Black and Dull Slate
by Shatakshi Anand
Kavita sat on her terrace and was busy scribbling on the floor with tiny stubs of chalks. She would collect a hand full of stubs which were meant to be thrown from her school. She used to quietly tie them in her handkerchief and bring home. Kavita had just completed the drawing of a girl with two ponytails. Like any other Indian student, even the sketch had mathematical calculations and flying alphabets all around her head.
Suddenly Kavita saw her uncle, and she started clapping her hands and jumping. Their house and her uncle’s house had same verandah but two different terraces. Uncle was like a Santa Claus to kavita and her sisters, as he always came with gifts and surprises. Kavita rushed down to inform every one that their Santa had returned from town.
In the evening when Kavita was trying to immerse folded bread and butter in her small cup of tea, her uncle came to their home. The immersion, like a scientific phenomenon had caused the tea to spill on her dress and table. With sticky hand and mouth, she went and touched her uncle’s feet. Uncle laughed at her state and patted her.
All the four sisters now sat in front of uncle in descending order and anticipated their turn. Kavita's eyes suddenly went to a place from where she had no coming back. Her uncle had a slate in his gift sack. Now kavita wanted that by any means. It was strange that how the colourful bangles and slippers that had always caught kavita’s attention meant nothing in front of that black dull slate. She started imagining how she would use it.
She thought of writing her mother’s name in it first and imagined how happy her illiterate mother would be. Then she thought that this would make her father jealous so she changed the idea. Then she thought of writing her name and hanging it over her bed. After many conflicts she decided to use it as nameplate of the house and write the name of all 6 people.
While the child build castle’s in air, uncle started to give away the gifts. Kavita thought that if the elder sister got the slate then? Then she thought that badi di loved Kavita the most. She would definitely give the chance to use it to her. But for that Kavita would need to listen to her daily, get up in the morning, keep herself clean, the list was so long. But then a sigh of relief came when uncle took out a florescent green chunni and placed it on her sister’s hand. A beautiful chunni with glass works and shells in it made
the eldest sister so happy and rest jealous but Kavita was happiest.
Now it was the turn of the second sister, someone Kavita hated. She always used to fight with her. Last night also she had a fight and Kavita had scratched her with her nails. Things would never work out with her. She would never give Kavita the slate. She would always tease her. Kavita started praying hard to her lord Krishna. Kavita would have to apologise to this witch to get to touch the slate. But Kavita was soon out of this mess when uncle placed a dozen of colourful bangles in her hand. She stared at Kavita with proud eyes as she knew that kavita loved bangles. But the charm in Kavita’s eyes made her feel uncomfortable.
Kavita had now just one more hurdle. This sister of hers’ was in Kavita’s class itself. So their need of slate would often clash and she may get very less opportunities to write her thoughts out but still she had to adjust but her heart was not able to compromise. She wanted the slate. Kavita reached cloud 9 when she saw uncle giving her blue slippers with a big pink butterfly made on it. Kavita’s crooked teeth began to show automatically. The slate was hers she could use it the way she wanted. Entire day it would be name plate but at night it would be with Kavita and she would write, solve, draw and do anything. She will not share it with anyone. She would religiously wipe it with wet handkerchief.
But to her worst surprise, uncle gave ribbons to Kavita. The Ribbons were of different colours, as many as 12 colours. She would tie her hair with different ribbons matching with her dress. None of her sisters had ever had so many ribbons. There were so many things to be happy about but Kavita was not happy, Kavita was upset. But the slate still lay in their uncle’s bag who no more appeared Santa to her. While taking the last sip of tea, uncle got up and said, “See I had brought this slate for my daughter but I forgot to give her last night. Neither did she ask. These children are very happy if you give them playful things but they don’t understand the importance of things like slate, books pens.”
Kavita’s mother nodded to this and with a brief goodbye, Kavita’s uncle left, leaving her all in tears. A pearl drop of tear fell from her eyes. She ran to the terrace and while sobbing, she took out her stubs of chalk and drew tear drops on the face of the girl with two ponytails.