Well, the summers are really too hot in these parts of the world. Almost a week passed to my summer training, at Tata steel, Jamshedpur. We did go to the lime plant, and the hours after that were too tiring. We signify me and Adarsh, a colleague. Slept off most part of the afternoon. And then suddenly, it strikes him to hit a new movie at Eyelex that night. The show held us for two long, boring hours. We were returning at around 8 in the evening.
We caught an auto from Dimna to Sakchi. The auto had us both, the driver and another small guy, probably 6-7 years old. He barely spoke throughout the journey. Just after some time, the boy decides to get down, and that’s when he could be well spotted!!! His clothes barely covered his body, covered up with dust and sweat. He tidies himself a bit, puts a rather complacent air on myself, and after three tries, finally gets the pocket in which he kept a folded 10 rupees.
Gosh, the guy never blinked, and the eyes were hooked upon the 10rs when it travelled from his hands to the autowala’s. Suddenly, the smiley face gets tensed! The autowala said the trip was of 10rs. But, no, little genius knew his routes well. I remember that expression. “Oh babu, daily jata hun, panch hi rupaye lagta hai. Chal lauta 5.” (Oh, I go daily by this route, it takes only 5rs. Return me a 5.)
And the autowala returns a polite 5 to this 7 year old man. Adarsh and I were half laughing and half amazed!!! That certainly declined his image of a sweet boy enjoying the winds as the auto paced. We decided to get down with him.
I called upon our man and asked “naam kya hai tumhara babu?” (What’s your name boy?)
He replied “Anwar, kyun?” (Anwar, why?)
And I asked where did he live? To that he pointed a finger do a distance. His home, not even a qualifying shelter, was a mixture of some bricks and an asbestos overhead, lost within an ocean of the same. It was the slums. Well, that hurt.
But then he breaks the silence and says, “Lekin jaruri nhi hai ussi mein hi rahe, ham, ushi line me hi jahan chahe waha so jata hai.” (It’s not necessarily there. I can sleep wherever I wish to in that area.) and his air was back with a smile!!! His attitude somehow forced a smile on me. I asked where he came from then? To which he replied, “I work at a brick loading site some way from here.” Something hit me real hard.
He seemed to be in a rush. Adarsh bulged in and asked.. “acha bata, agar tujhe 10 rupaye dun, toh tu kya karega?” (Lets say I give you a 10rs note, what will you do with it?) The kid stopped and heard attentively for the first time. He said, “sahi mein doge?”(Are u giving it for true?) And we both nodded. He said, “Well, I would grab chocolates for all of it.” (Mein chocolates le lungapura 10 rupayeka.) Adarsh teases him, “Aur agar tujhe 100 rupaye dun.. tab?” (And if I give you a hundred?) He stares for some time, gathers his senses back, then smiles again, and points out to a sweets shop which had a banner hung outside, “Malaikulfi.. 50rs.”
Adarsh was numb, he too knew that we could eat these malaikulfi’s without even a thought. Our man, after a month’s tedious work, would have his malaikulfi reward, and ready himself for the next. I felt choked, and it felt worse to see our man’s grin, and his wish reflected from his startled eyes. I smiled to myself and walked him through the glass door. His malaikulfi was ready in 5 minutes. He held on to the kulfi, and the whole time, his attention was not deviated. He didn’t blink this time either. Neither did he feel the awkward reactions of people. Everyone made way for him, and well, he would feel royal about it! One could see wealthy people in there, feeding their kids generously, asking “Aurkuch loge beta?Aur kulfi khana hai?”(Do u want to eat something else son? Want some more kulfi?)
While relishing on his delicacy, rather his dream, he talked us through his life. He was elder to the youngest of the seven children born to a couple down there, somewhere in the slums. He rarely sees his father.
When he ain’t working, you can see this free bird play around the streets.
Most of us come across his kind daily. They probably get in the way every time we drive through those roads. We see them, we scorn, but we never observe. He had a few burn marks, guess his ragged clothes did properly hide the most part of it. His palms had cuts and scars, impressions of his daily tedious struggle. He never found schooling a viable option. And I couldn’t miss his uncomplicated smile when he said, “Pura Namaz padhna ata hai hamme. Mujhe school jana pasand nahi. Bapu kehta hai kaam karle, toh hum karlete hein. Paisa bhi milta hai mujhe.” (I can read the whole Namaz. But I don’t like going to school. Dad said to earn something, and I found myself a job.)
And Adarsh sat the same, numb duck as before when I looked at him for a reply. We were getting hopeless last night, thinking about jobs, discussing about dreads of unemployed careers. Pretty ironic. He probably didn’t see much of this world, but the world he lived in, he lived it to his fullest.
For a boy of 7, he could do really good math! He said he could count well, again with an awkward pride, though he used his fingers. We asked him some small additions just as a past time, and to our surprise, he answered them all correct. Adarsh just had one sigh, “I didn’t know so much maths at this age!”
I had asked the last question, we weren’t in a mood to ask thereafter.“Yehbta tu bakike 50 rupayekakyakarega?”(U didn’t say what you would do of the rest 50?) Our man stumbled on words, for the first time! He had no definite idea what he would do. It was obvious he never had to spend a 50r rupee note at once. He tried getting most of his wishes, as many he could to fit. “Ek chocolate..nhinhi.. 7 chocolates” (1 chocolate..nopes! I would have 7 chocolates) he would say, amongst other small things, which didn’t count upto a 50 even!
Anwar says, “Meine kabhi 100 ki patti nhi dekha. Mere pas 10 rupaye ke note hin hote hein.” (I have never held a 100 rupees note. It’s just the 10’s I earn every day.)
It was painful to realize, somewhere we all limited their budgets, forced their thoughts to be constrained. He won’t have any further education. Even if he could, he wouldn’t. His brilliance was constrained in 3 digits.Didn’t we somewhere strangle the future generation in these kids? One day his world would expand, intervene in ours, but he wouldn’t be prepared for it. Anwar, our 7-year old man, was mature enough to grow himself up. But we did seize from him, most of what life is to us. Far from the city’s monotonous melancholy, our man had accepted his abnegation with seclusion.
The chef nodded for an order of 6 more of the kulfis, for our man’s siblings. He finished his kulfi, found his pants better suited than the tissues, and stood up. A wide grin raced through his face. He wanted to convey something. It was difficult to get an apt word or expression out, but he hooked that widest smile for some time and never blinked. It was his “Thank You”.
Note: Image used in this post is only for representational purpose.