshops. The artisans were giving shapes to soft clay moulds.Ma had sent Munia to bring some money from Baba as Raghu had been sweltering in fever.
She entered into the windy lane, the near completed idol were hemmed along the edges of the lanes. They captured her imagination and her pace halted, galvanized on freshly painted wide eyed Goddesses.
The festive occasion of Puja, she always counted the best time of year. At least, for her it was the annual affair to look forward for new cloth, unlike of her destined hand to down cloths of entire year. She looked at her oversize dress. She loved the free spirit of Puja and festivity to roam around and feel the joy of the city.
Realizing the lost time, in gaping the idols, she brisk her pace. She conjured Ma’s foul mood of morning. Leaping the drain, she walked towards Sarkar Da’s stall. The smell of raw earth, grease, paints and heaps of straw were floating in the space.
She conjured the festivities falling few days ahead. Though her Baba not a skilled artisans,yet he had been hired by local artisans for odd jobs as an assistant.
At some of the places colorful plastic sheets were spread over the idol to protect them from unexpected rains. The artisans in front of their half sculpted mould were reverently engrossed in their work.
What would she wear on Navami…? Munia, an eleven plus, lanky frame! Her course, near matted hair was a product of abject scarcity. Her big eyes had a void but still a yearning to have life of fullest. She had never been to school. Every few months they had to change their settlements, either in search of work or forced by police. They were the squatters, dwelling in the desolate corners of footpaths or vacant earth beneath a fly over.
Every passing days had now been enlightening her about the intricacies of life. Then she would try to comprehend it, weighing the viable options of her life. She could work in those big, high rises. But her disheveled look didn’t allow her to enter in any one of them. The guards standing there would reprimand her loudly, taking her as vagabond.
Lying on the pavement she had been getting aware of the night movements. The sights and movements of night would chill her more than the sultry air of bleak pavements. At the night, the movements of vehicles and hushed tones, near their hoards would frighten her. Few of the girls were taken away by them, didn’t return.
She had listened Ma screams at night and her abhorrence to the way of life of the dwellers. Ma was telling she didn’t belong to that place so she couldn’t do all this. Her hysterical undertakings that she would return her native place would slow down after time.
The panic-stricken vows of Ma, she began to understand and hollowness of her words. She would scream for self assurance or just to console herself. It was a sort of self assurance for Ma that there was still a place for her to return. Though she knew they would never return to their native place. As for them, in their native place, there was nothing but roofless hunger had been in waiting. It was the place which her mother would refer longingly to others.
To feel supported ,Ma evoked, her native place, a place of her own! A void! An uneven rustic place, with dingy lanes, full of cow dung stinks. There again, they had to repeat, the same story to vacate one place for another. With pangs of hunger, they had to wait for first meal till mid day. She was aware of her rib counted infancy which was dependent on the left over of other houses holds.
These days she had been feeling some pressing gapes in the people’s eyes that would make her uncomfortable. Mother would suggest her to walk fast from there. Some times after her bath Ma would tag her along. They would walk to the temple and sit there on the stone under the banyan tree.
She wanted to break her vagabond life. While watching the soaps on T.V. shops she would long for a house to sleep, to play. The screening of child with comfortable house would appeal her most. A comfortable one, at least a house, a bed to sleep whenever they feel, food to eat when they feel hunger…, no when they feel to have some food or to have some fun!
To entertain and break the monotony, till few years back she would play the imitation of normal life. In her play, she would long and would try to get into the heaped seriousness of school. Going there in hurry! Walking in school uniform with backpacks on the shoulder and sulkingly telling something to accompanying Ma. Sometimes she would play these games with vagrant children like her.
She wanted to comprehend her life but could she? Wasn’t a big issue for an eleven year old one?