Friday, July 18, 2014

The Boy Without A Dream.

Kiran waved at his friend who peddled away on his cycle towards the cricket ground.  He was headed to the usual after-the-school cricket match that was held everyday.


Kiran walked in the other direction.  As fast as he can.  Towards the hotel.

As Kiran hurried into the hotel, the owner standing behind the counter frowned at him.  Then turned to look at the clock on the wall.  He was late by 5 minutes.  Kiran looked away from him.  Afraid.  And ran into the kitchen.

He put his bag down in a corner.  Picked up a rag and a huge plate.  And rushed out to collect the plates and wipe the tables clean.

That was his job.

He stood there.  Quietly watching the people eat.  Watching their plates.  To see if they were done eating.

The hotel closed at 9 p.m. everyday.  Thats when Kiran usually left for home.  But on that day, something happened.

A girl came in and ordered lunch.  She looked young.  Possibly in her early 20s.  Kiran had never seen her before there.  But he sensed her watching him as he went about his work duties.

After she was done eating, Kiran went over to pick up her plate.  But she grabbed his hand and dragged him over to the owner.

"He shouldn't be here wiping tables! He should be at school!" she declared.

The owner looked at them confused for a moment.  Then added,
"He already does, ma'am.  He just came back from school."

"This is child labor!  I am going to write an article about this in my newspaper.  I am going to make sure they take some kind of an action against you!" she said starting to sound more irritated.

"Ma'am, please dont do anything of that sort. I will send him away right now!" he said with a nervous smile.  Then turned to Kiran and said with a funny look on his face,

“You go into the kitchen and wait there. I will come meet you, okay?”

“No funny stuff.  I am going to send my friends over from time to time to check.” she said.

“Alright! I am going to send him away!” the owner snapped.
The girl had a victorious smile on her face, then walked back to her table.

The owner thought for a minute.  Then with a heavy breath and an irritated glance at the girl, who sat frowning at him, took out some cash from the counter and handed it to Kiran saying,
“Give this to your mother.”

Kiran took the money and stood there looking confused.

"Go before you get me into trouble!" the owner urgently whispered.

Kiran went into the kitchen, grabbed his school bag and ran to his home.

At home, his mother, who had been sick for a few months now, laid on the bed.

"Why are you back so early?" she said.  Kiran told her about the lady and what had happened.  She thought for sometime and said,
"Its okay.  I think I can go to work from tomorrow.  I am feeling a bit better now.  Your exams are a few months away, so you better concentrate on your studies."

Kiran washed his clothes.  He had spilled some curry on his shirt, and he needed it to be clean to wear it to school the next day.  This was the only other pair of clothes he had other than the one he wore at home.  Both were about a couple of years old and hardly fit him anymore.

Luckily, his school didn't insist on a uniform.  He couldn't afford one.

It was his daily routine to wash his better pair of clothes after work so that he can wear them to school the next day.

After sometime, his father came home.  Drunk and reeking of alcohol.  He saw Kiran sitting at a corner of their one-room house and shouted,
"You lost your job, didn't it? You are good for nothing!"

"Its not his fault" his mother put in.

"Why are you supporting him?" his father shouted shoving his mother to the ground.

"Where is the money he got!?" he shouted at her.  She refused to give it to him, and he started physically abusing her.  Before long, she gave in, and he disappeared with the money.

His mother sat on the bed crying.  Kiran lied down with his head on her lap and went to sleep.

The next day, after school, Kiran went with his friend to the cricket ground.  Its been a long time since he had last played cricket, and he didn't want to join in, but his friend insisted because they were less by one person to make a team.

After everyone on his team was out, his friend had no option but to let Kiran bat.

And surprisingly, Kiran was a good batsman and helped his team win.  His friend, the team's captain, was the most happiest person in the world.  He hugged Kiran saying,

"Dude, you are awesome! You should come with us to play everyday!"

His friend offered to drop him to his home on his cycle.  As they cycled, his friend kept telling him about his dream to play for India someday.  His friend asked Kiran what he would want to do when he grew up.  Kiran didn't know what to say.  He had never thought about it.

After his friend dropped him near his house, Kiran walked in and found his mother limp on the bed.  He tried waking her up, and when she didn't, he ran to one of her friends, a lady who worked as a tailor at a shop close by.

For the next few days after the funeral, Kiran stayed with his mother's friend.  He never heard from his father.  His mother's friend said she saw him walking out of a bar.

After a few days, Kiran said he wanted to go home.  The lady packed some food for him and also gave him a package.

"You mother had ordered this for you before she....." she trailed off.

Kiran peaked into the package and realized that it was a new pair of clothes.  He walked home.  Carefully holding the package under his arm.

There was nobody at home.  He put on the dress and felt something strange.  A sense of pride.

He walked over to the local market.  His head held high.  He walked amidst the busy crowd of buyers and sellers.  Unlike the other times when he would see parents with their kids shopping and he would feel inferior in his dirty, old, ill-fitted clothes, he now felt he was one among them.

After sometime, he went over to a local park and sat on a concrete bench watching people go about their evening strolls.

When it started to get dark, he started walking back home.  He found his father lying on the bed, drunk.

"Oh good, you are back." he said finally sitting up.  His words slurring. "I was worried about food. Make some rice, will you?!"

Kiran blurted out that he didn't know how to cook.

"Well, its not that hard! Come here, I will show you." his father said standing up gingerly and walking into the tiny dark kitchen.

He directed Kiran to wash the rice, then told him to light up the dry wood.  After sometime, Kiran realized that they would need more wood to burn.  He pointed the same out to his father and said he will go get some, but his father shouted,

"No!  You wait here and watch the rice.  I will go get something."

He gingerly walked away, then came back a few minutes later with some papers.  Kiran took it and just when he was about to throw them into the fire recognized them as the pages from his school books.

"Dont worry about it.  You dont have to go to school from tomorrow.  Its such a waste of time.  I have talked to a guy I know.  He said he needs a boy to help him at his shop.  I will take you there tomorrow morning." he said continuing to tear up pages from his school books and handing them over to him.

Kiran sat back down.  He felt defeated and helpless.  He fed the papers to the burning stove.  As he sat there, a piece of burning paper fell onto his shirt.  He quickly brushed it away, but it left a hole in his new shirt.

- Rejo John.

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