Yet I could not cry and I so much wanted to
I could not scream and I would have in silence
I just stared in those eyes which were not meeting mines..
Sometimes there are stories that are remembered more often than the incidences that strike us in real life. We have a tendency to remember stories that are fictitious and inculcate them in our lives .Reality always loses its taste in this world of virtual desires and never ending artificial wants. But this one did not and will not ever.
This is something on paper which is very close to my heart, happened long time back.
I always have lived in a nuclear family and in terms of places my family has shifted a lot of times across Indian cities. A few years back, we were living in Bareilly, one of the famous cities in the state of U.P in India. Our house which we had taken on rent was situated a little outside the city, in the suburbs. The reason behind the location was as always the comparisons of the distances of their respective offices between my parents, often landing in a location midway between both. The house was part of a pseudo colony not occupied fully at that time. Beside our colony or rather at the backside of it was a ramshackle Basti which was occupied by workers of the colony: the maids, the cleaners, the sweepers and other household helpers.
I personally am based out of Hyderabad owing to my work and hence going home for Diwali is a much awaited event. I was going to Bareilly for the first time that year; my parents had shifted just a few days back to that city. As I entered the colony from the backside (the front side was blocked due to some road construction work), my first words were "Where have you guys taken the house, this Basti is just aligned to the rear side of the house: anyone can jump over the cliff and climb over the backside". My father said "The workers are trustworthy" , I totally ignored the comment, keeping in mind the same notion which many of us carry about anything that creates in us a sense of fear or insecurity.
Then came the day of celebrations- Diwali brings an essence which has so many flavors in it, cleaning our house, decorating it, shopping and more shopping and the joy of burning those little firecrackers, the sweets and the tooth aches after that, the rides to market forgetting to buy a pooja item, the rangoli and the best part is the time spent with your family.
Over the years I have become more environment friendly and hence on that Diwali we purchased fewer crackers than we had over the past Diwalis. But the joy was the same, after the rituals we lighted them and took several photographs binding them for the years to come. My mother asked me to put Diyas on the upper floor of the house. After completing the work I peeped over the wall in the Basti, it was also lit with some bulbs, and children were outside their houses playing. But not all huts looked like celebrating the festival of joy.
That night was chilly; “Diwali eve” celebrations were already over. I was in bed warming my hands while rubbing and puffing at the same time. Half of the household was already asleep, the rest drooling half way through sleep. I heard some whispers. Not sure if it was the breeze or something else, I ignored them and kept sitting with the blanket around me. Again there were faint noises and footsteps that I could hear this time clearly. The sound came again and this time there was no doubt that it involved a human. With a mixed feeling of anxiety and fright, anger and braveness, I decided to go to the roof, with a stick clasped in my hand (the other sweating profusely) I went upstairs. Walking towards the staircase my heart and mind was full of anger and rage, ' must be those idiotic Basti wallas, want to steal some money on Diwali, cheap people, losers, think that stealing is their birth right'. I was so angry that I could feel my blood running super-fast in my veins and at the tip of oozing out at the same time. This has to be tackled, I thought.
What I saw, I will remember till the end of anything I remember ever.
There was a child as thin as one ever could be, initially I presumed him to be a ghost going by the body he had.The body or the skeleton was covered with rags and I had to light the roof bulb to actually see that the rags were also limited to bare essentials. I was everything at that moment that he was not and still I was angry for his intruding into our place to steal must be to steal - I was convinced.
Yes he was stealing, in his mud covered hands he was holding what were the...
Humanity had lost its path, never had I felt more ashamed of my existence, than that day. He told me he wasn’t a thief and he was just picking up the BURNT FIRECRACKERS, for his sister and that he promised to pay me 50 paisa amount when his dad sold the peanuts his mother was frying on the other street across the colony.
I wasn’t listening, I wanted to but could not, I wanted to scream 'Go Away, you cheater' but I could not; I myself did not know when the anger, the shame, the sympathy, the guilt, the fear and everything came and went.
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Hope you liked this and will remember this one any day you see a kid with the crackers :) .