Monday, August 2, 2010

Worlds Apart



I met him at a roadside tea junction of New Bus Park where he and his mates, in the biting cold of January, were trying to fit themselves inside an old jute sack. I and a friend, after the hangover of exams had started out at that solitary hour of night just to relish a cup of tea and cigarettes. The whole world was asleep and the only hope of slaking our nicotine dosage was that hubbub of bus terminal. We ordered a cup of tea each and started making clouds of smoke.

My eyes wandering slowly to the activity of the place stopped at these small kids covered under a rag. Altogether three in number, two were in deep sleep while the third was struggling to find his space. The dew drops hitting their rugged face from the branches of the tree they had chosen as shelter were left unnoticed. But this very struggler was sprawling with discomfort as the cold wind peeping through his torn shirt was making him tougher every minute. With sympathy, I lent him a voice. It went unheard. I made a louder try. His ears, hard of hearing humble voices, first were confused at my call but my gestures finally fetched him to us.

“Do you want some tea?” my friend asked.

“Yes,” he said, without much hesitation.

We ordered the tea-shop Didi another cup of tea. Looking at us, she giggled but again set her hands busy on the stove.

“Boy, where are you from?” I voiced my curiosity.

“Jhapa.” His answer dropped.

“Where from Jhapa?” My friend added since he also hailed from the same place.

“Sitaganj.” He answered with bigger amplitude.

“How have you come here?”

“By bus.” His straight reply annoyed my friend.

“I know that… I mean why did you come here?”

He kept quiet for sometime as if he was thinking something but my sound broke his meditation.

“Tell me boy.” I caught his hand and brought him close.

He grew restless and trying to free from my grip, snapped, “It’s none of your concern.”

“Is this the way you talk to your elders?” My friend gave a hint of his changing mood.

“If not this, teach me how… I… I have left my home.” His assertive answer came as expected.

The tea was ready and Didi handed three cups to us. We pointed one towards our guest. No sooner did the cup touch his grubby fingers, he hurried up and bounded straight for his habitat. We watched how he went near to his sleeping friends and woke them up. Instead of having the tea by himself, he gave it to his friends. They finished it in the wink of an eye leaving the cup empty for the boy to deliver back, and they took to their sleeping caps again. He returned sad, but satisfied. I was surprised at this humility of our gentleman.

“Are they your friends?” I tried to clear my doubt.

“No, they are my brothers.” He chuckled.

“Are they your own?” I again inquired.

“No, but does it make any difference?” He retorted back.

“Then why did you let them have your tea?” My friend asked.

“Because they are my brothers.”

His words of wisdom left us dumb-founded. We hadn’t finished our tea yet. He started staring at us with his blank yet innocent eyes. I again ordered for another cup of tea.

“You are having it alone this time, understood?” My friend’s command bumped.

He nodded but angrily. Suddenly everyone’s attention converged to the sharp siren of the police van patrolling on the road until the sound faded away. The tea was ready but this time, Didi handed it directly to the boy and looking at us, giggled again. We started our second cigarette and the boy, looking at me asked for one.

“Do you smoke?” I expressed my surprise.

“Yes, nicely! Give one and I’ll teach you.” His sharp delivery came again.

“How old are you?”

“Twelve,” he said, hesitantly this time.

 “Don’t you know smoking is bad?” I tried some moral classes on him.

“Then why do you? If you can, I also can.” He threw his swift piece of wit.

Instead of being angry, we started laughing at his words. As we were feeling hungry, we ordered for boiled eggs. “For me also,” he quickly said. Didi understood, and she finally opened her mouth, “These rogues are like this only. Give them an inch and they will ask for an ell.”

“Why did you run away from your house? Don’t you have anyone there?” I resumed the conversation.

“Yes, I have a father but also a step-mother. My mother left me some two years ago when my alcoholic father one day beat her to death and….” He now gradually got comfortable with our queries. He paused for a moment and again continued.

“…and next day, he brought another woman home. She used to scold me, beat me and didn’t feed me for days. When I reported this to my father, he also in return thrashed me. This continued for months and one day, I managed to escape from that hell. I boarded a bus from Damak not knowing where it was for and finally arrived Kathmandu.” I could see the sadness in his eyes and hatred in his tone as he was narrating this.

“So, how did you meet your friends… I mean… your brothers?”

“I arrived here in the morning, hungry and tired. I was wandering here and there when they spotted me. Knowing I was hungry, they shared their stuffs with me and from that day, they are my brothers.” He was a different person now.

“So what do you do to make your living?”

“We collect plastics, and transport it to the factories. They give us… “

“Brother, here are your eggs.” Didi’s voice punctuated his sentence.

As soon as he got his share of egg, he again ran to his friends. After a while, we could see silhouette of three figures enjoying their dinner happily under the shade of cold night. Another minute, on hearing some voices approaching them, our boy with his siblings grabbed the rag and took to their heels. On our turning back, we found two policemen poking a nearby vendor. After Didi explained it to us, we came to know that they had come there to claim their share of night business. The children ran away because the men in uniforms harass and beat them.

Till then, our gentleman was out of sight but his vacant eyes kept asking me, “Do we share the same world?”

6 comments:

Pawan said...

A real life depiction on the condition of street children in Kathmandu, well narrated. The writer has shown how the the bond of love and humanity can be maintained even in the harsh realities and the strings of abuses they go through in every walks of life. Sometimes I am compelled to think what do civil societies, NGO's, so many welfare organizations and above all the government do for the well being of the society. Isn't it their responsibility to take care of their children? What can we expect from a country where even the basic needs of children couldn't be fulfilled by the so- called government? Or don't they have the budget to do so? Where does all those money go to then? Its a serious matter and people should awake from the fake dreams they are in from a very long time and all those politicians should be jailed with their properties seized and divide them among those children who don't have the place to stay, if there is the law and order in the country. All these politicians are committing crime against humanity. If they cannot solve this problem they have no right to stay in power and govern the country.

A New Beginning said...

I am at a loss of words Jayant...sad but true, these people share the same world and give us a sense of helplesssness when we dont understand as to what exactly we can do for them.
We were cared for as kids but they lead an unsheltered life.
God caters to everyone and hence makes them tough to help them face the life they are born to live...who knows when a new tomorrow knocks at their door...
Thanks for the wonderful post!!!

Lekhnath said...

Execellent!

Milan Raut said...

a stark reality of dispersed life, this story is a brilliant portrait of the life in the streets... every one and the other gets shelter on the streets because of their family, the problem that arises with them and their psychology of dealing matters... this is really a sincere matter that the state should realize and work on the betterment of their life but as always, we lack that institution...
a brilliant job Jayantji...

jayantPost said...

thank you everyone...

sandesh said...

After going through this we too have to ask ourselves are we still on the same page of humanity,brotherhood?Great way of letting people to reconsider their life!!1

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