-Written By Parna Saha
(Reading Time: 10 min Approx)
“What does my name mean ma?”, a curious Abir asked his mother. “Miss Anjali asked all my classmates the meaning of their names today. I couldn’t answer.” “Colours, abir means colours”, Nilima hastily replied, and resumed the cooking.
“What are colours Ma?”
“Go ask Baba, I am busy.”
Abir stretched his hands out and felt his mother’s apron. Turning around, he walked away from the kitchen. He heard the water running in the bathroom and proceeded in that direction. Walking around the house was so easy, he didn’t have to use his hands to guide him. Baba was washing clothes. Abir sat on the bed and called out to him.
“What are colours Baba?”
Mukesh’s hands stopped an instant and resumed mechanically. He was trying hard to think of an answer.
“Colours are something you see.”
The words hit Abir like a sting. But he had grown used to such stings.
“Then why did you name me Abir?” the irony of his name hit him hard. He turned around and went to the dining table. The aroma of mozzarella hit his nose and cheered him up. Ma was serving pasta for dinner. He sat at the dining table waiting for dinner to be served and concentrated on the tingling of the bangles in Nilima’s hands. He had always loved to hear them tingle whenever Ma moved her hands.
Mukesh couldn’t sleep that night. Soon after Abir’s birth when they had come to know of his disability, the family had been shrouded by grief for weeks. One fine day Nilima had come to him with little Abir in her arms and they had together sworn to fight the child’s disability with love and care. But today, as the same old feeling of helplessness engulfed him, tears started to wet his pillow.
When tossing on the bed could no longer soothe the growing uneasiness in him, Mukesh got out of bed to take a stroll round the house. Peeping into Abir’s room, he found him awake, just as Abir sensed his presence.
“Can’t we feel colours Baba?”
Mukesh stepped forward and slipped into his son’s blanket.
“Yes, of course we can.”
“I want to feel them, like I feel all other things.”
“There are innumerable colours around the universe. I haven’t seen even half of them. How can you feel all? But surely you can feel some. All the colours of the universe are made up of three main colours. They are red, blue and yellow.”
“Only three colours can make so many colours?”
“Yes, by mixing them in correct proportions.”
“How do I feel red Baba?”
“Red means danger.”
Little Abir remembered the day when his walking stick had slipped making him fall down the stairs and broke his arm. His right arm was plastered and it was difficult to walk around with only one hand to guide him. He shivered at the thought of the pain.
“Then red must be very unpleasant.”
“No not at all. Red also signifies love.”
Abir remembered his mother. Yes, he loved his mother. He felt his father’s hands holding his. Yes, he loved his father too. It fascinated him how a colour could make him feel such an array of emotions.
“The blood that runs in your veins and keeps you alive is also red.”
Red must be truly wonderful, Abir wondered.
“What about blue Baba?” Abir was curious again.
“The sky is blue” Mukesh promptly answered.
“What is sky?”
Mukesh couldn’t think of an answer that would satiate Abir’s quest without hurting him. He tried hard to think of something else.
“The sea is blue.”
Abir’s thoughts drifted to the sea. His parents had surprised him with a long vacation at a sea resort in Puri for his fourth birthday. Abir could hear the waves lashing by the shore all day. During the evenings, when they would stroll hand in hand on the beach, the cold water of the waves would wash over his feet again and again. They had splashed on the waters together and played. He did not know then that the water was blue. Abir loved blue, blue revived some of his wonderful memories.
“What else is blue Baba?”
Mukesh could not think of anything else at that instant.
“Yellow, don’t you want to know about yellow?” Mukesh stated before he realized that the only yellow he could think of at that moment was the sun that could be explained to Abir, because he could never see the sunlight.
“The roses in our balcony are yellow” Mukesh finally thought of an answer.
Abir had grown too used to those prickly thorns and the sweet smell. He wasn’t satisfied with the answer.
Mukesh could see that the yellow roses failed to light up his son’s face unlike the blue sea or the red love.
“It’s late now Abir. You need to sleep.”
“Good night Baba”, Abir closed his eyes with a morose face. The next morning he would go to smell the roses once again.
His father’s hands on his cheeks interrupted his sleep. Mukesh had rubbed a sweet smelling powder all over his face.
“What is this Baba?” Abir giggled.
“Abir, this is abir (Powdered colour). This is yellow abir. Your face is all yellow. You look funny.” Mukesh laughed with his son.
“Now colour me if you can”, Mukesh placed a packet full of yellow abir (Powdered colour) in Abir’s lap.
Abir touched the colour. He could feel yellow in his hands. He took a handful of yellow, stooped forward in the direction of his father’s laughs, and smeared the colour all over his face and shirt. Nilima laughed hard by the door.
The three of them played with the yellow Abir all day.