She liked being silent. When her friends from school would scream and yell in the small movie theatre down the road, she would gaze at them, sometimes out of curiosity and at others, out of indifference. When her Maa would doze off in the afternoons, she would sneak out for a stroll. This three kilometer walk would take her forty minutes to complete. She had never counted but it seemed that much time only. The setting of this walk was fascinating. On one hand was the galaxy of homes superimposed on a series of mountains. On the other, was first a lake and then some more mountains. In the first half of the walk, the lake side meant purity and the homes’ side meant chaos. The homes used to lit up on her way back like a net of fireflies. The lake used to vanish in darkness and the homes now meant tranquility. This transformation used to shake her initially but she had got used to the two faces of everything. She would embrace that twilight phase sitting on the stairs of the mandir at the end of the road, with her feet gently swaying in the lake. This meant that when she had to begin her journey back, she would turn around, face the plethora of lights on the non-lake side, look back at the lake again, enjoy the reflection of what she had just seen and start back.
Reema was just ten years old. Maturity had knocked her doors slightly early. She was the fifth girl to her biological parents, who used to travel 480 kilometers, every time, to pray for a son. Reema, just like her sisters, was clearly not the answer to their prayers. One half lit night, she was left off at the mandir’s stairs. If it wasn’t for this Krishna devotee, Maa, Reema might have died there itself – walkless, nameless. Everything started afresh. Just that Maa was deaf.
They would interact by drawing things. When other girls would cry their hearts out for a sweet, Reema would fill the whole board drawing her wish. She would go to school, come back and paint for her mother, the lessons from the day. She would also draw her evening walk to Maa every night. Their whole house had become a whiteboard. It was a new graffiti everyday. At times it would reflect joy, at times sorrow. But it would always be full of colours, thoughts and conversations.
On the advice of a school teacher, Reema enrolled for a local music class. She realized she was good at singing. She would start singing and everyone else practicing in the class would start humming along with her. When she would practice at home, birds that she had never seen in valley would bunch around on the window and stare at her. Music brought peace to her soul and to the ones around. But it also meant less conversations with Maa and more confrontations. She could never write to her how she sang that day. The magic she used to experience in music was inexplainable through any piece of writing or drawing. For her, it was a new found meaning of life, for her mother it was their biggest enemy.
That evening, Reema, as usual, came back from her evening walk, cleared her room’s floor sat for the evening practice, closed her eyes and started singing. The birds were nowhere to be seen. There was a loud streak of lightening and it started raining heavily. There was a storm. But she was in a different world. The noise became louder. It was becoming difficult for her to hear her own voice. She increased her own volume. Maa had come in the room to check if her room was properly closed. Reema with her closed eyes and did not notice her. She sat alongside a wall and started seeing Reema sing. The thunder increased, so did Reema’s loudness. She was in a spell. Nature and she were in a fierce battle. There was big lightening this time and Reema shrieked in retaliation.
She opened her mouth but could not hear herself. Neither the thunder. She opened her eyes and saw a clear sky with pouring eyes of her mother.