Nelum was a little girl in a village which was far away from the city. There was a small forest, lakes, and a huge paddy field of rice. Therefore the village shone with a green colour. The bell of the temple rang early in the morning and the villagers began their daily work with the bell. Farmers were going to the paddy field and women went to the kitchen and lit the hearth for preparing their breakfast. The wind blew through the little forest and paddy fields to cool the village. Everyone could hear birds singing and the crowing of roosters informed the time for the villagers. They did not go to the city every day, but there was a bitumen road through the village with intercity linking, so they had access to the outside world.
There was a little house on the edge of the paddy field and it was very calm and no body spoke loudly there. That was the house in which Nelum was living. She had very long black hair and innocent eyes shining with happiness. Although she did not have a fair skin, she had nice features, and her physical beauty was burnished with her kindness. She got up early in the morning and walked through the paddy field near the house. She picked wild flowers and kissed them while murmuring a nice song. As well she did not forget to smile with them. She liked to smell the scent of beautiful flowers, and heavy dew on the petals glistened with the sunshine and they smiled with Nelum. She ran through the paddy field dancing. The line of her frock and her foot were wet by water drops from the paddy leaves. She never wore slippers when she walked through the paddy field. At those times her worries in the world were banished. Then she came to the house with a handful of beautiful flowers.
“Can you hear me? I am going to keep you in my beautiful vase,” she said to the flowers. Her eyes were momentarily lit up with happiness, but then she came down to earth and rushed into the house because she realized the time when she should be at school was near. “Where did you go today too? Don’t you understand what I am saying every day?” cried mother angrily because Nelum did not heed the mother’s word in the morning, and she continued decorating the vase which was in the sitting room. The vase was very beautiful with the fresh flowers. She was so happy and hoped to keep those flowers fresh for the whole day, but she knew she could not do it as she could see those flowers already withering in the dry climate.To preserve their beauty, she laid down on the floor and began drawing and colouring the flowers in the vase with chalks which she had got from a small cardboard box kept on a table in her bedroom with her school things, but she did not have all the colours necessary to depict them.
Normally Nelum went to the school by bus with her sister. She did not like to go to school and tried to tell lies to her mother and stay at home, but her mother identified her tricks and didn’t allow her to stay indoors on school days. When she came to the road to catch the school bus, she could imagine the face of a cruel school girl in the classroom. She had curly short hair with round eyes, her voice was sharp and body very thin. Actually she was like a witch.
Nelum came in to the classroom reluctantly and touched the desk with her small soft palm. She could feel that the wooden desk was very dirty with dust. She found a small paper and wiped the desk quickly. She hung the school bag on back side of the chair and sat down fearfully. She did not lift up her head and looked around the room furtively in search of the cruel girl.
“Nelum come with us, let’s play,” said one good girl who came in and offered her hand to join with them. But Nelum didn’t get a chance to say one word because that cruel girl came and was shouting nastily,“ Don’t talk with her. She has not got a father, her father has died, hoooo, hoooo.” That girl and others laughed while clapping. Nelum couldn’t tolerate criticism about her father’s death. Every day when she tried to make friendship with others the cruel girl disrupted it. She stood up quickly and walked out with downcast eyes. She came to the corridor and walked along with a vacant mind.
“Why do they laugh at my father’s death? He died because of the vehicle accident and my mother told me that he was a very decent person. Why .. why.. when will they stop this behaviour? ” Nelum cried and stayed under a big tree near the classroom. Her cheeks were wet by tears and she wiped them with the back side of the hand. She wanted to stay alone for a while. She thought for a very long time while unearthing the sandy floor by using her shoes. From time to time she looked at the sky through the tree branches. Sunshine fell on to her tear-stained face and her eyelashes were closed slowly. “Is father’s death a reason for disgrace? Again Nelum began to think and she couldn’t find an answer. Then she sat down on the big root of the tree and tried to close her tired eyes with tears. After a moment she could feel someone touch her head lovingly. She opened her eyes and identified the person. The teacher smiled gently and talked. Although Nelum loved the teacher, she disliked to study with other students in the classroom. She came back to the classroom while hiding behind the teacher’s dress.
After school, Nelum had to stay behind until her elder sister’s coming. She used that time for collecting wasted chalk in the dry ditch around the school buildings. She could find various colours of chalk, and she couldn’t notice time passing while practising this important hobby. As well she couldn’t remember even that her sister was waiting for her. She walked along the buildings searching for a full chalk and when she found one, her eyes were glistening with happiness but she couldn’t jump because her hands were full of broken chalks. She rushed to the beautiful pink coloured chalk and picked it up carefully. “Mad girl, you should bring a small bag. You forgot it. Enough for today. Next day I will bring a small bag,” she thought to herself.
“ Neluuuuum.. Neluuum...”…. “Oh, someone calls me?” Nelum turned back to see who was calling. A boy was running towards her looking intent. “Aren’t you going home today? See... your sister is waiting for you with fear and tears. She was afraid because you are missing. You are a bad girl, isn’t it?” the boy cried loudly. She had forgotten about meeting her sister, Nelum could understand her mistake. As she walked towards the bus-stop she carried her chalk secretly in the front pocket of her school bag, and occasionally wiped her face and brow with her coloured fingers. When she got close to her sister, she did not raise her head. Her hair was uncombed and face was colored with chalk. Nelum’s sister had planned to chide her but when she saw her innocent sister’s face, she was laughing, the anger flew away. The sister hugged and bent down to kiss her colored face and palms. Nelum was feeling her sister’s love for her.
Nelum’s sister was 8 years older than her. Therefore she was like a second mum for her. She was a tall girl with curly black hair, and always she helped with her mother’s work and took responsibility for Nelum, she gave orders to her little sister but was very kind. Nelum went to the classroom and came back with her school bag. The school bus was waiting for the two sisters’ coming. It was a very old government bus, and nobody could talk over the sound of the bus, it emitted black smoke from the backside and stirred up dust. The shutters of the bus were dirty and students were calling out through them. The two sisters got into the bus and went and stood in the center aisle. Not only the motor sound of the bus but also the noise of the students made it difficult for clear chatting with each other.
“ Please get your tickets. Please listen to me….” the conductor commanded again and again. He was a middle-aged man and always wore a green dust coat. His pointed whiskers aroused fear in the little students. Boys were interested in his old ticket machine and they peeped over his hand to observe it. He went from the front to the back of the bus checking one by one. Some of the students had a travelling card with a welfare price. So the two sisters also had travelling cards and the conductor came close to them to check it. When it came Nelum’s turn, she searched for the card in her school bag but couldn’t find it or anything else which belonged to her. She just thought about mother’s advice to always check your bag and she could imagine her mother’s face.
“What nonsense, My card is not here, not only the card everything is not here. What happened?” said Nelum. She searched again and again. Finally, she could find things but they did not belong to her, and she understood that the school bag was not hers. It happened because two bags were the same as each other with the same features. “My travelling card is not he..re..… this is not …. my… school …. bag,” she said looking at the conductor with fear. “Mad girl. What happened to your mind, ahh!” he shouted. Nelum looked down and began to cry with a low whimpering sound. She didn’t know what to do. Everyone in the bus laughed at her and whispered very bad hints. “Am I an unlucky girl? ” she thought. Suddenly Nelum’s sister rang the bell and the bus stopped. They got off the bus and ran back to the classroom, which was quite a distance. The sister did not say anything and went straight to the room. They could see a girl in the corner, she was crying and wondering where her missing schoolbag was. When she saw the two sisters with the bag, she was very happy but suddenly she tried to blame them. While anybody could see her happiness with the bag, at the same time that girl’s face was reddened with anger. Nelum’s eyes were glistening with happiness because her bag was also found. So they returned to the bus stop.
Nelum and her sister walked along the bitumen road because the school bus had gone without waiting for them. The road was very hot and she couldn’t tolerate it easily. She looked at the empty sky. There were no clouds to cover them from the sun. Nelum couldn’t carry her school bag any longer because of tiredness and gave it to the sister. Then the sister had to carry two school bags. But there was no other way as her little sister was the pet of the family, her mistakes were overlooked by senior family members causing her to be spoilt.
“ Wooow… Woooow. I can see water on the road, it’s like a small stream, can’t you see?” Nelum let go of her sister’s hand and began to run, it seemed amazing, but when the little girl got close to the stream on the road, it just disappeared. “Where is it, why can’t I see it, my dear?. Tell me .. please tell me” Nelum solicited. The sister couldn’t say any word and Nelum looked along the road again. “ Wooow I can see it again on another place. Can you see my dear” She screamed again and ran toward the small stream on the road, but It disappeared once more. This time Nelum was very sorry and looked at her sister for an answer to the big problem. The sister looked down to the little girl’s face and peeped into her shining eyes which had a puzzled expression. “Please listen to me' my dear. That was not a small stream. It is a mirage, my dear, There is no water, although it appears to be like a stream, it happens with hot weather.” Although Nelum couldn’t understand everything about mirages, she stopped bothering her sister. However, the mirage helped the little girl forget her tiredness from walking in the sun.
When they reached home the little girl forgot everything. She slept and did not know how many hours passed. When she awoke she could smell close body scent in the room and could understand her mother had come into the room after working. She loved very well her mother’s smell. Nelum opened the eyes slowly and looked around the room. The mother was not there but she could hear the murmuring of mother and her sister in the next room but couldn’t hear fully, they were talking about something quietly. Meanwhile she took the collected chalks with the new red colour from her school bag and stored them in the small cardboard box.
The darkness was spreading everywhere in the house and the wind came through the main door of and windows. So everyone could feel a little coolness and listen to the nice sound, because the wind blew through the paddy bushes near the house. Evening flowers were blossoming with a nice scent. The sister lit a few lamps and wind tried to blow out those lamps. The mother was going to bathe and she called Nelum. “My dear little girl, could you please come with me to the well. I cannot go alone. You can watch stars in the sky while I am bathing” she said. “Yes mama, let’s go,” and she grasped the mother’s hand. The mother and the sister winked at each other. They went to the well through the paddy field because the well was on the far edge of the field.
They came to the well. Nelum sat down on the little ridge of the paddy field while her mother was bathing. She could see a few stars in the sky. Some of them were brighter than others. Clouds came and covered them now and again. She was very happy and tried to move her eyes around the sky. Lots of bats were flying abreast information. She could hear the mother’s bathing sound from time to time but her mind was with the sky. Nelum began to reckon stars and bats in the sky and couldn’t remember where she was. Suddenly she could feel a cool touching. It was her mother’s loving hug. The mother kissed her and rubbed her head slowly. “My dear… you are my life. Please understand what I am saying.” Nelum also kissed her mother and cuddled gently. She could feel mother’s love very well.
“My dear daughter, your father died. He cannot come again. He was a very good person. I know your friends laugh at you while reminding you of your father’s death. Please ignore it. They do not know what death is and you too do not know. It is not a reason for disgrace.” Nelum did not say anything. Mother’s tears were absorbing through her frock. She looked up to see her mother’s face, but couldn’t because of darkness. She followed the mother’s steps and they came to home without any words. She stayed one more minute in the courtyard and looked up at the sky again. “One problem was solved …. father’s death. What about the other one …. mirage, what is that?” The image of the mirage and her father’s disappearance fused in her head and she realized all existences long or short are impermanent. Nelum closed her eyes peacefully for a moment and came into the house.
Author Notes: Because Nelum was the youngest and the pet of the family, she grew up unable to separate from the extended family. Her sister married and had a family. The unconditioned element, Nirvana is permanent.