Prashant Dutta



Prashant Dutta


No Free Meals

No Free Meals

3 mins 394 3 mins 394

I was barely 14, had several hundred bucks in my pocket, no one to question- Mother dead and Father disappeared. All alone and free in the bustling city of Kalkatta. I immediately discarded my worn-out clothes, I had been wearing it for, God knows, how long. Vijay, my friend and savior, helped me in buying a pair of jeans and a loud colored bush shirt. A pair of plastic sandals now adorned and protected my feet. I had nowhere to live but who bothers, I ate whatever I felt like, Kalkatta offers mouthwatering food, there are streets where you get variety of food at a very affordable price. I loitered around with Vijay and his friends the whole day. I visited Esplanade with him. Huge buildings on either side of the road, buses and other vehicles surged dangerously from several directions, a wave of people suddenly crossing the streets. I felt baffled. All these in Kalkatta and I were still living in a corner missing all the excitement.

From behind the bus stand came the sound of the fiery speeches piercing through the city’s noise. “That side” pointed Vijay and we hurried towards the speech area. I had to run after Vijay lest I get lost. Scores of people sat on their haunches and listened to speech made by someone standing in a poorly made platform. Several people sat behind the speaker in plastic chairs waiting for their turn to speak. There were volunteers helping people make place to fit in between the spectators.

“Korbo, lorbo, jitbo…” thundered the speaker. It was followed by huge clapping. The sun was harsh, and I was feeling restless, I nudged Vijay to leave but he just gestured me to sit while he resumed his full attention to the speaker.

After few people made their speeches, some announcement was made which created some sort of mayhem. Vijay pulled me by my hand and dragged me to one corner of the area. Food was being served, we stood in a queue, thankfully Vijay was quick for only a dozen people we ahead of us. Food wrapped in Sal leaves and fastened with white tread was being handed over; we received our packets and walked away from the milling crowd.

“How often do they organize such meetings “I asked Vijay while savoring the food.

“Look there is so many political parties and then divisions within each party, such meetings are quite frequent” he stated matter-of-factly while digging his hand in the food.

“So, one cannot die of hunger till the time these leaders are looking for audience “

“Yes, and you also learn listening to them”

“So, I don’t really have to worry about at least one meal a day, only I have to arrange for the remaining meals and for the rainy days” I thought wishfully.

While we were still having our food, people armed with sticks and canes rushed towards us.

“Run, they are from rival party” Vijay announced, he threw the food and pulled my hand. I ran with him while few men with lathi chased us. We were faster so saved our skin.

Once we were far from fear of the chasing men Vijay said gasping “There is nothing like free meal”

I learned so many new things about the city by merely spending few hours with Vijay. I must be always with him, I decided. I held his hand and said, “Shall we go for a movie?” He smiled.

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