Short Story: Her Escape

Description: A little girl in the slums of Mumbai finds her own outlet to escape her crammed existence by using her imagination.

Submitted by: Suhita Mitra

There was a small gap in the roof from where Swati could look out.

Out into the world of vastness. A world so seemingly different from the tiny hovel of a place she shared with her loud and large family.

Swati was nine, big eyes, big curiosity, big wonder, in total contrast to her small frame, her spindly legs and dangly legs.

It was afternoon, in the big bustling city of Mumbai and for Swati, it was a tiny window period to look through the hole in the roof and let her imagination fly.

Tethered to the gliding forms of birds gliding gracefully across the sky.

The clouds would at times pass by, at times just the empty vastness of the sky, like a blank slate.

On which Swati could draw anything at all in her mind's eye.

She lay there and wondered of the possibilities!

She could think of anything whatsoever.

That day, she had seen a broken down horse who had worked her whole life and finally gave up under the hot tropical sun. Swati saw her galloping away, looking back at her and saying she is happy and free!

Swati smiled, sighed and her imagination followed through the small crack in the roof to the whole world waiting patiently for her to show up!

She joined the waves in the cool lapping waters of Juhu beach, she ran happily with the stray dog Meena, she stopped at the ice candy man and had her favorite cumin flavor candy as it dripped in careless abandon over her wrists and fingers.

The next instant she was transported in the swaying local train, whisking her away through the houses, skyscrapers, under flyovers, with mighty speed and loud rattling sounds as the wheels sped over the winding metal rails. Inside the train compartment, peddled different vendors with loud calls, offering the most amazing and colorful ware. There were too many things to choose from. From sparkly bracelets, to bright silken scarves, to nail cutters, to dolls, to kitchen cleaners!

Swati fancied a scarf and wore it fine. It was her dream, her journey, she did as she pleased.

Her face glowed, wrapped up in the pink wonder of the shiny fabric and she was happy!

At that moment, someone sneezed right next to her and startled her. Her little brother, lay silent beside her. What a menace he could be specially after a long slumber!

Swati carefully draped the thin sheet on his peaceful self and went back to her reverie, through the hole up in the roof!

She ventured away in so many places, even in Africa, Afghanistan, Siberia. In the wilderness, with the savanna animals, in the hot desert sands, and dipping her toes in the cold waters of the Baikal! She knew these places in bits and parts, thanks to the television channels, and thanks to the books she read in school.

But it was time. For her to disconnect from her journey and get up.

Help her Mom with the tea, to fetch the water, to buy the biscuits, to chop the vegetables, to wash some clothes, to help with the cooking.

After that it would be nightfall and the hole in the roof will be utter black.

The horse must have galloped far away and joined her kind in the biggest green pasture.

The waves in Juhu must be lapping away silently, waiting for Swati to return.

The trains would be still thundering across the tracks with fewer people and the vendors must be back in their own homes, resting, to start all over again.

The savannah would be quiet and cool and the Baikal would be resounding with howls of the mighty wolf clans!

Swati closed her eyes once again, knowing that everything will be just the way she loves them.

But now it's time to close her eyes and let sleep take her away to wherever it wished...

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