The boy was staring at the bakery with hunger in his eyes. He had a little, half-naked girl on his shoulder and another little boy was holding his hand. All three turned around and looked at people in the bus stand expectantly. The trio approached a man with a cigarette on his lips in white spotless shirt and light grey trousers and a laptop bag on shoulder leaning on his motorcycle parked beside.
The boy hesitated and then with pleading eyes said “Bhaiyya, Char rupay denge to badi meherbani hogi, sirf ek biscuit packet bhaiyya, hum log subah se kuch nahi khaye” (Brother if u give four rupees it will be very kind of you, just one biscuit packet, we haven’t eaten anything from morning).
The man looked other way and pretended he was not listening.
The children looked up with sinking hopes and boy pleaded “Bhaiyya sirf ek biscuit packet”. (Brother one biscuit packet only).
The man got little uncomfortable, he expressed his displeasure and threw his unfinished cigarette on ground and doused it with his leg and mounted the motorcycle in order to start it.
The boy fearing more insults did not prod the man further and turned away with the other children in tow and crossed the street. The trio was loitering around the shops in the adjoining market but didn’t approach anyone else. After some time there was a little bit of hustle at the bus stand as a bus approached and waiting passengers boarded it in a hurry in order to grab the best seats. It was off peak hour so only a handful of seat got occupied. It was also the terminal stop for that bus so it was to wait there for a while before leaving.
The trio appeared from somewhere and boarded the bus the older boy made baby girl sit in the last seat and started playing with her. The other boy too joined and instantly the bus was filled with shouts and giggles of the children then the older boy started running around the bus and hiding behind the seats.
The younger boy cried out “Gopi Bhaiyya khidar ho tum! Jaldi idhar aao! “(Brother Gopi where are you, come here soon) and tears filled up in his eyes.
Gopi rushed to him and both burst out laughing.
Their little game of hide and seek continued for a while till the conductor boarded the bus. Gopi picked his little sister and got down from the bus and made her sit on the bench at the bus stand and asked his little brother to guard her.
He then boarded the bus again stood at the steps. The bus started moving ahead slowly. The younger brother started waving goodbye. Then the bus started picking a little speed. The children got scared and started crying “Gopi Bhaiyya, wapas aao”. (Brother Gopi come back)
Gopi jumped from the bus and ran towards his siblings. The little ones started smiling and felt secure again.
As another Independence Day is almost here and we celebrate our freedom, independence with ethnic days, pot luck lunches and singing patriotic songs at our places of residence or work. Let us not forget numerous Gopis who have to “independently “fend for themselves and their dependents at a tender age when they themselves need a secure and safe childhood.
This leads me to a question what does being “independent” actually mean? Please let me know your ideas about it.
This post was first published @ N-zine.