The streets are full of the flurry of color and spices. Oranges and reds billowing through the air like flames dancing, the scent of cardamom and curry intoxicating us as we pass through them. The threatening word—“Industry”—hangs in the air like a dark cloud around a mountain. It looms over us with the threat of disrupting all that we know here. But we will not let it fade the colors of our festival or make our spirits cold, not today at least. The music stirs and we run, my friends and I, excitedly through the streets of our home as vendors set up their little shops, creating a path before us. We stop to look at the hand-crafted treasures glistening like all the jewels of India, hanging delicately around us like so many fragile eggs. Though beautiful, they are not made for loving; they are made to look at, souvenirs for the tourists, decorations in homes. If I were to hold them, they would shatter or break in the same way we scatter away with laughter and longing.
We have heard stories of white dolls; a certain richness in the ivory skin and pink cheeks. Dolls made of soft cotton with hair like golden sun and silk. Like our festivals, they are something bright and beautiful, something to feel and touch, hold and smell. We talk about the white dolls as if they would somehow dispel all the wrong with our world. We are interrupted from our daydreams as a vendor calls us over and happily gives us a taste of samosa. We happily accept. The taste is still in my mouth as I walk home. I remember that my father is to return today. He is there waiting when I walk through the door.
“Ah, bheta!” His voice booms, mellow and deep, a familiar sound that I at once revere and love. Today it is more love than reverence. He laughs as I run toward him and swings me up to his lap. “How have you been?” he really means “Have you been behaving yourself?”.
“Very good.” I answer. Truthfully.
I notice a box on the table beside him—white with pink ribbon. “This is for you.” He hands the box to me, excitement sparking in his eyes. I open it carefully and there inside is a doll—a white doll with pink cheeks and golden hair. She is beautiful on her own. She is beautiful because I can love her. She is something real and magical all at once. “So you like her then?” A huge smile has stretched itself across my father’s face.
“Very much! Oh, thank you Papa!” I feel like words have been taken from me because I am so overjoyed.
My mother calls us to dinner. We all eat and talk of our day. We are happy when we talk about the festival and more somber when we discuss the changes of our country.
“We have much to make this into an even prouder place.” The adults are going on about political things, matters of “importance”.
I am beside myself the whole meal. I think about my doll, about showing her to my friends. I think about how much I have, what a proud place my heart is right now—whatever is happening outside its boundaries, I feel that there is enough joy in it to fuel the world.
Not too much later that night, after we have finished with the things of the day, as I am lying down in my bed, I take my doll in my arms and whisper in her ear “Sweet dreams, Belinda.”