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Hopefulness Of Darki Street

Hopefulness Of Darki Street

8 mins 19.8K 8 mins 19.8K

About story: It is a short tale of a young orphaned boy, and his everyday struggles. It tries to capture, how mundane needs which we assume to be trivial, are formidable for a street dweller. It is simple narration of a week in his life.

The Hopefulness of Darki Street…

The chalk dust on his knees seemed like two white headlights of a small electric car, when she saw them from her first-floor balcony before throwing the stale vegetables and food on the footpath where he was sleeping. It fell two feet away from his ear, but his nose had smelled the filth before his ears heard the thud of the waste falling down. He got up in his dizzy state and without much thought started digging in the waste. The smell was obnoxious, but the hunger was way too unbearable, for the mind to fathom if the malodour really mattered.

The school duty which he did yesterday fetched him Rs. 20, out of which Rs 10 he paid as part of his previous hisaab with Razak Chacha. He had cleaned the corridors and the four classrooms, where he also took the liberty when Sita Bai, who was not looking, of sitting on one of the last benches and pretending to study and read those words which only felt like random designs on a paper. She tapped on the window with the end of her six-foot long jhadu and signalled him to get to work with a mild tilt of her head to left. It took him around two hours to get the place cleaned. He had to finish it after the school hours since Sita bai got him as a helping hand and did not want the teachers to see him, and complain about her employing an underage kid.

She gave him the amount, along with the permission to ring the famous school bell. He liked the reverberating sound it made and enjoyed the after-sound vibrations he felt in his chest. She also gave him half of the wada pav which one of the teachers had left during the lunch.

So his yesterday’s meal was basically half wada pav, two lollypops he got for Re 1, one-egg-omelette which he got from Razzak Chacha’s roadside shop for Re 8. And he still kept Re 1 in his pocket for emergency to call Sita bai’s landline from the coin box. He did not know anyone except Sita bai, who had a landline connection at her place. She had got it free in the last elections when Mr. Manohar Klupe, their local representative had distributed them in their chawl as part of election campaign, more so because ‘Telephone’ was his election symbol.

The smell became too much for him to bear and he gave up, after all he could find was a yolk and some meat left over the fish bones. He washed up near Razzak Chacha’s stall which had a water connection next to it, again because Razzak Chacha was influential and was considerably feared in the locality owing to his connections with Timur Rem, the local Don.

He took out the Re 1 coin, called Sita bai and asked if she had any work for him and also if any leftover food was there, which she had not thrown away. She got angry and told him she was not his mother and to stop calling her so early in the morning. Only thing she asked politely was where he was.

He kept the phone disappointed and saw Razzak Chacha’s kids going to school in their blue and grey uniforms, water bottles and 3 Kg school bags. He always thought people were paid to lift weights, but did not understand why Razzak Chacha paid the school and made his kids lift weights.

“Darki Gali No. 2,” he recollected telling Sita Bai, who now stood in front of him with a roll of Chapati, with sugar inside as filling. It was midday and he had not eaten anything since morning. He gobbled that chapathi like a hungry canine and looked at her in anticipation for some more. She dismissed him and asked him to come to the same school again by 3 Pm.

“3 pm?” he asked, unable to still figure out ‘time’.

“When the sun will come on that side?” she said, pointing towards west and at pole mounted on Razzak Chacha’s house for tying flag. He agreed and asked if she had brought any more chapathis, which she dismissed mildly slapping him on his head.

He did not have many friends barring Sushma, who was three years elder to him and worked at Razzaq Chacha’s place as a maid and helped him out during his daily business of the Omlette stall from 5pm to 10 pm, which would extend till 11 pm on Wednesdays as Thursday’s was the weekly off in Darki Street. The state government had declared a power cut of 6 hours every Thursday and most of the small industries here could not afford that, hence the weekly off was shifted from Sunday to Thursday. Initially the labour union protested, but gave in eventually, when their owners asked them to go to hell and said they will hire cheaper illegal immigrant laborers who worked for any pay the owner offered.

He eagerly waited for Friday’s, as he was well fed this day. Sushma was given off for four to five hours on Friday’s and she made sure she met him and gave him whatever non-perishable food items she could save during the week. They strolled around the beach which was half a furlong from the Gali no. 4. They would look at kids of their age with families, at the ice cream stall and wondered how it felt to have a guardian.

He knew Sita bai would come for help, whenever he would ask for, but that was all to it. He knew she would not comfort him, nor would she treat him more than an additional resource she used now and then, to earn that extra buck.

Sushma was indebted to Razzak Chacha. He had saved her from Timur Rem’s gundas when one day they came to his stall drunk and tried to force themselves on her. Razzak Chacha, had fought alone with three guys and in the process lost his index finger when one of them pulled a knife on him. She remembered how she had picked up that index finger which still had the copper ring, which he wore as good luck and gave it to him. He had placed it on the severed portion and ran towards the hospital on Darki Gali no. 3 where the Government hospital was located. She ran behind him and saw the doctor refusing to take him unless there was a proper FIR. He asked her to run back to the house and get Afreen, his wife. It took her around an hour to get her, as she took gali no. 5 which was half a mile away from no. 3, fearing she would find the gundas again on the same route. They had waited till morning when the police finally came, and charge sheeted the event.

Sushma noticed the doctor was wearing a golden frame when he said the finger could not be reattached after twelve hours.

At twilight, he liked the way, sand felt when it was warm, at the top and slightly cold when you dig a foot deep. Sushma and he would sit there from evening till the sun disappeared behind the infinity of the ocean. They would update each other on their week’s proceedings and discuss mostly about how much empty their stomach was before sleeping each day.

His thoughts were obstructed when he saw the sun approaching the flag pole, he hurried up and rushed to the school. He finished the same chores and rang the bell, again. Only this time there was no wada pav, but on his way out of the staff room, he noticed small pouch on the floor, behind the door. He slowly picked it when Sita bai was not looking. He scanned it for money, but found only cards, and a notebook with black cover. He was about to call out Sita bai, when he noticed a pretty lady, who looked tensed and sweaty, walking into the room. She saw the pouch in his hand and a sigh of relief passed her lips. Her tense faced turned into a beautiful smiling one and she asked where he found it. He was taken aback, as he never believed ladies so beautiful were made, and slowly pointed her behind the door. Sita bai, started explaining that he was her relative who wanted to see the school. The teacher just nodded and smiled and took out an Rs 100 note and gave it to him. She thanked him and left the room hurriedly, saying she had a flight to catch.

Sita bai, immediately took the money from him, once the teacher was away. She said, it would be distributed equally as she was the one who had got him here. He agreed and was happy because today he would sleep with a full stomach.

As promised she gave him Rs. 50, and he used Rs 20 for his evening meal and saved the rest.

It was Friday evening, his meeting time with Sushma. They met near Gali no. 4 and like every week, they walked towards the beach. Usual updates were exchanged and the stomach-status for the week shared. Only this week, he had planned a surprise for her. After their stroll was over, he grabbed her wrist, and pulled her towards the ice-cream stand. He asked her to choose any flavor. She asked how he was going to pay and he told her that was none of her business. So, she chose the Vanilla with Chocolate Toppings.

“Rs. 35”, said the vendor. His confidence took a toll. It was as if, the world around him just collapsed. He tried to bargain and told the vendor if he could let go Rs 5, which he refused. Disappointed, he asked her to give it back. She smiled and took a Rs. 5 from her bag, and gave to the vendor. He asked where she got the money from, as Razzak chacha never paid her, but she said she had her savings.

And they walked, hand in hand, into the twilight on the optimal sand temperature he loved, with someone who cared about him, sharing the Vanilla-Chocolate ice cream.


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