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Sudha Narasimhachar

Others

4.3  

Sudha Narasimhachar

Others

The Lost Bag

The Lost Bag

6 mins
165


Jaya set off with a heavy heart. Her mother kept calling out, “Jaya, don’t go out. Didn’t Suresh Maama instruct us all to stay indoors? It seems the dreadful disease is spreading very rampantly.”

Jaya did not turn back. She was very sad after she heard that her dear friend Sushma’s parents were both very sick but they had no money to get them treated. Ten-year-old Sushma was Jaya’s classmate. They studied in the Government school just outside their slum. The school got shot three months ago because of the pandemic. In the beginning Jaya and her friends were very happy that they got an unexpected holiday. They used to play all day. However, the corporation officials visited them and instructed them to strictly stay indoors. “If we find any of you playing outside, we will fine your parents”. 

The children did not understand much. The elders gradually understood the seriousness and started following the protocols that the corporation officials instructed them to follow. Some people came and distributed masks, sanitizers and ration kits. Jaya’s parents too did not go to work. They seemed worried and tired. Her two brothers, who worked at a factory nearby, too stayed home these days. Jaya’s mother cooked very little food and they did not have enough to fill their stomachs, on many nights. “Amma, I am still hungry. Why are you not cooking enough food?” Jaya lamented one night. “Jaya, all of us have lost our jobs. We have no money. We are managing with the weekly kits that Suresh Maama gets us. Please understand”, said her mother. Suresh was a social activist, who coordinated with the Government authorities and assisted the slum-dwellers.

‘We used to at least get a full meal in our school. Now, the school is also shut’, thought Jaya. Yesterday, her friend Sushma, who lives just 3 houses away came home crying. “Aunty, both my parents are sick. We have no money to take them to the hospital. Can you help us?” 

“Oh my! Sushma, please stand outside. I will inform Suresh Maama. He will come and help you.” Jaya’s mother then packed a couple of roties in a newspaper and left the packet near the doorstep. “Pick that up and go back home Sushma. Don’t come out”, she said. She then called Suresh Maama on the phone. She could reach him only after a long time. 

Late night an ambulance came and took away Sushma’s parents. Suresh Maama spoke to Jaya’s mother briefly, from a distance. “Madam, all the beds in the Government hospitals are full. So, I have to admit them in a private hospital. I have some funds. But, please inform their children to arrange for funds soon. This is the address of the hospital. But I have instructed the children to stay indoors. We have sealed their house. You people help them with food. Leave the food near the door. Please stay indoors. Asha workers will come and guide you all.” 


In the morning, the corporation van came with a team of nurses and all the residents of the slum were tested for corona virus. Jaya heard Sushma and her 5 siblings crying. She also heard Bharathi aunty talking to her mother from her house on the opposite lane. “Out of the 22 people admitted from our slum, 5 of them have died Meena. The families are not even allowed to visit their kith and kin in the hospitals or conduct their funerals when they die.” 

 Jaya ran outside the slum and kept walking on the footpath. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She did not know where she was going. Vehicles kept zooming by on that highway. Very few people walked on the footpath. The hotels and shops were all shut. After walking for about half-an-hour, Jaya was tired, as the weather was very hot and humid. She sat under that peepal tree outside the small temple of Lord Ganesha. The temple too was shut. Jaya found pieces of coconut on the ground. She picked them up, wiped them with her frock and started biting the raw coconut, which seemed fresh.

“Hey, what are you doing here? Where do you live?” Jaya looked up and she saw a woman, wearing a mask and a shield in front of her. “You are not supposed to be roaming around like this. Don't you know? Didn’t your parents tell you? Go home”, said the woman, who was indeed a policewoman. Jaya got up frightened and started walking towards her slum. After walking a few steps, she spotted some bag. She bent and picked up the bag. It was heavy. She sat on a rock nearby and opened the knot of the bag. She was surprised to see a lot of shining jewellery in it. She looked around and found nobody, except the policewoman near the temple. She ran back to the policewoman with the bag. “I found this there”, she showed the spot. The policewoman opened the bag and was shocked. “Whose bag could this be? Some people came to the temple a while ago, broke coconuts, offered their prayers and left. They had parked their car there. This may have fallen out from their car. Thank you dear. I will try to locate them and hand this over to them. But where is your house? Why are you here?”

“Aunty, my house is in that slum near the Government school. My friend Sushma’s parents are admitted to a private hospital and my friend and her brothers and sisters are locked up in their house. They need a lot of money to get their parents treated. They are crying. I felt very sad and thought of begging from people for them. But I find nobody anywhere”, Jaya said with tears.

“Oh girl! Do you think it is that easy to collect money for treatment? You are too young to understand these things. Go home, pray and stay with your parents. Don’t come out. You will also fall sick. What is your name?”

“Jaya”, said she and walked back towards her house.


When she reached home, her mother, who was so tense, pulled her inside and gave her two tight slaps. “Where did you go, stupid girl? We were all so worried. Try such tricks again and I will tie you up!” Jaya gave the coconut pieces that she collected at the temple, to her mother and related the happenings. Her mother hugged her and said, “you are a sweet child. I can understand your love and concern for your friends. But what can we do? We ourselves are penniless. Eat the roties.”

Two days after that, a car came by into the slum. “Can you show us Jaya’s house? Jaya, the little girl”, asked a woman from the car. Radhabhai, who was washing clothes outside her house, looked up and directed the car to Jaya’s house. It was a small slum with just about 50 tenements. Everybody knew everybody else. The car stopped in front of Jaya’s house. Jaya and her parents stood at the door with surprise. The policewoman, whom Jaya had met the other day got out and called Jaya. “Come here, with your mask on, Jaya”, she said. Jaya wore the mask and went near the car. Her mother too came along, with her mask on. 

“So, this is your daughter! She is such a sweet, compassionate and honest girl. The other day, we offered our prayers at the Ganesha temple from outside, as our daughter is getting married next week. We had collected jewellery from the jeweller’s home nearby, as the shops are closed. I think the bag of jewellery fell out when our daughter opened the door. Your little daughter found the bag and handed it over safely to the policewoman. We are very grateful to her. We want to reward her for her honesty. Here, take this ration kit and money.

Jaya’s mother was overwhelmed and said, “Thank you so much Madam”. Bu


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