Children

The monster in the head

There was a monster in Avni’s head. It had been there for years. Avni didn’t know what it looked like; she only knew its voice. The monster had spoken in sudden short bursts when Avni was younger but now its voice was stronger. Sometimes Avni and the monster said the same things. When Avni screamed in joy on the amusement park rides, the monster did the same in her head.

But this didn’t often happen. Usually the monster said things that Avni couldn’t. Avni could never have said, ‘That’s not fair!’ when Ayesha quarrelled with her. But the monster could and did. The monster’s words comforted Avni, but she wanted more. She wanted to speak aloud the things the monster said inside her head. When people called her dark, Avni longed to shout, ‘Meanies!’ But it was the monster who did it.

Unable to protest

The monster in the head

Avni wanted to protest when people did things she didn’t like. When Sujal Uncle pulled her on his lap, she wanted to shout, ‘Let me go!’ But she just couldn’t; it was the monster who said it.

She was wishing she had the monster’s courage when she walked to Gopi Uncle’s shop for milk.

“Come and get it,” Gopi Uncle said. Inside her head, the monster began muttering.

Avni was reaching into the fridge when she felt Gopi Uncle’s arms snake around her. The monster leapt to roaring life. ‘Stop it!’ it shouted. ‘Don’t touch me!’ Avni stood frozen with fear. It was only when the monster shouted ‘Run!’ that she broke free and ran, the milk forgotten.

Ai was annoyed when she returned without the milk but Avni heard nothing because her head was filled with the monster’s shouts of rage. She was glad someone was saying what needed to be said.

But the monster seemed to be getting weaker; it only said a few mild words when Avni was teased about being fat and nothing at all when she was called names.

Was the monster in her head going away? Avni had always been afraid it would. What would she do without the voice in her head telling her when things were wrong or unfair?

She was thinking so hard that she barely noticed Sujal Uncle walk in. She was laughingly grabbed and plonked on his lap. Now, Avni thought, the monster would wake and shout all the things she wanted to but didn’t dare to. But there was only resounding silence in her head. Avni knew the monster had truly fallen silent. And it was her fault.

The loss filled her with sudden rage and she pushed away from Sujal Uncle. “Don’t!” she shouted. “I don’t like it!” Miraculously, the monster in her head was awake; it was shouting with her. For the first time, Avni knew that she was heard. Then she knew that the monster in her head was her, it had always been her. Only this time she had dared to speak up.

And that had made all the difference.

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Printable version | Aug 11, 2020 5:58:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/the-monster-in-the-head/article32017390.ece

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