By Kriti Mukherjee
It was never going to be an ordinary day. But I already knew that. What was ordinary anyway? I was more like "oddinary" for fellow inhabitants who shared my space. But 16th of June seemed to be clad in over emphasized drama costumes, wore makeup that cracked like the desert sand!
I don't remember having routine in my life ever since I turned five. It was then that my parents were murdered in front of my eyes. I had run for my life without even taking a last look at their bloodied corpses. For an entire year I had lived on the streets. I am 16 years old now, carrying a head full of unanswered questions that reflect in my ever searching eyes.
I wonder if by some sheer stroke of luck my parents are still alive and searching for me. I strain to look at everything that passes me for some sign of recognition. But I realize now that my piercing eyes scare people. They do not trust me, my looks or my intentions. So I leave them at peace by turning away proudly.
In the past eleven years that my life has seen such drastic upheavals I stripped myself of all my learning - piece by piece. But I held on to keeping a tab on dates, months and years. That's how I know that what seems like a lifetime is only just over a decade. And hence I know that it was 16th of June when "Oddinary" was faced with an option.
I woke up and spat the taste of grime, dust and men from my mouth. My knotted hair seemed to have become a paste on my skull. So while chewing on a twig of neem I strolled over to the roadside barber and sat on his tool. "Shave it off", I said. He ignored me for a prolonged period of time but my stubborn persistence finally succeeded in breaking his inaction. It was over in about three minutes. I looked at the hair hugging my legs - a few strands clung on to it as if still pleading to be a part of me. I jumped down the chair, spat out the neem and walked off towards another day of uncertainty.
Back at the shed that I call home, a crowd had gathered. A hum slowly increased in decibels to become a chatter. I gathered that the cops and some investigation officers were looking for a girl who has been missing for the last eleven years. All they had as a mark of identification is a mole in the inner right elbow. An old man hovered around with the cops hopefully. My heart threatened to explode. I wiped my bleeding scalp with my palm but instinctively drew my arm back to hide the mole.
The man was not recognizable, not even familiar! I wonder why he was there looking for me "why then" after all these years. Was he my Dad, could it have been??? All I remember is his smell but that is from a different decade. Do smells last a decade? There was a talk that a DNA test would be the next step for identification. I had no idea what that meant but my legs went weaker by the second. What if he was just another man looking to sell me off. That had happened before - men trying to sell something that don't even belong to them! But who did I belong to?
I flopped down on the ground at a distance, unaware of the streaming tears that soaked my breasts. I wanted to belong. I wanted to live - I wanted my parents to give me an identity. My nails hurt from the way I had been digging in the mud. I watched as I cried for several hours till the crowd thinned and the officers climbed their vehicles for departure. The jeeps crossed me and I saw the face of the dejected old man looking down at his clenched fists. He looked up just for a minute to catch a glimpse of me and then the car drove away. Away from me and any hope that I had. I bid farewell to I do not know who or what.
I spent the rest of the day in memory of the smells of my childhood and the taste of restless questions that hover in my brain. Shedding my hair did not seem to have lightened the load. That moment I did not have the courage to embrace my past or change my present. I circled a date in my minds' calendar to give myself something to look forward to - so I know why I continue my journey - an adventure that will probably last too long! Would the black mole become my glass slippers?