Aparajita lived in a little house in a big city. Her parents called her Appu. She loved her bedtime routine where her mother would bathe her and tuck her in bed and her father would read her a bedtime story. Then they would kiss her good night, switch off the lights and leave the room.
However, one night Appu’s parents were surprised to hear her say, “Don’t switch off the light, Mama.”
“You mustn’t be afraid of the dark, Appu. You are a big girl now,” said Appu’s dad as he switched off the light. Appu screamed in fear. Her parents tried to convince her and console her, but to no avail. Much against their will, they agreed that Appu could sleep with the light on. But, she was not happy. Something was bothering her and she couldn’t quite put her finger on it
“I can’t understand it,” Appu told her best friend Kiran.
“I scored 100 in math and Mama baked a chocolate cake and Papa bought me Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. But I’m not happy. There’s something missing.”
“Weird! You should be on top of the world. Your life seems like a dream.”
“Hey, that’s it.” Appu screamed. “I haven’t dreamt in a long time.”
That night, after her bedtime story, Appu wondered aloud why she was not able to dream anymore.
“It’s because the light is making me feel sick and weak.” said a feeble voice behind her.
“Who are you? Where are you?” Appu whispered.
“I’m the dream maker, Eskay and I’m ill. Look behind your pillow.”
Appu moved the pillow and saw a thumb sized creature as delicate as a butterfly wing with a gentle face and small dainty fingers. The creature was busy knitting a fabric that seemed to hold light within it. After barely a minute, however it seemed to tire and it let its head fall back on the bed.
“What’s wrong, little man?”
“I feel so tired, I can’t work anymore.” Eskay murmured weakly.
“What work are you trying to do, Eskay?”
“I’m trying to weave your dreams.”
“These are my dreams?!” Appu said in awe, touching the fabric. Barely had she touched it than it dissolved in to silvery dust and fell to the floor.
“Oh” she said disappointed
“Dreams are delicate,” said Eskay softly.
“But why are you looking so weak, Eskay?”
“It’s all because of you, little girl.”
“Huh? But I haven’t even seen you before!”
“That’s the problem. “Nobody looks at us, nobody talks to us. That does not matter but why must you harass me?”
“Please tell me who you are and what I am supposed to have done,” said Appu guiltily.
“We dream makers are an ancient breed of artisans. Unlike our enemies, the nightmare makers, the work we do is delicate and requires skill and concentration. Each time a baby is born, our king assigns one of us and we stay with that human for his or her entire life. We rest in the day and at night, we use the dark for illumination and we weave dreams.”
Aparajita was fascinated. “What happens if the lights are on?” she queried.
“Dark is to us what light is to humans. Try to imagine reading in the dark all the time. Your eyes get strained, you get a headache, you feel tired and stressed. That is what happens to us when we work in the light.”
“But how about when we nap in the afternoon?
“Afternoon nap dreams are made by trainee dream makers. They work for a shorter time and their work is less fine. Also, at the beginning of our careers our eyes can handle both light and dark.”
“I used to make good dreams for you, Appu. But in the light, I cannot. That is why you have not been dreaming lately. Why do you want the lights on?”
“I’m.... I’m scared of the dark.”
“Scared of the dark? There is nothing to be afraid of. Just a lot of little guys like me working hard to make people’s sleep beautiful.”
“I’m going to turn off the light and go to sleep now.”
The next evening Appu’s dad read her Haroun and the Sea of Stories and her mum tucked her in.
They kissed her good night and were about to leave the room when Appu said, “You can turn off the lights, mummy.” Appu’s parents smiled at each other, pleased. After they had left the room, Appu peeped under her pillow. The dream maker was getting ready to weave dreams for her.