Anukriti Mishra – Two Stories
The Colour Red
“What colour is red?”
His five-year-old voice sounded smooth and damp, like clay that had been softened by falling raindrops.
“Red?” I asked, even though I had heard his question loud and clear. I was buying myself some time.
“Yes. I want to know how red looks, how red feels?”
He was blind, but the way his eyes wandered always made me feel like he could see more than he was letting on.
I looked up at the sky hoping the answer would come to me and saw the colour of pearls. The colour of red, I thought. If only I could show him.
I slowly took his tiny hands in mine and circled my fingers around his pulsating wrist. “You feel that?” He nodded. “Red is the colour of life. The reason your body is warm is because there is red flowing through your veins.”
He then tenderly traced my wrist with his fingers. “There is red flowing inside you too.” His voice danced proudly, with a newfound secret.
“You’re right.” I smiled to myself. “That’s how all of us are made in this world.”
“Mr. Raghu told us that some people who live far away are white, others are black and we are brown. He also said sometimes we’re not nice to each other because of the colour of our skin.” He held his cane with both his hands and brought it close to his chest. “But now I feel that we’re not so different and I know why.”
Silence hung between us while I waited for his answer.
“Because inside we are all just red.”
Mumbai to London
Time to destination – 11 hours, 10 minutes
I try to read the information on the screen before me. The words, and the numbers get blurry behind the veil of my tears.
I try to dust the memories off, but some of that dust gets in my eyes.
Is there a word in any language for what I’m feeling right now? Just hours after walking away from everything I’m made of?
Heathrow, Terminal 5
A nostalgic longing to be near again to something or someone that is distant, or that has been loved and then lost.
“The love that remains.”
London to Toronto
Time to destination- 8 hours
These moments flow like molten sapphires convincing me that there is no land, and no sky. There is only me: alone, as I came, and as I will go.
The faces I leave behind ride with me into the deep sunset. The sky is the colour of Indian romance: crimson and purple, slashed with golden streaks over an ocean blue.
I look without blinking, convinced that the colours have a message for me.
A message sent to me by the salt of my mother’s tears, and the chill of my father’s silence.
A message sent to me by the sad smiles of the fisherwomen I met by the coast of the Indian Ocean, and the innocence of the dancing slum children.
But how do I decipher this message?
By the time the Atlantic makes itself visible I’m haunted by the voices and the visions of home- a faraway land by now. The powdered sugar in my black tea a long lost lover of the spices in the bazaar; the beige blankets in the flight sing of the vivid saris drying in the open terraces. Even the light above my seat holds the secret of the now distant tropical sun.
What are you trying to tell me?
I scribble in capital letters across my page. The dry darkness of the cabin replies with a cold blue silence.
I start making desperate wishes for sleep to come and claim me. It comes, but claims my fellow travellers, leaving me riding the night skies alone.
Haunted, and tired in a jet-lagged haze, I begin to see visions of my Guru and me walking by the banks of river Ganga. I see his eyes burning, reflecting the lamps that bedeck the old temples that line the shore. He says something to me but the words don’t reach me, they merge with the chants of the sages, they dance away with the smell of decay and sandalwood incense.
Two hours before touchdown I begin to feel like the ghost of a lost soul. Maybe this is my karma, I decide. To wander, and then go back to my roots, then haunt myself with meaninglessness.
Mercifully sleep claims me for a short while before the twinkling golden dust of Toronto skyline wakes me up, and embraces me. The mirage in the cold desert, the beloved golden necklace of Lake Ontario, the bazaar city with bargains for every beggar and hopeless dreamer.
What are you trying to tell me?
I whisper to myself one last time before losing myself to customs and baggage claim.
And in the broad walkways before me, In the weary faces of drifters, in the hum and sway of Toronto Pearson airport, I hear my Guru’s voice:
You carry the wings of the slum children, the hope of your mother, the love of your father, and the relentless survival of India, in you. Find the words, make the tunes of all their stories, and dance gently on the surface of Ganga- the one that flows through you. Claim the steep Himalayan ranges of your fears, but keep on. Take heart, and record your truth- this, is your karma.
Toronto Pearson, Terminal 3
I’m greeted by a man with a generous smile at immigration. He compliments me on the trishul tattooed on my wrist, and tells me that he is a fan of Shiva.
“You’ve been living in this country for two and a half years now.” He states after going through my passport.
I smile a tired smile, and nod.
“So is Toronto home then, Miss?”
I feel his question slowly entering the pores of my body. I wonder what he saw on my face, standing before him.
I swallow all the tears I feel in my throat and nod again.
“Yes,” I say to him, “This is home.”
Author’s Statement on Beauty
Beauty, for me, is not in how things look but what they feel like. Beauty exists in imperfections that render us human.
I see beauty in gaps, in our own discrepant existence, in that space between loss and love, in honesty, and daydreams.
In the graceful ways that trees let go.
Beauty, our own relentless hope.
Beauty begins with life. With the first breath.
Beauty is in all the varied ways of living, surviving. Beauty is in all the scars and bruises life gifts us.
Beauty is courage.
Beauty is in words that are written on pages by women who have fought simply to have a voice, to be able to tell the stories they have within them.
Beauty is in the day-to-day poetry of life.
Anukriti Mishra is a writer who grew up in the lap of the Himalayas in India. She started training in Indian classical dancing at the age of five and began performing on stage shortly afterwards. She lives in Canada and is currently at work on her first story collection. Her short stories have been published in literary journals in UK, Denmark and South Africa.