Far across the fields, where the night sky met the landscape, Kaashi curiously kept staring at the small, lit up windows of a train. It was like a long snake, spewing smoke, wrapped in a string of light. Her mother's voice sounded like a faint squeal as she called her in. Dressed in a shabby, ragged cotton dress, Kaashi, an eight year old lived in Dokragram, few hours from Simlipal, in Orissa. Her house, like everyone else’s she knew, was small, made of mud, and hardly had enough roof.
At a very young age Kaashi had mastered the art of making dokra crafts, beautiful, little brass coloured figures. She sells them in the market every day to the tourists who came to visit her village, to the small kids…some of her age, some older. Each day for the little girl bears the shadow of the previous, each sunrise rings the bell of monotony, each body bears exhaustion and every face reflects misery. Kaashi and her brothers, Shambhu and Bhanu, carry the same burden of fate shared by all the villagers. The other day while Kaashi was busy roasting the stencils, giving shape to the dokra items, and her father was busy guiding the tourists through the by-lanes, Bhanu started crying for the potato chips in the colourful blue packet, that one of the kids was having. He ran after his mother like a stubborn kid, screamed at her and threw the utensils away; but his mother turned a deaf ear. Kaashi clearly remembers how badly he was thrashed by her Baba for he had asked for things not meant for them; they deserved nothing better than boiled corns that formed a thick broth. Dokragram is a life without hopes and expectations.
Dusk happens to be her favourite time of the day. The workload ceases, no household chores to complete; she doesn’t have to sell her poverty to the tourists and pose for their cameras. She finds herself to be free from the clutches of reality when she sees the birds returning back to their nests. She runs away, across the fields, to catch a glimpse of the express trains. Kaashi loves watching a train when it passes by with a thunderous pace. Her imagination runs free, she imagines what the passengers must be doing inside the compartments, what would there lives be like? She feels the strong gust wind that blows across the field without any obstruction.
At times a flash of lightning or splatter of rain brings more solace to her heart.Kaashi lives in her imaginary world for these few hours, away from her home, that by the time of her arrival it is always lit up by a dim lantern, and her mother ready with the corn broth. Her hopes come alive every time she rests in the bosom of nature. Dusk is when she waits to create her own world, give a home to her thoughts, and touch here dreams of running away from this life filled with misery, just as she was promised by a lady who used to teach the children of her village. She was promised a better world where she can read and not burn her hands. Kaashi had worked hard to create a beautiful dokra turtle for her Memsaab when she left for the city, never to come back.It has been more than a year. She waits for her arrival every evening with the little flicker that dwells in her heart, all the while eagerly watching the express trains as they roll past her village.
Sketch By: Tejo Guna