I was a small boy studying in a nearby school. I used to see a boy everyday on my way to and back from school. He looked shabby and wore a mischievous smile all the time. He was a street boy living near the railway station.
Once when I bought a chocolate bar and turned to leave with my half eaten chocolate, he looked straight into my eyes and gestured for the chocolate. He wasn’t begging, it was a command. I said “it’s half eaten”, he replied “it’s ok…” and that was the only time I interacted so closely with him. Once he hit me with a stone from a distance. I wasn’t sure wether it was intended for me or a mis-hit. I was hurt and it pained for a couple of weeks. Though I didn’t inform my parents about it, I decided to stay away from him.
He was always happy and naughty. In the evenings, on my way to tuition classes, I saw him roaming with his street friends with a bottle of water. He enjoyed sprinkling water on the kids they passed by.
He was of my age, so when I was a teenager, he was one too. He started pulling a cycle rickshaw to earn a living. One day, I was on my bike on the way back from college, I saw him with his girlfriend, a dark shabby girl who was a perfect match for him. I saw him with her for a couple of weeks before he had a different girl who looked similar to the other girl.
Years passed by, I left the place for higher studies and later left the country for better fortune. I got married and had two little kids. I watched my kids grow up but that boy crossed my mind once in a while. I wondered what he was doing then.
Many more years later, I came back to that place to attend my friend’s daughter’s wedding. I stayed back for few days to show my kids the places I grew up. I secretly looked for that boy, even though I knew he wouldn’t look the same after years. I wondered what would have happened to him. Maybe he became a full fledged ‘gunda’ of this place but nobody knew of a ‘gunda’ like him. All the rickshaw pullers of that place were unable to remember him.
I started to go back. On the way back in my car, I came across an old cobbler who I knew since childhood. I enquired about the boy’s whereabouts and he was able to shed some light. He told me about a man who lived in the slum behind the railway station. I was not sure wether I should meet him before going home because the man he said did not fit my description. I wasn’t sure of coming back here again, so I took the chance and went to visit the man the cobbler referred.
I was shocked to see a very fragile man, dark, thin and old for his age. I guessed he was the same boy. He could neither look straight into my eyes nor he could smile mischievously at me. He wasn’t drunk, he was sick. I took a bundle of notes from my pocket and gave it to him. He took it with a lot of suspicion. I had nothing to say, so I started to leave. He took all his strength and asked me “Sir, do I know you?”. I replied “No. But I have known you all my life” and left the place without turning back.
I was so happy while flying back home. I had no clue why I was interested in the character. Maybe because when I was studying all the time, I was jealous of his freedom and happiness. I was so scared of life, he was full of life. I neither had his guts nor the carefree life he enjoyed. The fact was he was living my life and unknowingly I liked his life. Even though I didn’t want him to end up like this, someone had come looking for him to provide a helping hand at this stage. Maybe it was for this day, I watched and thought about this boy for all these years…
About the author : P.A. Shajid is a banker working outside India. He is a ‘rasigan’ (Tamil for one who enjoys any creative work or likes a creative person).
Edited by : Sara Showkath Ali
Any anecdotes or stories you want to share with us? Mail them to [email protected]
Be the first to comment