Rainbow Loom Bracelet by K Srilata

For a long time, it had seemed to her that the others knew things she didn’t, that they were born knowing those things and that she, Tyrex, had been born not knowing those things. It didn’t appear likely that she would make it to that happy garden which the other children inhabited. But her mother, ever hopeful, had put her into this new place where they promised to get children into that garden eventually. Tyrex whose official name was Rekha, thought of it as a place, for it was not a school. Most certainly not. In school one did proper subjects such as Maths, History and Science. Tyrex knew what school was. She was a veteran. Her stomach had hurt all the time she was in proper school. In this place though, her stomach did not hurt. There was one downside though. This place could get mind-numbingly boring. At least, that was how it had been in the days before Sameeha had joined.


Children in this place were required to spend the first half of the day rolling on the floor and breathing funnily – through alternate nostrils. Sometimes, Tyrex and the others got to walk around the playground on tiptoe. This was a treat, relatively speaking. They had a name for all the stuff they did but Tyrex couldn’t say it.


The adults in charge of them were not unfriendly. They were just unimaginative and frazzled. They flapped about like penguins as they persuaded them to get on with it. It was Sameeha who had first observed their resemblance to penguins. She had been admitted to the place a few months after Tyrex. There were ten of them, in all. Six boys, two other girls – twins who kept to themselves, Sameeha and Tyrex.


Sameeha’s skin was like ebony and her hair, frizzy beyond belief, reminded Tyrex of the pine trees in the hill town where her father lived and wrote his stories. Tyrex had got in the way of his writing and so he had left them. Tyrex and her mum lived by themselves in a small apartment. Her mother worked as a teacher in a school. She had, at one point, tried to get Tyrex into that school but the school would have nothing to do with a child like Tyrex. Liza, rosy-cheeked and smart as they come, went to that school. But then Liza was a normal child. Tyrex, who knew it was wrong to hate people, could not help hating Liza. Liza, who lived downstairs with her smart parents, was miles ahead of her, always would be. There was no question of catching up. Not ever. One way in which you could think of Sameeha was that she was the antonym of Liza. This said, however, ten Lizas put together could not beat Sameeha’s imagination. ‘Look! They are like penguins!’ she had declared, and they had giggled uncontrollably. They had become soul sisters soon after that, rolling on the floor together, breathing through alternate nostrils in hysterical unison and closely examining each other’s moles. In short, they had fun and fun was certainly not what the place meant them to have. The penguins had far too much to do. Ten kids with odd minds and this included a boy who peed in his pants just for larks, lazy ayahs who rolled their hips as they walked, a one-eyed watchman who snored on the job and the heat … really, what could you do in that heat?


One hot summer afternoon, Tyrex had kissed Sameeha and they had both giggled. What followed were rainbow loom bands made on the sly when the penguins were otherwise occupied. Sameeha’s mother had bought her a kit and she had sneaked it into the place. They fashioned the bands over lunch – the two of them, their strong, little hands moving rapidly against time. When the penguins called out to them, they took a whole minute to gaze at the amazing twirls they had created, fragile, shot through with colour, heart-breakingly beautiful.


A year and a half after Sameeha had sneaked in her first rainbow loom kit, Tyrex had eventually made it to normal. At least in the eyes of her mother who had pulled her out of the place in a grand burst of energy and got her enrolled in a proper school and into a grade meant for children a couple of years younger. But that was alright, her mother said. It would be easier on her little Tyrex. Yes, Tyrex could do it. Hopefully. Fingers crossed. If all went well.


Her mother had more grey hair than black and this was how it had been for a long time. Though no one had ever said so, Tyrex was sure this had to do with her. Sameeha’s mother was the same. All the mothers of the children in that place had more grey hair than black. That was just the way it was. And one never saw the fathers. That too was just the way it was. The children owed their mothers. Tyrex owed her mother.


And partly for that reason, and partly because she had no choice, she had had to make that terrifying leap. For Normal stood on the other side of the canyon. She would be safe inside that happy garden if she made the effortIf all went well, her mother’s hair would become pitch black like Liza’s mother’s. Leap, Tyrex, leap. Don’t look back. Enter the happy garden. Become exactly like the others.


Her last day in that place. Sameeha had made her a rainbow loom bracelet. It was a bracelet to die for. This one had all the rainbow colours.


Tyrex slipped the little rainbow quietly around her wrist. She would never ever take this off. Never ever. Not even if the penguins in her new school insisted.


‘Bye Sameeha! See you soon!’ Trite, hollow words. It was only afterwards that she had thought of the right words to say. Leap, Sameeha, leap. Don’t look back. Follow me to the happy garden. Together, let us become exactly like the others.



K Srilata
is a poet, fiction writer and Professor of English at IIT Madras. She was a writer in residence at Sangam house and at the University of Stirling, Scotland. Her debut novel Table for Four, Penguin, 2011 was long listed for the Man Asia literary prize.