A rainy day with dark clouds, we were overjoyed. Amma and Baba were busy at the fields carefully sowing more seeds and collecting water for later as well. The thirsty crops finally got their wave of waters, and the village elders a sigh of relief. We kids rushed out in the wild fields, jumping and playing around in the mud as if it was the first time we felt Mother Earth tickle our feet with her soft soil. The smell of rain and mud, the feel of the wind as we shivered playfully, left us so satisfied about our little, simple lives…
The morning after, the bright sun was out again, and I was caught sneezing as I woke up. Amma came in bickering about me falling sick and never listening to her. She was not really angry. She was just being Amma. I wrinkled my nose, and lazily got out of bed, waddling to our backyard for my daily morning routine. Gayatri our cow, was happily grazing in the fields ahead and smiling with her fresh crops stuck between her teeth after the rains yesterday. I did not want to go to school at all. I just wanted to play in the fields, and the mud again. Just as I was getting that thought, I heard Amma shouting this time that I was getting late. I rushed in again, ready to off to our ‘Pathshala’.
I liked going to school, just not today. Anyways, on my way, I met Chintu and Banti. We had this little game where we exchanged marbles with each other putting a value to it on the size, weight, and shine of the marbles. Chintu had gone to his Nana’s house in another nearby village and had come back after almost a month. He had found a beautiful, shiny red marble with a golden streak inside over there. It caught my eye and I knew at once I would trade it for anything. But Chintu was being very tough on this one. We reached school, and got on with the day. But the sight of the marble still gleamed in my eye and left me awestruck.
I came home that day, thinking what else I could offer Chintu to trade for the marble. I got an idea. Chintu loves my Amma’s petha’s, a sweet dish made of rice flour and jaggery, and I could request Amma to make five petha’s for my friends and myself and actually trade it off with Chintu. My plan worked.
The next day Amma had kept the petha’s ready for me, and I took it to school. I met Chintu on the way, and I told him about the offer. He was ecstatic. We reached school, I gave him my tiffin box, and he gave me the marble. The whole day I kept staring at it, and it was just so beautiful. On our way home, Chintu told me something very strange. He just said, don’t sleep with the marble at night. Without paying attention to that fact, I gallantly went back home to show Amma my new trophy toy.
Excited as ever, I showed Amma the marble and even she was awestruck. I could see how much she loved it as well. That night, I feel asleep holding the marble in my hand, holding it close to me, afraid to lose it. Something very strange happened. I felt a cold wind which woke me up, and as I opened my eyes, I realized I was not at home. I was in a very different place.
There were very tall people with red skin, wearing lose black robes, and had a golden tiara-like crown on their head. I looked at my hands, and realized, I looked just like them as well. There was the same crown on my head, my dhoti changed to the black robes, and my skin was red. I was equally tall like the others. The place was extremely hot and there were screams now and then coming from a distance. I did not feel too comfortable and unaware about where to go next, I decided to walk around a little bit.
The sky had turned to a golden orange, as if the sun was about to set. The people got fewer, but I was just walking. I got tired, but was still unable to stop. As the sky got darker, the screams started getting louder. I wanted to just stop, but I could not do that either. Suddenly I saw Amma and Baba, they looked the same as if real. They turned towards me, and their eyes were like the red marble. Just in that instinct I remembered Chintu warning me to not sleep with the marble.
I ran towards Amma and Baba, but I was never able to reach them. They kept looking at me and walking towards a cliff. They would fall off, and I had to save them. I ran faster, they walked even faster. But, I was too late. They jumped off, and I could not save them. I was running, unstoppable, and weeping. I wanted to go back home. I wanted to get out of here. This felt like hell…
“Potlu, Potlu…,” I heard some voices calling for me. Very hastily, I opened my eyes. Everything still had a red tinge to it. I saw Amma, and asked for water. Those were the only words that came out of my mouth before I went back in to an unconscious state again. This time, I was only asleep.
After almost 15 days, I woke up again. The red tinge completely gone. I saw Amma sleeping beside me, holding my hand. I could tell she was crying a lot. Her eyes were puffed up, and her mat moist beside her eyes. I sat upright with so much effort, and picked my Amma’s hand to kiss her. She woke up from her sleep too and immediately hugged me. She did not let me go, and was only mumbling prayers to her Lord under her breath.
I was very week, and missed school for almost that whole month. I kept asking Amma what happened but she had no answers. She only thanked our good fortune that I woke up. I sometimes had vague flashes of what I saw. But never recollected what it was. After a month, I went back to school, and Amma told me to tell everyone at school, that I was at my Nani’s place in another village for a month and nothing more. I did as she said.
One day I came home from school, and found a marble under a cupboard. The marble looked very familiar to the one I remember trading with Chintu, but the only thing was, the marble was no longer red and golden. It turned in to a regular marble. I took it to school the next day, and while we were trading with some other friends, Deepa another classmate, came up to me and asked me to trade with her the Red marble. It was rather odd. I told her I would not trade with her, and came home to check again. I could not find anything special in it.
The next day, she came back with 2 of my favourite books in exchange of the marble. I immediately accepted and handed that ordinary marble to her for something of my interest.
From that day onwards, I never saw red again, and never complained to Amma and Baba about anything anymore.
“Sometimes we see things we do not intend to, and those things show us stories we never thought we would find out about. I learnt about the sins and punishments. I learnt about the sorrow of losing a loved one. And most importantly I learnt to be grateful for what we have, even in the most humble ways.”