Welcome to my world, Nihira’s world. I am a 12-year-old living in the dingy shanties of Mumbai’s Dharavi area. My father had passed away in a road accident. I stay with my mother who works as a maid and my little brother, all of 8 years. Today is my 13th birthday and like every other year, I am in a confrontation with my mother as to why I can’t celebrate.
” No, we can’t afford such lavishness. If we spend even 200 rupees we’ll have to do away with something or the other for the rest of the month, ” she protests.
“Does that mean I can never celebrate? Buy a cake? Get a new dress? Instead, keep wearing the ones donated by your Madamji.”
This practice of curtailing on our desires and wishes have been prevailing since long.
“Amma, I want one. I want, otherwise, I will leave and this time I won’t return.” I try to threaten her. Though I have used this speech countless times on her, yet today I feel it will work.
Glancing at me from the corner of her eyes she smirks and busies herself with cooking. “It’s 9.30, get ready to help me at the food stall.” She orders. My mother runs a small VadaPaw counter on Sundays.
Ignoring her words and slamming the metal door behind I proceed to the place where I always find respite after such muddles with her.
The creek has a few boulders that serve as my resting place. They are my confidante with whom I share all my frustrations, happiness and disappointments. It’s been around half an hour, I have been here, venting myself, when suddenly I notice that glistening crystal ball. Twisting and turning, I admire the sphere in awe.
As the sun’s rays refract from it, a rainbow flashes before my vision blinding me for a second. Rubbing off a few grains of sand from it, I pocket it. The little kids in the distance are still playing football. One kicks hard and the ball rushes towards me but before I can take any action, it passes through me. Bewildered, I stand.
Inquisitive, I rush to the nearby coconut water stall and insist on the uncle to lend me some. But he seems to pay no heed to my words. Picking the already prepared glass, I gulp it down. My eyes read the surrounding suspicious, stare. I realise something unusual, something different. What’s going on? Why can’t they hear me? Can’t even see me? Why did the ball pass through me? Am I invisible?
Numerous unanswered questions crop up my mind. I’m not in my tangible state anymore. There isn’t any shadow of me on the sands. Is it a dream or a reality? Many times I have prayed to God to bless me with some superpowers. Did he hear my plea today? I am verwhelmed but how long will it last? Uncertain, I want to relish every moment of this intangible existence of mine to the fullest.
So, I head to the mall. Often in the past, while sitting on this pavement, I have observed the wealthy kids visit it. Today, nobody will stop me from entering nor will they laugh at my looks.
“Such a beautiful place. If only they could accompany me…”
The mall has a fountain at the centre. I touch the waters. Ahh, it feels cold. The floor appears quite slippery and I almost trip a few times. Uhu! That aroma… delicious food. Soon I step into the food court. There are different stalls selling a variety of food. My tongue salivates. The couple sitting next to me has a plateful of noodles. They are busy on mobile. So, grabbing their plate I head for the vacant corner, unnoticed.
I am gorging down the delicious strands when suddenly I felt a pull. ” How rude. Can’t you see I am eating?” I scream to the lady who is trying to remove my plate. We both pull it either way but I can easily feel the fear in her eyes. As I forcibly pull the plate she immediately releases her grip and runs as if she has seen a ghost. Ah! That’s the best part of being invisible. Giggling, I continue chewing.
Next visit- ice cream parlour. The various unknown flavours of ice-cream satiated my tastebuds. How thrilling it feels to see people’s expressions when their food disappears! I have been carrying on with this nuisance for quite some time. I can hear people screaming, “Return of Mr India, there’s something ghostly… Supernatural…” The security guards are running here and there. Frankly, I am enjoying this boon, where I can amuse myself without being harassed or caught. But still, my happiness feels incomplete…
To augment this scare, I begin to touch and tickle people. My tender touch scares them further. The mall now resembles a fish market, with people screaming and deserting it.
I look outside and surprisingly, it’s night already. I was so immersed in merrymaking, savouring delicacies and in playing pranks, that I didn’t even notice the time. But now, I feel weary and miss them… badly… I want to rest myself on her warm lap… share these adventures with them…
And, I decided.
Back home everyone is running helter-skelter. Amma’s crying frantically hugging my little brother against her chest. I can’t even console her not can I glimpse her crying. “Amma…Amma” I cried, even tried to touch her.. But, this invisibility… A Curse…It distanced me from her. How I wish to revert to my tangible self!
Frustrated, I settle myself at Karim uncle’s shop. He was closing it. Wiping my tears, I stand and just then, the pendulum strikes. “Nihira! You? Where have you been the whole day? Your mother’s been berserk. Go home.” Chacha screamed. I realised the magic has ended. The sphere disappeared, making me visible.
Later that night, snuggling into Amma’s arms I slept like a little baby.
Photo By: Alwyn Gulzar