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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Colourman, colourman...

...what colour are you? They are playing 'Colourman', where the Colourman 'changes his colours' and catches anyone who is not his colour. You can become his colour by touching something of that colour and holding on to it.
The kid who's the 'Colourman' yells, "Pink!" and runs after one of the others. That kid dodges frantically, taps a senior on her shoulder, borrows her pink handkerchief and holds on to it for dear life. The others run to her and claw at the handkerchief as well. One kid is too far away, and the Colourman kid runs after her. This kid finally spies my water bottle, parts of which are pink. She runs to me and holds on to the pink section of my bottle. I smile, as this is exactly the sort of thing we did when we were in pre and lower primary, and didn't know how to run relay races or play badminton and kabaddi and other grown-up games; or walk around and talk. I stop my solitary stroll and decide to eat the rest of my food while watching them. 
I sit on the red concrete border around the garden, the red and pink bougainvillea bending over me and sweet winter sunshine hitting my back from between the branches. As soon as the last kid finds something pink, the Colourman yells, "Yellow!", and runs towards the kid with my bottle, and everyone dashes away to find something of the newly proclaimed colour of their precious freedom. 
My classmates Nandini, Urbi, and Anushua have finished eating and are running a relay race with some others. What the kid doesn't notice is that Nandini has left her tiffin box with me, and it is yellow. As she dashes away she turns back to say 'thank you’ and dashes back as she notices it. All her friends now run towards me, and grab Nandini's box. But one kid is too late. She hasn't managed to turn yellow, and the Colourman catches her. He is now free from the curse, and she is the new Colourman. But the freed girl has to run for her life now. The new Colourman proclaims his colour to be brown. "Easy, very easy!” they all yell, as they run towards the trees. 
I grope around the inside of my tiffin box, and look down and snap it shut as I realise that I've eaten it all up. I notice that I can't join the relay race. They are playing in teams of four, and have an exact multiple. I'll need to find three more girls before I can join. I think of playing with the kids, but it wouldn't be a fair game with them. Nor do I feel like sitting and talking. So I rise and walk towards the field, watching people play. I take in the colours around me, the orange and red of the school building, the blue and white of the uniform, the green of the grass and plants, and the joyous, multicoloured bloom in the gardens; and the gifts of colours, of sight, make their importance felt anew to me. I realise afresh that they are a privilege, not a right. 
I look down at the mystery novelette I borrowed from the school library. Something about a blue crab by an author I've never read before. And I realise I'd forgotten the blue of the sky, and along with it the wispy white of the clouds and the soft, reassuring yellow of the shivering winter sun. I look up at them and smile, and then I sit down on the field, set down our food boxes: Nandini's yellow, mine peach. I take a sip from my grey and pink bottle, and then set that down too. Then I open my book, and lose myself in the mystery of the blue crab, enjoying the company of my long-lost friend, the 'Colourman'.

(Based on reality, Image courtesy Google Images).

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