Do you know the feeling you get when you eat a strawberry candy filled with strawberry juice? The way it fills your senses, the moment it bursts, and then melts, leaving your taste buds tangy and the tongue- 'reddish or dark pink'.

That is how I used to feel, when I saw those pretty ladies outside. I was five, and their flashy ensemble with red cheeks and glossy lips looked charming. I could feel it in the corners of my mouth. I always wanted to own the shiny little magical potions they applied.

Their mouth must taste like that strawberry candy, I told myself.

I used to eat beetle leaf, the strawberry candy or orange bar ice cream just to get those pink, red or orange lips. That would bring me closer to those goddesses of beauty. My mother scolded me whenever I tried and acted like this, or what she called 'acted above my age'.

I dreamed of me being declared ‘Miss India’ and the only thing visible in those glimpses of bliss were my shiny red lips. At nine, I had once caught hold of this magical stick in the closet. And I came out looking like a chimp.

Now at thirteen, my childhood antics make me feel so stupid. Though, till last year they all thought of me as a kid. I realized one grows up very fast. It took me just a night. I slept as a girl but, woke up like a woman.

In school, when I participated in the dance competition, the first fascinating thought that came to my mind was 'make up'. I could officially put on the red thing on my lips now, I thought. The first peck on my cheek by Thanna Ammaa sent chills down my spine. She smelled like vanilla, like the bakery shop round the street.

All these and many more random thoughts came to my mind that night.

Sitting on the bed full of rose petals. My hands painted red, with alta. The gajra in my hair, the red nail paint, the red of my lips flushed my cheeks. He came that night. I curled a bit.

He came closer, tasted my lips and whispered "strawberry-licious."

But, for the first time I craved for something else. Was this the reality I always wished for?

Red 'I was' in mind body and soul. But mark of vermilion never touched me the way it did the rest.


Every hour, four women and girls in India enter prostitution, three of them against their will

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