The first story that I can remember being told to me is ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. Little Reeti
Roy, all of three, would sit on her father’s knee, wide-eyed with wonder.
“Go to sleep, my angel, I’ll read the rest of the story out to you tomorrow, otherwise Wee
Willie Winky will come and get you. He doesn’t like children who are up past their bedtime”
my father would say. I would shudder at the thought of horrid Wee Willie Winky and then
fall asleep thinking of Red Riding Hood and her beautiful brown basket full of goodies, her
polished black shoes, her oh-so-pretty dress, her light brown hair and rosy cheeks...
“Wake up, sleepyhead. Today, I’m going to tell you the story about a magic Golden Dragon.
“Really? Where does it live, Baba?”
“Oh, it lives in here, in Kolkata, but you can’t see it. It is afraid of human beings, so it won’t appear in front of you. But you know, the Golden Dragon loves Broccoli. If you don’t finish
yours, it’ll eat it all up.” Gobble…gobble…gobble...and voila! There would be no broccoli
left on my plate.
Another time, Baba told me that fairies danced with the goblins in the moonlight, and that
toadstools were actually meant for their tea parties. I felt deprived after listening to
these tales. Why couldn’t I be as small?
So you see, this was the clever ploy employed by Baba to make sure I did exactly what I was
supposed to. He never yelled at me but merely spun yards and yards of magical tales...tales that I was enthralled by...tales that I grew up listening to.
I grew up in a huge house-one of the few remaining ancestral mansions in Kolkata. As a
result, there were big palm trees that swayed to the breeze, big banyan trees, which according
to Ma, housed ‘Brahmadaityas’ (Brahmins who died and became ghosts). The house had
been built by my great-grandfather and some parts of it were so dilapidated that you couldn’t
even imagine human inhabitancy here. There were cobwebs on the wall, lizards, bats,
squirrels and even snakes all over the place. But this is what made my growing up years
magical and full of mystery. There was a hidden tunnel in my bathroom which led to a small
room. Ever since, whenever I wanted to shut myself away from the world, I would seek
solace in that small room. During one such phase of seclusion, I came up with a poem.
Dream on, you silly child, it shall not last.
What stories have you been told
of far, far away?
Dragons, unicorns, magic wands...
What will happen when you know
that they don’t exist?
What do you do, when you realize
that your whole life has been
a finely woven web of lies?
Simple lies that you were told
so that you would not cry.
You cried, nevertheless...
You cried aloud when your peacock died...
and also when the sun didn’t shine when you wanted it to.
Was it worth it?
Was it worth telling you stories that would silence
but haunt you till the end of time?
In retrospect, this made me wonder...had I become a cynic? Had the fact that my parents had
told me so many stories affected me so deeply that when the harsh reality looked me in the
eye, I couldn’t deal with it? It took me a while to distinguish between fiction and reality. How
could fairytales be my reality?
And then, Baba told me something that I will never forget. “My angel, it is what you
CHOOSE to believe in that makes all the difference. Have faith, believe, and everything will
become crystal clear.”
I’m eighteen years old now, struggling with the pressures of everyday life and learning new
things with each passing day. But what I know for sure is that what you believe in makes you
who you are. So, never stop believing. And never stop having faith in yourself. I know I