Friday, 23 August 2013

A Little Braveheart..

Chintu ran as fast as he could, sweat pouring down his shirt like tributaries joining the rivers, his breadth fast and uneven. He had only 5 minutes to make it to the theater. He would not miss the movie for his life. He had been saving for months, helping Jaggu polish shoes by the roadside after the morning school. His school shirt was soaked to the skin, the heat draining all his energy. Yet he ran, and finally made it to the theater just a minute before the show was due. After he had bought the ticket, he hurried inside. He could already hear the blare of music from within. Chintu sat down , whistles and whoops followed the grand entry of the actor. A broad smile lit his face, finally he would see it. The movie he had been dreaming about for weeks. Finally.

Chintu entered the ‘basti’. Scores of pretty little houses done in vivid shades of pink, green, blue n yellow lined the two sides of the road; nearly naked brown kids with beautiful soulful eyes ran about playing while the women sat in groups talking and working at the same time. A constant lively buzz emanated from the ‘basti’ while the old smoked beeri and sat looking lost amidst the incessant bustle. Chintu walked on, lost in the daring adventures of the hero and scheming images in his mind where an older version of himself fought the villains with almost surprising strength n valour. So when he saw the other kids push a little girl away from them amidst loud mockeries n jeering, he was almost beside himself with rage. It was his turn to prove his bravery and live up to the bold antics of the hero he worshipped. He walked up to the kids looking all worldly wise and serious and asked them, his voice quivering slightly, ’Is this the way to behave with girls? Do you have no sense of honour and respect? ’.
The kids in question all looked at each other in surprise. Chintu was one of them and it was almost betrayal on his end to stand up for the girl from the newly founded complex nearby. The huge building recently erected beside the ‘basti’ housed innumerable apartments that were almost nearly empty. The little girl had haunted the confines of the basti almost since the day she had seen the kids running and playing about oblivious to the loneliness that she suffered in that huge apartment all day. However, she had been unprepared for the haughty disdain and scorn that the children had meted out to her; it had taken her little time to grasp that she was not one of them. Yet her heart was no longer willing to stay holed up inside the walls erected around her life. So she looked with almost joyous eyes at Chintu when he stood up for her and it did strange things to him. He had nevertheless more pressing issues at hand and it would not do to dwell on her happy face.
‘She is not one of us Chintu. How can you stand up for her?’, said Jaggu the young cobbler.
‘Who are you to decide that? All she wants is a chance to know us and play with us. Or do you want to take the issue to Amu?’, replied Chintu. Amu was the oldest and wisest man in the basti. All matters of relevance were taken to him and he was equally feared and respected by all. His blind grey eyes almost immediately struck terror in the hearts of the kids and they tended to avoid the porch he sat reclining in all day. However now it was a matter of utmost importance and they had no doubt that Amu would stand up for the girl.
‘We are old enough to make our own decisions Chintu. I see no point in taking matters to Amu’, said Jaggu.
Chintu was adamant. ’We either take the matter to Amu or we let her play with us. I can see how old enough you are to take nasty decisions.’ Jaggu’s face flamed and it was with all his might he controlled the fury waging within him. Yet he knew he was defeated and it would not do to lose the favour of his friend over petty issues like this girl.
‘Fine, she may join us. But am warning you she is not one of us. You will see one day. Come on Chintu, drop that bag and join us. Whats your name?’, asked Jaggu to the girl.
‘Tamina, but you all can call me Tamu’, she replied shyly.
‘Tamu here’s the rules. The game's called -------. We hope you are good enough’, said one of the kids scathingly.

Tamu’s life slowly became livelier and the kids, in their innocence, were too merry to grudge their playmate. In the afternoons they all gathered after school to play their favourite games and their loud shouts and noise filled the area and almost added a joyous tilt to their struggling lives. Tamu and Chintu were inseperable. It was almost as if his standing up for her in her loneliest  hours had forged an invisible thread of bonding between the two. Tamu would often spend entire afternoons at the basti, while her parents were more than glad to see that she was no longer sitting musing and trying to accustom herself to the new life they had had to thrust on her. On Chintu’s tenth birthday she got him a big ball that had Chintu almost screaming for joy while he gifted her a doll made out of stones on her eighth birthday that took pride of place in her shelf.
 Yet fate has a way of refusing to run to plan, shattering all in its wake to destroy stagnancy and crush innumerable hearts along the way. So when the owner of the land sold off the basti to some promoter, mayhem struck the lives of these people. The pretty colourful houses were bull dozed to the grounds and it advanced on the basti like a huge predator consuming all in its wake. It’s like their lives changed in a matter of seconds. Chintu’s family moved off to some other slum and his father was forced to stop his education.  He took on the job of working at stalls and later, at the age of fifteen, took on the responsibility of riding a rickshaw, helping his father run the family on their meager incomes. Sometimes when he would cross the cinemas, he would see posters of his hero flaunting his dashing looks and smiling like he had no care in the world and think back to those days at the basti when life had been so much simpler and beautiful. Now he no longer visited the cinemas, saving money to survive that had become increasingly difficult after they had lost everything. He toiled day after day and often hoped he would encounter Tamu someday. The joy that would lit her eyes on finding her old friend and the smile that would brighten her young face would be more than enough for him.

So as he sat outside the college gates watching the innumerable students trickling out, hoping to find customers, he was almost prepared to wrangle the best bargain out of the female calling him as he turned around saying ‘Bhaiya, how much will it cost to Chowrasta?’. And as the long awaited joy lit his face, there was no sign of recognition on her’s.


  1. A sad ending! But lovely as usual :)

  2. Thank you Preeti.. Tragic yes, but sometimes that's the way of life. :)


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