Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Lives

I am Sanjiv. I work for a BPO firm situated in the Mumbai suburbs. I earn a five figure salary which was the dream of my father. Even though I come from a lower middle class family, once I started earning, I happened to be a spendthrift. I end up having weary bank balances during month ends. I like loneliness and hence I live alone in a single room accommodation located in one of the congested streets of Dadar. I am not satisfied with my life. And this is about an evening from my monotonous life.

It’s been a week that I am put up in the night shift. I sleep when people are busy with their work and I work when people lighten up at their houses. I hate this work but I don’t have any other options. For the company, if not me, someone else will do this job. Also, I earn much more than what a government employee does these days. So even though I am forced to hear a lot of crap through my headphones, the mascot of a call center job, I am kind of okay with my job.

Today is Tuesday and today is my week-off which falls on Tuesdays and Wednesdays due to the special nature of my project, unlike Saturdays and Sundays for a normal project. Still on my bed at 2 in the afternoon, the incident which happened yesterday hasn’t yet gone from my head. By the way I didn’t go to my office yesterday and I boozed heavily last night.

As usual, yesterday also I woke up at 7:30 in the evening for my 10 to 6 night shift. I left for my office after a quick bath. It took considerable amount of time to reach the office due to the heavy traffic at that hour of the day and in between I had to eat something as well. I reached the nearby bus stop after having my break-fast, err, dinner.

The bus stop was crowded as usual. Almost all the buses were full owing to the return of people from their jobs back home. Near the bus stop, there was a man who was selling grapes and oranges on a push-cart, yelling sporadically at random pedestrians, “Oranges, Rs. 30 for a dozen!” Noisy, crammed and clammy; it was an archetypal Mumbai evening.

“Hey you ice-cream boy!” The man who was standing next to me, hollered all of a sudden. In response, a small boy who was standing close to the grape seller with a small wooden box hung on his shoulders came near us.

“How much for a kulfi?”

“5 rupees sir.” He replied with a gentle smile.

“Give me one.”

The boy took a kulfi from the wooden box, gave it to the man and collected the money from him.

He lingered there for a while and then to me he asked.

“Fresh kulfis sir, shall I take one?”

I looked at his face.

Aged around seven, he seemed to carry more responsibility than a child of his age would usually have, on his shoulders. And the resultant maturity was evident on his face.

“Ok, give me a kulfi.”

He opened his box and gave a kulfi to me. While paying the amount, I asked him.

“Don’t you study kid?”

“Yes sir. I’m in second standard. And after the class time I sell kulfis.” He replied swiftly with an innocent smile. He was smart.

“What is your name?”

“Ramesh, sir.”

“Where do you live?”

“Over there sir.” and he pointed towards the slum located at the opposite side of the road.

“You have kulfi?” another person in the bus-bay called the boy and he went towards him.

I was soon back looking for bus number 521 as it was becoming late for my office.

Suddenly I heard a commotion erupted from my side as the people at the bus-stop circled around something at the other end of the bus stop. Something might have happened there. Even though it was time for me to catch the bus, I set off to see what has happened over there, simultaneously keeping a watch on the incoming buses. After reaching there, I budged towards the center pushing the crowd around me. Some one was lying on the road. From the wooden box near him, I could identify that person as the boy whom I had talked to a minute ago.

In the meantime someone brought a cup of water from the nearby tea stall and sprinkled the water on the child’s face. He opened his eyes before long, only to start shivering severely. After getting up he sat on the pavement. Someone got a tea for him from the tea stall. He started sipping the tea while the crowd dispersed from around him. And soon the situation was back to normal.

I was back at my place but something was pulling me back towards that boy. I looked at him. He was still shivering. Even though it was late for me to reach my office, I strongly felt that I should take him to his house. I went back to him.

“Come-on kid, let’s go to your house.” I told him while helping him stand up. I took his wooden box and we both walked across the road towards his house. After a bit of walking we entered into a narrow alley of snugly packed one room houses. My first experience of a slum! It was crammed, it was filthy.

“That’s my house Sir”. His feeble voice had already lost its power. I took him towards the house he had shown to me. And we reached its door.

Aaaii, Aaaii, I am back.” He called his mother while knocking on the door. Someone opened the door after a while. It was his mother.

“Sir, please sit down. I will be back in a minute.” He said. I sat on the small stool put opposite to me by his mother.

“Ramesh is a smart boy” I started the conversation with his mother. She just smiled.

“I think you should not send him to sell kulfis when he needs to read his lessons.” Again she smiled. It seemed she was agreeing to what I was saying.

“So what do you do for a living?” I asked her.

“A massage for Rs. 25, a blowjob for Rs. 50 and a night for Rs. 100, Sir” She replied with the same smile on her face.

I was stunned when I heard that. Not even in my worst of the dreams did I think that she would say something like that. I sat there like a robot. I didn't have any idea how to handle that situation. I just turned numb.

“You want some water Sir?” I felt so relieved when I saw Ramesh back in the room. Yes I was sweating all over.

“Yes, I want.” I replied.

“My mom is not well, she is mentally ill.” He told me while handing over a cup of water to me. I looked at her. She was still staring at me, with the same smile. After drinking that water I left his house. On my way back I was confronted by a person.

“Sir, why did you go to that mad woman? I would’ve given you a better deal. By the way she used to be a prostitute before she turned mad. She doesn’t have a husband and she and her son live on the income that child earns by selling kulfis.”

I didn’t have the mood to go to the office that day. I went to the near by liquor shop and bought a bottle of whisky. I went home and drank the entire bottle myself. But the blues didn’t leave me. I was thinking about my life and the child’s life and the contrast between the two. I just couldn’t sleep...

PS: Aaaii – Marathi word for mother.

This is the best tag I have done so far. Thanks Anoop very much for tagging me to do this and to tell you, it really sweated me out to make a story using the words I, me, blowjob, grapes, random, power, loneliness, water, robot, and blue.


26 comments:

Invincible said...

Am I first? without having to sell grapes or worrying about Wednesday blues, let me just put random words generated out of loneliness, watered by the power of creative thoughts into this comment, before any bot blows the job up.

Invincible said...

That was quite an interesting story and a nice tag to take :)

silverine said...

That was a lovely story. You are the master when it comes to stories.

sajini said...

good one Jithu...A little graphic but still good

Chirikudukka said...

Man every single time i think its a true story and in the end u are like so that was my tag or that the 'she' in the story is a guitar...lol...u should get a nobel proze for making up stuff.

Bombay Dosti said...

Wonderful!!!
And yes similar to what Ann said, your stories just seem to be so close to life!Your success as a writer..amazing story

Immigrant in Canada said...

woderful..u wrote it so well... i could enter the slum..i could see Sanjiv's face when the lady offered her service, i could see the man outside with a dhothi and red panchewed lips offering a better deal..I could see the filth on the walk path..water, sewage..hey tht was a good story..

Thanu said...

such a beautiful story, very well written. You have a great way of verbalizing everything, so the reader can visualize it

quills said...

What a wonderful and moving story. Beautifully written. I know it was a tag but was wondering if you would ever post a second part. :)
You really have a knack for telling incredibly powerful stories.

Sreejith Narayanan said...

Nice one. Really good.

Jithu said...

> invincible
hey thnx and why dont u take that tag urself?

> silverine
thnx yaar. hmm :-)

> sajini
thnx mam!

> ann
ha ha. so u mean i am a good writer or i'm good in making up stuff? :p

> bombay dosti
thnx yaar.. hmm. lets see :-)

> immigrant in canada
omg! even i didnt think in so much detail when i wrote it :-) and look who is saying this, when it comes to writing stories..

> thanu
hmm.. :-) thanx thanu..

> quills
thnx dear! second part, i was wondering how it wud come out to be. anyways lets see :-)

> sreejith
thanx dey. :-)

Bombay Dosti said...

hahaha so my final post gave me away.. i would have preferred to be unknown.. she...
kashtamaayi poyi!!!
But your blog is a regular read for me..

Anand K said...

Jeez, this tag is yeeeevil! Thinking of taking it up myself, though nobody tagged me yet.

Nice story, but too close to realities (of slums) for comfort, right? Friends of mine who work in NGOs tell me disturbing anecdotes......

malinee said...

Hi first time here.. excellent writing!!

:)

Anonymous said...

WOW..!! SIMPLY SUPERB..!

hope and love said...

oops..! the anon was me..
:))

W-Bix said...

:(

venus said...

very beautifully and meaningfully written story jithu, as anad has pointed out, too close to the reality we don't get to see too many times..

venus said...

very beautifully and meaningfully written story jithu, as anad has pointed out, too close to the reality we don't get to see too many times..

Maya Cassis said...

all I can say is "wow" and I was hooked through the story
Good job!

Jithu said...

> bombay dosti
yes yes fortunately or unfortunately the damage is done. entha cheyka! pattippoyille :-) hmm so there are more regular readers for my craps.. :-)

> anand
hey, why dont u do it urself? if possible give it a try man. the stories form slums are disturbing. hmm.. hv to do something for that. this affects the children the most. right from childhood they are seeing the disparity btn them and others in the society which widens the 'divide' when they grow up.

> malinee
hey, welcome.. wd like to hear "hey i am here everytime" from ya. and thank u very much :-)

> hnl
for that anon and u both, thanx very much.

> wbix
hmm.. :-( *empathizing*

> venus
thanx venus, i guess its everywhere. but available only to those eyes which want to see it. :-)

> maya
thnx there! :-)

>|' ; '| said...

u r the greatest!
^:)^
kidilam story

Geo said...

kadhaakaaroo, aathmakadha aanoo?

Jithu said...

> poison
hmm.. thnx dey :-)

> geo
allallo georguttye!

pophabhi said...

Well Done! You caught me in my similar thoughts that I was having - after seeing Pradeep Nair's movie "Oridam" portraying the lives (can I term it that way?) of prostitutes. Very nice writing!

Jithu said...

> pophabhi
thnx yaar. i havnt seen that film. let me see whether i can grab a print from somewhere. :-)