The house sunk into gradual silence, the commotion slowly tiring and fading into the soft sounds of her rhythmic breath. Cuddling her pillow, she slept with immense peace on her face. I wondered what was she dreaming, where did her dreams take her.
As I prepared to retire to bed, I saw her paint brushes lying in our toothbrush holder, a bright blue cup with her favorite cartoon Leo, the Lion King’s yellow head on the handle. Streaks of colour remained on her brushes, the bright orange that she had used to paint the Diwali diyas and which had smeared a little on her neck and behind her ears. Like every girl, young or old, she had carved a set of her own traditions. One of them was painting diyas for decoration, every Diwali. It was one of the few things that managed to engage her and keep her interested.
You can always make out the age of the kid in the household by just observing their house. My house did not seem to age, our walls crowded with her small doodles, cupboards with Barbie stickers. Her smell that lingered on my clothes was the fragrance of a small baby, pure, sweet and had the mellow warmth of a hug.
She loved to have guests at home, cousins, even my extended family, she yearned love from every possible source. Another one of her traditions was to write letters. On the last night of their stay, she would grab me to one corner, asking for help to write a letter. She would take her glitter pens, tear a page from her notebook and start writing. It always amazed me how easily she could express herself, say ‘I love you’, ‘I miss you’. For her, the tough part was getting the spellings right. Each letter would have a highlight, usually her favorite memory of those few days, unique for each guest. When the time of goodbyes did come, she would hide in one corner or take them separately to her room, give them a tight hug and then hand them the letter. It becomes very difficult to react to that kind of love, love that is so pure and innocent. I have understood that just saying ‘I love you’ is enough. She believes in what she says, every time, for she is unable to understand the reluctance that grows as we age into mature adults.
One thing about her never ceases to surprise me is her smile – uninhibited, free, true as if it mirrored her heart. I have never come across her sulking like other teenagers do. Even when she gets upset, it takes just one small smile, and then she breaks into her laugh, very easily. When I get worried or sad, she senses it, walks in and fills the room with her inexplicable infectious mirth. Her big round eyes would peer deep inside you, the sparkle in them erasing all your worries. She would demand you look at her while you speak, ensuring she gets your complete attention and in return she gifts her a precious smile. Every night, before going to bed, she would come and ask for a tight hug. She would hold me tight for sometime, before gingerly kissing me. She would say, ‘I love you, Papa’, her innocent eyes blinking slowly, in anticipation of a simple smile.
Dedicated to all the special children, Love is all they want.