Published Essay


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 
you momentarily 
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 
never will. 

Reeti Roy