The cool breeze invigorated me, and I began to flutter. A few hours ago, an artist had worked his magic on me with his elegant brushstrokes. I stood at a busy intersection, watching the world whizz by, wondering what message I displayed on my white body. If only someone paused by and read it aloud. Maybe they would, I reasoned with myself. After all, the day had just begun.
The sun’s rays peeked through the overcast sky, bathing the clouds in subdued hues of grey. But try as I might, I couldn’t shake off the sense of foreboding that gripped me. Maybe I was overthinking.
A couple of office-goers on bikes jumped the red signal. An auto driver braked on time, hurling profanities at the unfortunate pedestrian. Why do humans drag their mothers and sisters when enraged, I wondered not for the last time. But I knew that the day had started on a usual note. Relief filled me as I waved aside the apprehension.
A school bus stopped in front of me, and a little girl in pigtails peeped out from the window.
“Look what’s written there,” she said to her friends, pointing her finger towards me.
Delighted at being the centre of attention, I swayed my body.
“I … N … T,” she began.
“International Women’s Day,” a saree-clad woman pitched in, adjusting her glasses. But before she could read further, the bus moved forward and sped away.
My joy knew no bounds. I was conveying an important message to women on their special day. How I wished the bus had stopped for a few seconds more. The teacher could have read out the writing on my canvas.
I waited. For the next bus. For the next curious child. But the day just flashed by. A few women looked at me, but I couldn’t understand why they shook their heads ruefully. Was that a smirk I discerned on their otherwise impassive faces? The sense of foreboding returned to haunt me.
Suddenly a gust of wind blew from the south, catching me unawares. In my state of turmoil, I didn’t see the red Honda Activa speeding towards the intersection. I flapped one last time and fell.
The next few harrowing seconds went by in a blur.
My white body didn’t hit the street. Instead, it came into contact with what I realised later was a woman. The screeching of the scooter was followed by the din of metal clashing against concrete. But my ordeal didn’t end until the cries of the young girl caught under the monstrous-looking lorry’s wheels died down.
A tea vendor rushed to the spot, picked me up, and tossed me over the divider. Vehicles stopped, and people stepped out. I strained to hear what they were saying. Amidst the brouhaha, I caught words like MLA, illegal, and banner. I lay there, destroyed and ignored. It was not my fault, but why did I still smell the girl’s blood on me?