Titli was the only daughter of her parents. They lived in a middle class, joint family, 30 km away from the main city of Kolkata. Although Titli was growing up among a houseful of people, she was a quiet child. Not many could tell if she was home or at school, as she was barely heard talking. She didn't have anyone of her age in the family. So she used to spend a lot of time playing on her own, making crafts out of clay or paper, or studying , while her mother used to be busy looking into family matters, and her dad in office.
Theirs was a big house (you don't get to see those kinds of houses these days in metros, because of lack of space). It had a long stretch of garden, half of which was bounded by the wall of the adjacent house, while the rest half ran along a big pond. During rainy seasons, the pond would often overflow and Titli would rush to watch how schools of fish would swim right across their gardens ! Titli would then imagine they were living in a boat house.
Her school was some 3 km away from home. An aged cycle-rickshaw puller, popularly known as Mona-da (Da stands for brother in Bengali ) in the locality, used to come daily to get her for school. Going to school on cycle rickshaw was a common practice those days there. Usually cycle-rickshaws could accommodate 2 people on the seat. But during their school duty hours the cycle rickshaw pullers would put a small bench on the foot-rest, and tie it up, and carry 3 more students there. Mona-da also used to do the same earlier. He was almost like an old family-acquaintance as he had served for Titli's aunts as well, when they were kids. But now, due to old age, he didn't provide too many duties. So Titli was the only school student he had. He couldn't afford to go to different houses and pull a rickshaw full of 5 people. He served Titli's family out of loyalty, and her parents too used to be free of any worries as they knew Mona-da would take care of Titli as his own grand-daughter.
So, Titli's commutes to school also used to be quiet ones...unlike other rickshaws where kids were mostly seen chattering.
One usual day, Titli (then in class 2) was riding the rickshaw to school. She suddenly saw there was water springing out like a very tiny fountain,from a hole on the road, and people were trying to fix it.
"What's happening there, Mona-dadu?" She asked . (Dadu is grandfather in Bengali)
Mona-Da, who was perhaps more than amused at the rare occasion of the kid speaking out, explained her enthusiastically, "ohh nothing big, child ! There's just some kind of leakage...they will fix it"
For Titli, however, it wasnt "just" any leakage. It was for the first time in her life that she was witnessing some thing like that. She kept staring at it, turning around, sitting in her rickshaw ..as long as her vision permitted. It looked like one of those natural springs in mountains, whose man made sketches she saw in books. The water that was coming out, was flowing across the road, eventually falling into a dirty roadside drain where it mingled with the blackish green water.
But Titli wasn't grossed out. She kept looking at the colourful ferns that had grown all along the drain, probably drawing nutrition from that flowing water. The ferns were of different shades of bright green and yellow, with grasses in between that would have small purple and red flowers. Suddenly, she noticed some tiny animal jumped from amidst the ferns into the drain, and swam off.
"Must be a little frog," she thought.
But almost simultaneously, her head was jolted with a thought that perhaps gave the first conscious goosebumps in her life. Was it necessary for that animal to be a frog ? Titli hadn't seen it properly. It could be something else, too. What ....if....liliputs did really exist after all ? What if it was a tiny human being ??
Titli turned back to look at those ferns and drain which were now running parallel to the route along which Mona-da was cycling his rickshaw. It took a few seconds for Titli to create a preamble to the world she was going to create. There was a spring from where fresh water oozed out, and would flow across rocky plains before meeting other streams of water to form a wide river.
The river had blackish green water...probably due to all the minerals and rocks, just like the Beas river in the Himalayas. One side of the river had stony, barren bank while the other side had bright green and yellow plants, with huge red and purple flowers in between...amidst which these tiny folks would often sit and take rest. As the rickshaw proceeded ...Titli saw there was an outlet from a cardboard mill, from.which water was gushing out, and flowing across some stones, forming a mini rapid, and was eventually falling into the drain.
"That's the waterfall!" She almost spoke out loud....before she quickly controlled herself.
So there was the waterfall , dancing across the hilly terrain. The folks would often walk up to here to collect water or wash their face , before resuming their work for the day. But, what would their work be ? Probably collecting small fruits throughout the day for their family at home, or cutting and carrying purple and red flowers on their shoulders to make handicrafts out of them and sell.
Titli became so fond of her new world that she almost started wishing this was true. Every day on her way to school she would look for new elements to add. Once she saw a new mushroom growing up among the ferns and hoped that one of the folks had put it there as it was raining too hard for him to hide just under the plants. One day she saw a small heap of garbage dumped before that mill outlet and felt bad there was this new hill now for them to cross, in order to reach the waterfall.
However, Titli was very sure she couldn't talk of this world to others. Nor did she want to. This was her precious little universe. "You see..if I suddenly tell others about you folks, the grown ups will think I'm crazy...." She had told the tiny people in her mind, "also, I don't talk much with others....so I won't be able to explain much verbally. So, I promise, give me time, I'll write about you all some day!"
Years passed by.
Titli was finishing up her office work fast as she had to join her colleagues for a house party.
"Yeah start the trip, please," she told her cab driver, as she opened the laptop to work on her emails, sitting inside the cab itself. She didn't even have time to stare out of the widow. Somehow wrapping up her work, she got down and reached the party venue.
"Titli !! Thank god you're finally here...come on in!" One of them said , welcoming her.
Some party song was already being played on speaker, with some people trying to decide which music to play next. Grabbing a bowl of snacks , Titli joined a bunch that was connecting a hard disk to the TV screen.
"Which movie, guys?" Titli asked, tired from her days work.
"Don't know yet...let's see..okay ! It's connected ! Let's see some relaxing movie..."said one of them .
As they browsed throught the movie list, Titli's eyes caught sight of one peculiar name "The Secret World of Arrietty". "Hey what's that one about ??" She asked , pointing to the movie, inquisitively.
"Ahh that...animation movie..good one. But definitely not for today's evening," chuckled a friend.
"Okay..put for some time na."Titli begged, now more curious.
The movie started. It was about a family of four Inch tall people , who called themselves "borrowers" as they lived by borrowing simple items from the real human beings (without much knowledge of theirs).
"Great concept huh? One of Hiromasa's best works." Said one of the movie buffs.
"Oh yeah...I love his movies," said another, who tried to look at Titli for her reaction about the movie since she was the one who had asked to put it.
But Titli was already standing up, gathering her bag.
"Hey...what? Where are you going?" They asked
"Sorry guys...I just remembered...well...just now," murmured Titli in a confused yet excited tone..as she looked for her shoes.."that..well..I have to write...I have some work "
"Work? What work! You said you finished all work ! And it's Friday ..man c'mon ! Sit back here", one of her friends urged.
"No I had promised some folks something long back....forgot about that...," Titli explained, now done with her shoes and carrying her bag.
"What did you promise?!" They asked
"That I'll write ," Titli smiled.
As Titli rode in her cab, she looked outside with a smile of confidence ! "If the great Hiromasa Yonebayashi thought this way...then I was never crazy !" She laughed in her mind.
"But yeah...it'll be tough to convince my readers that my idea was original and noway inspired by his movie !" She frowned a bit, still smiling though, as she thought of where to start her writing from....it was a distant memory after all.
Entering her room, Titli cleaned her table and opened the widow right beside it to let in fresh air. She came back with a cup of tea, and sat on her chair, ready to write. Just then she noticed, on the corner of her table, there was a very tiny kurchi flower lying. There was a kurchi plant right by the window which would get loaded with off white kurchi flowers in the summer nights, which would almost fill her room with fresh fragrance when the window was opened. Could there be enough breeze to blow one of the flowers to her table ? Could be. But Titli chose not to think it that way....
"Thank you," she said, smiling, as she picked up the flower and smelled it, "I know the flower was huge for your tiny shoulder to carry ! Don't you worry..friend, I'll write well about your world..."she said, as she opened her laptop on the table and began typing......