The sun is slowly disappearing beneath the dusky sky, and the earth is transitioning from red to black. All the birds have returned to their nests, including the swallow bird of our house.It rained briefly earlier in the day; perhaps an electricity line broke somewhere, causing the lights to go out. I am seated on the floor outside the house when it happens—a butterfly flutters around me, as if drawn to my presence. Mummy warns me not to sit in cold outside since i have fever. I ignore her and enjoy the movements of butterfly. Downstairs, two children are amusing themselves by mimicking the butterfly’s movements with their fingers. One of them poses a question, “Butterfly butterfly, what colour do you like in your happy birthday?”
“Ummm, yellow,” responds the other child after pondering for a moment.
“Yellow, yellow, dirty fellow sitting in a buffalo,” I say with a smile. Just as I finish saying this, a voice chimes in, “Blue, blue, go to the zoo, there’s a monkey just like you.”
The voice I hear is familiar, one I’ve heard before and know well. But as I hear it unexpectedly today, I am taken aback. I glance around, searching for the source, but there’s no one in sight. Then, the voice reaches my ears once more. Standing before me is a girl with shaved head, holding my blue kurta.She appears exactly as I remember her—pale face,shaved head, and big yet empty eyes.
The last time we met i teased her for having her head shaved. I uttered the words, “Hairless cat eat some mouse” (Mudulli mau musa poli khau) and she responded angrily, saying, “eat yourself ” and left . After that day she has come today after ages . My eyes were weary to see that hairless head.My mouths missed calling her mudulli mau but today my lips tremble, and though I attempt to speak, it feels as though someone is clutching my throat. An unfamiliar fear washes over me. Perhaps I am afraid of her anger, I am afraid that if i said something inappropriate she would leave me just like she left in our last encounter. Today, I desperately wish to prevent her from becoming angry once again.
But today, there was no trace of anger on her face. Instead, a gentle expression adorned her white puffy face, as if a soft glow illuminated her features. Her large, lifeless eyes had a peculiar gleam, akin to glass reflecting sunlight. Observing her, it felt as though two wings might sprout from her yellowish skin, allowing her to take flight like a Sonpari.
Sonpari ,our beloved fairy.Though Sonpari was just a fictional character from a tv show, she had became a part of our real life .Whenever I visited my maternal uncle’s s house, I would watch Sonpari on TV. Upon returning home, I would eagerly narrate the magical stories of Sonpari to her. She would listen as if sonpari is a real fairy. She truly believed one day we both could fly like butterfly by learnings magics like sonpari.
She had seen Sonpari through my eyes only, since she didn’t have a television in her home . The black and white TV in my house would only display the news after my father vigorously shook the aerial ten times. In our village, there was only one colour TV, but she was not allowed to watch it from inside.Her mother would caution her not to enter. Those who lived there only invited me, never extending an invitation to her. Consequently, I didn’t want to stay there anymore. So i would go outside with her and tell her that we should not watch that useless tv which doesn’t show sonpari. “Now, when I visit my uncle’s house, I will bring You along, and we will sit together and watch Sonpari”, I told her. When I shared this plan with her, she became ecstatic. She declared that in future she would also learn magic just like Sonpari and transform into a butterfly, soaring away with me like Sona did with Fruity.
“Hey”! Her sharp voice resonates in my ears, shattering the realm of my memories. I cautiously part my lips and bombard with her questions, “Rojina! Where have you been? Mum told me that you were unwell. They took you to the hospital. On the day you went, school had a half-day holiday, and the following day was off. I went to my uncle’s house and watched all the episodes of Sonpari. Why didn’t you returned from the hospital?”
Rojina stares at me without saying anything. I say again, “Are you angry because I told you ‘Muduli Mau’? I swear I will never say it again!” Look, I swear to God.
She continues to gaze at me silently, her eyes no longer filled with anger but rather weariness. Slowly, she approaches me and opens her clenched fist, revealing a handful of Fadil in her hand. With her tongue dyed blue from the berries, she says, “I took so many medicines and got better. Now it’s your turn to eat.” I place the Fadil in my mouth, letting my own tongue turn blue, and exclaim, “I will also get better by taking medicine!” We both burst into laughter, filled with joy , love and a shared understanding.
Curiosity still lingers within me, and I ask her, “Wher have you been all this time ? Why didnot you come to play with me ?”
She grabs hold of my hand and replies, “Come, I’ll take you to the place where I went.”
I quietly follow her, allowing her to lead me beneath our Fadil tree. It was our tree —hers and mine.It belonged to us. It stood horizontally by the canal, tucked away in the corner. We would even dare to climb that tree with our eyes closed! It wasn’t just some tree but an embodiment of our friendship. It held a special place in our hearts. We would sit on its branches, playing with our fingers, and ask each other, “Butterfly, butterfly, which colour do you like on your happy birthday?”
As we arrive at the tree, she tenderly kisses the butterfly she carved into the trunk, tracing her fingers over the letters “R” and “K,” which represented the initials of our names. Then, with a swift movement, she effortlessly ascends to the top of the tree. I gather my courage and attempt to climb after her, but my legs begin to tremble uncontrollably. Rojina calls out to me from above, urging me to join her. “Come here kripa,join me and we will fly like butterfly .I will teach you to fly with me like sonpari taught fruity.We will fly together , far away from here.”
As I listened to Rojina, I mustered the courage to ascend the tree. However, the higher I climbed, the larger the tree appeared. My hands grew weary, my knees slipped, yet I held my ground. Suddenly, I seized a branch with one hand. Rojina swiftly approached the branch where I hung, grasping my loosening hand. She exerted all her strength to pull me towards her, but my grip faltered, and her hand slipped away. She, too, vanished with my hand. She departed, expressing gratitude in silence as her voice faded away. In an instant, everything fell into silence, devoid of her presence and her voice. All that remained was an engulfing darkness. Slowly, I closed my eyes, surrendering myself to the obscurity, and gradually disappeared within its depths.
A jarring sound reverberates in my ears. Slowly, I open my eyes to darkness. A faint buzzing fills the air. Standing before me is my mother. She gazes at me and asks, “Did you fall asleep? What kind of slumber is it that doesn’t stir even when called?” I rub my eyes and inquire about the source of the sound. “It sounds as if the Fadil tree by the corner has toppled.”
My mother touches my forehead, reassuring me, “You don’t have a fever anymore.” Just then, the electricity is restored, and my mother’s eyes fixate on my hand. She grasps it tightly, her voice filled with concern, “Why are your hands so red? How did this happen?” I glance at my hand, memories of the dream I just had flooding back. But before I can utter a word, my mother interjects, “Maybe you hit it on the wall while sleeping.”
I say nothing and stick out my tongue ,it instantly turns blue as though I have consumed fadil. I glance around and notice a butterfly lying lifeless at my feet. Perhaps it has met its end. Meanwhile, the girls downstairs are still playing their butterfly game, unaware of what has transpired. Piyush Mishra’s song can be heard playing on someone’s mobile phone, “Hum maut ko sapna batakar uth kede hongey yehi ”
(We will say the death was a dream and wake up at this same place….)