It was odd. A child of his age should have been in class. Here he was, ambling along the roads and wasting his time as if he had nothing else to do. Seeing me, a sheepish grin came on his face. I noticed that it was greasy, the clothes he was wearing were shabby, his unkempt hair – it was clear his folks were not giving him enough time and attention. He came and sat next to the stainless steel bench in the bus shelter and kept looking at me. Unable to contain my curiosity, I raised my left eyebrow and asked him the reason for the expression on his face. That was my handicap, I could raise only my left eyebrow or both together; never the right one alone.
He pointed at the burger I was eating and in a tone many would regard as rude exclaimed,”I want that.”
“But this is mine.”
“Its ok. Give it to me.” The boy was still rude, he was asking a stranger for his burger and he didn’t mind eating something that was already half eaten.
I promised to get him a new one provided he told me his story. Enthused, he nodded his head vigorously. I was for a moment afraid his head would fall off because of the sheer force he exerted to nod his head. Ordering burger and coke for both of us, I led him to the corner where I was sure we could talk without him being distracted. There was something going on with this boy, that much I could tell.
While we were waiting, I prodded him to tell me about himself and all he told me was that his name was Kishan. Something told me he would talk once his tummy was full and I decided to wait. Before long, he started talking. He told me how he did not know who his parents were and that he remembered waking up in a room full of kids who were like him. They had nobody to call their own, no home to go to, no parents to cuddle them. He told me how the boys and girls grew up fighting for every morsel of food and how they had no more than two set of clothes.
When I asked where his orphanage was, he said he had left it and had run away months back. He figured out that he was better off alone, he found he could make money no matter how little and would at least not have to get the scoldings or suffer the physical assaults by the warden. He bid me farewell and when I asked him if I would see him again, he grinned and said I might.
For some reason I felt a warmth grow inside my heart for him. He was a ragamuffin for sure, but then he was also a child, one who lost his childhood for no fault of his. The next day, I waited for a while at the bus stop, hoping my new friend would come. He did not turn up. This happened for a few more days. I was anxious and worried at the same time, I felt for this child in a way I could not explain.
After some asking around, I was told that there was a garage that fixed bikes and other two wheelers where they employed a boy who matched my description of Kishan. My heart told me that the boy would be none other than my young friend. As I walked into the garage wheeling my bike, a man clad in a dirty vest and pants that were once upon a time white came out to greet me and ask me what seemed to be the problem with the bike. I told him that no matter what I did, it would not start. He squatted beside and began inspecting the parts. Suddenly he hollered out, “Chotuuuuuuuuuu, bring me the number 13 you dirty little pig.”
I wanted to smile at the boy, my little friend, the one who brought the tool to the foul mouthed garage owner, but my heart melted at the sight of his bloody nose and scalded knees. This man was up to no good and it was obvious he was mistreating Kishan. I gave him a piece of my mind and threatened to complain to the police and asking Kishan to occupy the rear seat of my perfectly working bike, I rode out of the garage making a promise that I would protect this little boy and give him the childhood he was denied.