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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

THE RAG-PICKER’S ALBUM

By: Team PenTastic



 By: Tarun Kumar





It was a cold winter morning; the distant sun was alighting into the violet sky. A cool morning breeze swept across my ears, I thrust my face deeper into the lifted collars. My hands dug into the deepest recesses of my pant pockets for warmth. Gazing down, I walked through the cemented path, kicking litter can once in a while.

Everything is over. They never loved me.

“They never loved me. Never!” my emotions came out as a cry. Startled by my own voice, I scavenged for any questioning eyes. Mercifully there were none. Moments later, though cumbersome, I realized I was standing in a park, my blue canvas slightly drenched by green grass.
           
Browsing through the morning mist, I spotted a mahogany bench beside an oak tree and took a seat at one corner. I sat there silently contemplating yester night’s  turn of events. A deep torrent of emotions fled through my nerves as each moment of last night’s events unfolded before my eyes.

By now, the sun was pretty high up in the sky and the distant light had kindled the diurnal
life on the streets. A few sweepers were complying with their daily chores of sweeping the litter and leaves aside. The morning smelt of a silence. A silence, I hadn’t suffered in my 20 years. It was the calmness that reigns before a violent catastrophe. I could feel anger surge into my blood

“Can I have a seat” I heard a childish voice to my left. Raising my head from the clasps of my hands, I saw a six year old boy gazing relentlessly towards me. Ignoring his eyes
I waved my hand in the air for him to sit down. I was not in a mood to start any conversation so I just turned to the opposite direction.
           
Silence again reclaimed my thoughts. Only once in a while I would hear the riffling of pages. There wasn’t a word spoken. I could sense my own breath. As soon as I had seen the boy I sensed of a potentially irritative chat with the child but uneasily the boy did not seem interested in me. He was completely quite.

“Is he watching me?” my thoughts started toying about “ Is he too polite to ask me anything?  Or Is he dumb?- No way, he asked to sit or did not he??” even my memory seemed to bewilder me.

The curiosity got better of me and unable to refrain I turned to my left, half expecting “I-knew-dat-smile”. Fortunately or unfortunately, he wasn’t staring me. As I gazed down, I saw thick album    
  
 The album was covered with a cheap brown synthetic. Tarnished and wore out at the corners, the album appeared  to have been aged and used-used often. As he riffled through the dated yellow crinkly pages, I realized it was a photo album, not a standard one though. The photos mostly faded, discolored and termite-eaten, were pasted in a haphazard manner only on side of each page.

“Its been an hour, you shuffling those pages” I said, uneasily trying to start a chat.
The boy turned upwards towards me. His eyes staring blankly at me. He didn’t even seem to fathom for any possible reply. It was then I observed the soiled face, the tattered pant, the unkempt hair and oversized shirt with a crimson strain that he was clad in. He wasn’t a pleasing sight at all.

Uncomfortable with  the lad’s attention, I cast my eyes on the album. Ironically the album, which seemed tattered a few moments ago now felt more kempt in the untidy hands. The boy gripping the album closed placed it on my laps.

“Do you want to see?” he said before I could react.
Unsure how to respond I opened the album, however first replacing it on the bench in an attempt to save my denims from being soiled. The photos were of  different couple in various postures  and at various places. Various unknown faces featured in the ruined pictures. Uninterested I ruffled through the pages. The last couple of photos were however  in bad  condition, in a black and white hue with the effect of cheap photocopy.

“ Aren’t they beautiful?” he questioned
“Err.. Yes”  
“ this was taken at the Kali temple” he pointed to one of them cheerfully. “And this was taken at the foodfactory” he continued.
“This might be from the shivaji park” I joined him in the childish play, smiling foolishly
“that was from….”
“ Bigham fare”
“its chandak chowk”

And thus the game of identifying places started. Within seconds we were shouting to answer first. Laughing and patting each other, unaware of the speculating eyes. Not even realizing, that my garments were being grubby.

As all good things would have, in a while, the game came to an end.

“Why are you carrying it around? “ I questioned pointing the album
“That’s what all I am left with.” He said with a smile
“Couldn’t get you”
“My parents are dead” he replied with the unhindered smile
 My nerves felt cold. Uneasiness again started creeping into me
“Eight years ago, they were killed in a road accident” He said, unemotionally
“I am sorry” I could gather to reply “They must have loved you a lot”
“They might have or might haven’t” he said grimly
“What does it mean?”
“I was abandoned by my parents in an orphanage even before they were killed” he continued “A rag picker rescued me from a dustbin”
I felt a cold chill shaking me.

“But why did they leave the photoalbum with you?” I asked
The boy just looked down trying hard to control the tears in his eyes.
I sat there perplexed unsure of what to do next. I offered him a candy from one of my pockets trying to console him, which he politely refused
“They didn’t leave any photoalbum” A sweeper present there unbeknownst to us replied to me.
I stood glaring at the words from the sweeper
“How come the album exists then?” I sounded confused
“Haven’t you observed none of the photos are of the same person?” he said.
I gripped the album staring at the photos. He was right!
“Every now and then when he finds any photo while rag picking, he pastes them onto these pages believing them to be his parents.” He sweeper continued, “He believes some day his parents would come and take him home .”

I cant believe, it doesn’t make sense

“for how many years has he been doing this?”
 “since then when he asked about his parents.”

A torrential rain of emotions cluttered my brain and body. I had run from my home for a petty issue. I was blaming my parents for insane reasons and there was this 10 year boy struggling to find his parents who had heartlessly abandoned him!

He is an idiot . My brain said . But my conscience knew better.

I saw at the distant sun and knew where I was heading, this time with a brother half my age and double the maturity.

2 comments:

  1. Good content and plot. Use of words may be appropriately made. There is a sequence and coherence in your expression. You have clarity of thought. Will look forward to more stories from you.

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