I was sitting in one of the corner shelves of the shop, dreading my pick up anytime as long as the shop remained open! Usually I have known more like me to end up terribly pierced with pointed things, eaten alive to find out the taste, bitten off into halves of halves and be victims of almost all possible scary modes of mutilation.
The day came when the shopkeeper’s fat fingers grabbed me. They smelled of tobacco and grime. Thankfully I was wrapped in a thin sheet of plastic! He put me on to the table and I looked at my buyer—a shabby girl in her late teens. I felt solace in imagining that hopefully I am not going to any curious third grader! In a brown envelope, I shared the space with an ‘Apsara’. She smiled and exclaimed, “Why, you’re Non-dust!” I wouldn’t deny a little flush of pride at being recognised by such a prime lady. We tried our best to maintain balance throughout our journey inside this brown envelope and I admired the streaks of black and silver on her as she stood at one end towering over me.
We did not see the world outside this envelope until the next day. I watched Apsara get a trim on the edge for her lead. Then she came to me and carefully took away half of the plastic sheet from my body. She said to us, “I will sketch my dreams with you. You’re special.” She placed us on a shelf with a small drawing book and left through the door.
I began noticing my surroundings. I realised that we are the prized possessions of a rather poor girl who has a flair for painting. We are in a dinky household where the roof has holes, two or three pots and pans with a little stove make the kitchen, a lumpy, old mattress is the bed and some four-five clothes hanging from the hooks is her wardrobe. I longed to see her face.
She returned in the evening. In a box beside us, she placed a few notes of 50s. I understood she had a good day today. Soon she took the three of us, the drawing book, Apsara and me, and began her first sketch with the lady.
I took a deep look at her face. She had big, troubled and yet dark, smouldering eyes. She smiled at times while she sketched. She had a pale skin and a very malnourished, thin stature. However, there was a certain innocence that caught my eye.
Soon I was needed and I erased the lines of Apsara to be recreated, to be made perfect. I felt some vanity for who I am at this moment, seeing that I was the necessary tool to render what the lady would create, flawless! When she signed her creation, we all learnt her name, Asharika—meaning, Hope.
Every day, she would come home and sketch something. Something significant and while she sketched, she’d talk to herself. She used to sit near the grounds of a palace and draw instant portraits for the visitors. She’s pay a daily rent to somebody there for the place and come home with what’s left. Those days she didn’t make much, she’d give all of her pay and return home empty-handed. A shop owner near an art college is always kind to her and gives her 25-30 sheets of paper every month, free. That is his way of undertaking a social service, she said.
Little part blessed and most of it in rags, she dragged her life from day-to-day. Gradually, I felt my days are numbered. I had become a small round ball. Apsara was left just by an inch. But she kept us on the shelf and had just as much love as she had the day she bought us. We knew all she liked, glimpses of the places she saw, we knew the world from her eyes. Soon we met a new pair, a Nataraj pencil this time and a Maped eraser. I wonder how they would get along!
©2016.Amrita Kar Roy.All Rights Reserved