An unsettling reflection of him in a river, he interpreted was as vague as his life. Sitting on edge of the bridge, he was trying to extract a little sense out of his reflection. Sighed! He stood on the edge and spat on his reflection.
“I am in town for a purpose!” he recalled while collecting pieces of the broken glass. He got slapped as this was the third glass he broke in a week. This is Arav, a teenager, whose life was strangled between his stay and his workplace. A bed-sized, confined space below stairs is where he dwelled. Arav’s parents were living miles away in a village.
Back in time, a day rose when Arav learned that he needs to be on his own now.
“Son! (in a choked voice) It’s time that you move out, and take a stand for me and your mother in the face of our ongoing adversities.” He passed some money & a bunch of hopes to me, and a chit that has an address of one of our relatives in town.
“Manage to send money every month as it’s the only way we can fulfil our meagre needs”.
I took blessings by touching their feet, cuddled my dog for one last time, and left. I got onto the roof of the bus that was about to take me away from my home very next moment. A strong headwind on my face resembled the worries culturing in me, worries of the new place I was about to arrive in next 4 hours.
A wrestle to climb on to a two-digit number hinted well that education was absolutely not my thing, and now moving to the town for earning money, was cultivating a sense that yes! It was written.
I arrived at the place that seemed busy with their chores. The only thing that I felt was concerned about my arrival was a dog standing feet away from my bus. His concern is a universal fact.
I took out a half-eaten packet of biscuits from my sack and gestured by showing him one biscuit. As he came near to me, I emptied the packet on a paper. The dog was enjoying his unexpected feast, while I left with a little lightheartedness.
I reached the place mentioned in the chit and knocked on the door. The person peeped through the side window and inquired about me. Knowing the reason for my arrival he left the window and came out, dressed, after ten minutes. I didn’t initiate for a glass of water, nor did he showed any interest in my hospitality.
We took a sharing rickshaw and reached a place which was going to my prospective abode. He had a brief conversation with the owner before handing over the key to me.
With him, I had my last visit to a small hotel where I was supposed to work as a waiter from tomorrow.
I wandered that evening, exploring nearby places and with the purpose of finding the cheapest meal. A rice-meal at a place for ten was a fair deal and proved the only nutritious meal since morning.
Emptied all the glass pieces in a bin and I left out for lunch.
The amount of money I used to earn each month turned scarce, for I have to send a sufficient amount, from the already insufficient earning, to my home every next day of receiving. I assumed no hope of betterment in my daily chores.
I was expecting my father to visit me once so I can express the change I have seen in myself since the day I arrived, or maybe I can pay a quick visit to my home and come back, but at the end, all thoughts turned futile. Money, over the time, became the only reason for survival, but earning more and more money with what I am doing right now seemed pointless.
Another day to lurch upon. I rubbed my eyes, itched my waist and cursed the day, and went on to get ready for the work. Turning the tap on turned unusually frustrating today, the tap emptied the last few drops of water. “Good God! I am predisposed to make people cover their nose today as I had the sweat-ist day yesterday.”
I managed to gather a permission from the hotel owner to wash my face in the kitchen as it is one of many conditions necessary to be followed while serving at a table. The hotel provided us with a uniform that is washed every end of the week.
Done till the noon, I rushed out for lunch quite late today. Unfortunately, I came up as the last person to eat the afternoon meal, they had only a half-bowl rice left to be served. I had it, but the meal seemed to fulfil my hunger partially.
I never made my point nor did I pushed myself into any sort of arguments with ‘Anna’ as he is the only person I encountered on the first day in town, who was serving the cheapest yet the best meal in the locality. Yet today I was expecting he shouldn’t ask for full money for this half-meal.
I reached the counter and handed over two currencies of five, of which he returned one back, with a grin on his face. I felt absolutely thankful and happy that moment.
I walked out and decided to try my long-cherished dream of eating that colourful pudding which I used to stare every time I passed-by that bakery.
The baker person wrapped the pudding in a paper-napkin, and gave it to me, for which I counted three coins and paid. The pudding was delightedly colourful.
To savour every bite of it I decided to seek a shade. While I was in search, my eyes got glued to a person that was about to cross my path. He was skinny and was wearing a worn-out striped shirt and a white pyjama that was smeared with dirt.
He was selling lottery tickets. As he came near to me, he realized that his weary clothes got my attention. He stopped at the moment, turned to me and insisted to buy a lottery ticket from him.
I was pretty much sure about my luck, and therefore I rejected the thought of buying the ticket immediately. But more than buying a lottery ticket, I was grasped by his appearance. It hinted worse than me. So I requested him to have my pudding, for which he proposed bartering for a lottery ticket. A lottery ticket of ten lakh in exchange for my dream pudding. No regrets, I threw a smile on his face and continued walking towards the hotel.
The lottery person shouted from the back “Be sure to cross-check your ticket this Saturday in a local newspaper.”
Saturday! The end of the week. The day rolled in soon. Serving the tables, like rest of the days, I was unaware that the next few hours is going to unravel something unexpected.
To keep it handy, I wrote the lottery ticket number on my forearm for a quick cross-check. I kept the ticket in the upper pocket of the uniform, the moment I wore it in the morning.
The day was exhaustive, like always! I left the hotel in the evening. Just two-three shutters from my room was a newspaper shop. I crossed my fingers as this was a rare time of buying a newspaper. I was in luck as there was a lady handling the shop. She picked the newspaper and exchanged it with me for a paisa.
I took the newspaper and continued towards my room. There was a power-cut. Fortunately, I was having a candle an inch long, which I assumed will last until I confirm the lottery ticket. I brought my forearm and the lottery section of the newspaper under the dim light of the candle.
“7,7,…4,4,…3,3,…9,9,…0,0,…there was a burst of excitement in me as I was reaching the last three numbers of the lottery…(gasped)….0,0,…2,2,….and….1….1! I jumped on my bed so hard that it got cracked. I felt like shouting, but I didn’t as owner’s room was just next to my room, and I don’t want him to grab the opportunity to throw me with my belongings this late night.
But the next moment made me hit the staircase in gloomy astonishment. “My lottery ticket! It’s in the uniform!” I jumped out of my room in hurry, clung the door and took a rush towards the hotel.
There was a backdoor to the hotel that we all waiters utilise to enter the kitchen, which now, turned lucky as it was the last door to get locked. By the time I arrived, it was still open, I rushed into it. Ignoring all the voices, I ran into the washing room and in a hurry, slid and collapsed on the wet floor. In a pain that was intolerable, I got on to my senses quickly and started shuffling the clothes lying around to be washed next day. The smell of sweat arising out of the shirt I was handling slowed me down. This is it. I felt the upper pocket from outside, it was papery. I took it out in my two fingers. The moment soaked me in tears. That colourful pudding was never my dream, It was written!