By: Saheli Khastagir
Thank God they sent Milaan bhai with me. I don’t like the other one!
I mean…I don’t hate him…I shouldn’t. He is the one who got me to the city in the first place.
But he is always so irritated and angry with me.
(Not today though. He even asked Roshni di to put ghee2 on my parantha3 in the morning. We never put ghee on our paranthas. It is always so dry.)
But Milaan Bhai is the best. He is real tall. He is taller than my father…he might even be taller than our village doctor. And that is really tall. I love sitting on his shoulders; I am above everyone’s head when he carries me on his shoulders.
He also has a big grin. And he is always smiling. I have never met anyone who smiles so much. He is always joking and teasing everyone. He is not scared of anyone. Not even of the other guy. He pulls his leg all the time and then bursts into laughter. He laughs so hard, that he turns all red and starts gasping for air. I love it when he laughs like that.
He says he is going to marry my sister. I don’t know why. My sister is nothing like him. She is very serious and boring. And she never talks to me the way he does. She doesn’t talk to anyone really. She is very quiet. Sometimes…she used to talk to mother.
When I was coming here, she held onto me real tight, and wouldn’t let me go. And she wept and wept and wept. Even I started crying. I really hate seeing her crying so. But what could I have done? I wanted to meet mother, you see. And they wouldn’t let her come with me. They had to pull her away from me.
I wish I could meet her right now. She must miss me so much. She must be so sad. Maybe Milaan bhai will make her smile. He can make anyone smile.
But you cannot tell this to anyone. About him planning to marry her I mean. He hasn’t told anyone else about this. Milaan bhai is the only one who trusts me with real adult secrets. And why shouldn’t he? I am not a kid anymore. I can do so much now. Look at what I am about to do today. It’s a big serious responsibility. Not kid stuff!
Mother will be so surprised. She will be so proud. I bet she wouldn’t even recognize me at first. I wear different kind of clothes now; and my hair is cut differently. I will not tell her who I am at first. I will go (with a serious face) and ask her in a heavy voice, “Lady, do you know who I am?” and when she looks at me puzzledly, I will scream, “It’s me! It’s me! It’s me!”
Oh, it will be so much fun. She will be so happy.
I wish we would hurry up! We have taken the long route. Milaan bhai says it’s a one hour walk. I don’t really mind walking; especially with him. He keeps pointing things out and telling interesting stories about them. He knows everything and everyone here. He just got me 3 guavas from the shopkeeper for free! Everyone loves him so much.
It’s almost the end of January and it’s still very cold. I am wearing 2 sweaters.
It used to be colder in our village. But we never wore 2 sweaters. My sister has 2 shawls. One of them has big holes made by the moths. She wears that when the other one goes for a wash. She must be so cold right now. But not for long. Milaan bhai has promised that once I go to mother, they will send home money, and she can have as many shawls as she wants. She will be so thankful to me.
But it’s taking so long. This cannot be one hour. I must have been walking for at least five! When I tell that to Milaan Bhai, he starts laughing.
“That’s because of all the stuff you are carrying on you kid”, he says, “that’s what makes you feel so tired.”
Saying that, he picks me up in his arms, and we go the rest of the distance like that.
We are almost there now. I can see all the cars and auto rickshaws parked outside. There is so much rush. So many people. Why are there so many people, I ask Milaan bhai. He says it’s a holiday today, that’s why.
Everyone is checked by the security guards before they enter. It’s such a long line. He puts me down and we get into the line. My turn comes finally. I know the guard; he came to our place last week. I smile at him, but he ignores me. He probably doesn’t remember me.
We go in. So many people. I wish Milaan Bhai would carry me again. I can’t see anything in this crowd. But he has to leave now. I don’t want him to go. I am not scared though. Just…I wish he would stay.
“Give my regards to her”, I hear him saying.
Already?! Don’t go!
“Don’t worry. I’ll see you there, soon enough.”
I want to cry. But, I don’t. I am not scared. Really. I am just…a little sad. That’s all.
“We are very proud of you. I am very proud of you.”
I really don’t want to cry. I cannot cry. Not in front of him!
He kisses me lightly on my head.
And he’s gone!
That’s it! Just like that!
I can’t even see him in this crowd.
There really is nothing to be scared about. Milaan Bhai swore it won’t hurt. Not me. Or the others.
Not like my mother. She was in pain for 10 hours straight before she went. The bullet struck her below her arm pits; but didn’t kill her instantly like they show in the movies. They couldn’t even call the doctor; he was in some other village. My uncle went looking for him; he came back the next day; but she was gone by then.
I was holding her hand above her head. And my sister was trying to stop the blood. Mother kept begging God to take her fast. But he was testing her, you see. 10 hours.
That was the only time I saw anyone die. Milaan Bhai has seen many people die. He says most of the time it doesn’t hurt at all. It finishes real quick. He would know. He has watched so many people go! Getting stitches is scarier, he says.
I hate getting stitches.
I have to go near that chaat4 shop. But I can’t move in this crowd. So I stop at the side for a while. There is a woman here with a boy. He is her son I think. The woman is really pretty. She is very fair. She is very pink.
She looks at me and asks, “Who are you with child..?”
I don’t answer.
The boy is licking an ice-cream. He makes a lot of sound. I wish he will stop!
“Do you want one son..?” she asks.
I shake my head. (Where I am going…I can have as many ice- creams as I want. But I don’t tell her that.)
“Where is your mother beta5…?”
I shake my head.
She looks at me sadly.
I want to tell her to not be sad. I will be with my mother very soon.
But just then I see Milaan bhai standing at the exit, signalling me to hurry up.
So I start walking again. Towards the chaat shop.
I wonder what that woman has done. Milaan bhai said God is angry with them. But why…?? She was so nice.
Maybe, she did something earlier. Maybe she wasn’t so nice always.
Maybe I can convince God to take her with me where I am going. That’s it! That’s what I will do. Maybe I can convince him to take the boy along too. I’ll have someone to play with. And she won’t miss her son then. Yes! That will be perfect!
I reach the chaat shop. The shop is so crowded. Everyone’s eating. I don’t like chaat. It’s too spicy. My sister used to like them.
I stand amongst the crowd. I hope Milaan Bhai has seen me reach the shop. I have lost him again. I can’t see anything. Just the legs and feet of everyone. Dirty shoes, shiny decorated chappals, muddy sandals….all kinds of footwear.
Milaan Bhai said once I reach the shop, count till 10 and it will be over before I reach 10!
I look up. An old man is looking at me strangely. He has so many wrinkles. I smile at him. He doesn’t smile back, but continues looking. I look away. And wait…
It’s already 10! I look around fast. I still can’t see him through the crowd. And the old man is still looking at me. Milaan Bhai promised it will be over befo….
BREAKING NEWS! – 2 hours ago as the country was busy with the Republic Day celebrations, a suicide attack rocked the heart of the Capital again. 20 dead. 56 injured. Death toll may rise. The attacker, on the basis of eye-witness accounts, is being speculated to be a kid anywhere between 7 and 10 years of age. News Live India was the first channel to cover the story. No terrorist group has taken responsibility yet. The Presidents of both Pakistan and United States have condemned the attack and have expressed their condolences for the victims.
For more information, keep watching News Live India.
1 milaan = to meet
2 ghee = oil extracted from cheese
3 parantha = a kind of Indian stuffed bread
4 chaat = a type of street food
5 beta- son