Monday, December 29, 2014

The Kid, And His Younger Brother

It was 11 in the morning. I was sitting in the car and sipping chai on a busy road in this once beautiful colony in Hyderabad. The colony is fast disappearing - old houses being broken down for swanky new apartment blocks - few are left. Little nooks are occupied by the chai walas, the vegetable walas and so on.

I noticed a young boy, can't be more than twelve years old, walk past my car in that swagger that comes out of being exposed to the world too early. If you do not show you know the rules, the world eats you up. He had a sweet and kind face, curly hair. He carried a bag and two bottles of water. I wondered if he knew some skill that he was trading - sharpening knives or mending vessels or some such thing - and carried the tools in his bag. I followed him down the road in my rear view mirror.
A Private Lunch
He picked a tree and threw the bottle down in an exaggerated motion. Then he sat down by the tree, his back to the road, and opened his bag. There was a carrier, one of those bronze ones, with three or four vessels. He opened it and settled down for lunch.

Ah, his mother must have cooked for him. And a nice meal too it looked as he started on it. Lots of rice and sambar.

He must have been out working early to have lunch at this early hour. (I used to see young kids who would work in Irani cafes come to work at 4 in the morning years ago.) Anyway, this fellow was joined by another young kid, this one no more than six or seven. He hung around the older boy, danced around as kids that age do, hummed some tune and by chance drifted near me.

'Come here,' I said.
The song stopped. He was all guilty. He looked at the older boy. That boy stopped eating and looked in our direction apprehensively. Now what?

'What are you doing?' I asked.
'Buvva,' he said indicating the older boy. (Buvva is food.)
 'Is he your brother?' I asked.
'Anna,' he said. (Older brother.)

God knows what these two were up to, living these insecure, adult lives. They were no beggars. They worked for a living, at least the older one did. I did not want to intrude on their peaceful lunch time.
I reached into the little candy bag I have in the car and drew out a fistful of candy.
The young one's eyes lit up. He looked at his older brother.

I gave as many as he could hold in his little palms. 'You will share with your brother?' I asked. He nodded.

The older brother relaxed. He had stopped eating. And then he smiled as the young one made his way back to his brother.

Such a lovely smile. 

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