Author – Madalsa Poddar
Growing up in different cities, the boy resisted one day, “How often are we going to change locations Maa? I have to leave my friends every year.”
To which a malnourished old lady, with eyes bulging out responded, “The land owner doesn’t let anyone live in one place longer than that beta.”
Upset but determined the boy promised his mother, “You’ll see Maa, one day I’ll start earning and then we’ll buy a pakka-house.”
On his fourteenth birthday, instead of taking him to the river bank and spending time together, his father told him they would go to a new place.
“Somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, but remember to put on the worst of your clothes,” said his father.
Surprised but excited the boy runs to his mother to tell her that father had finally agreed to show him his workplace. Tears rolled down his mother’s eyes. He thought it was because of happiness but the mother knew the truth beforehand.
At his father’s workplace, the boy got excited on seeing hundreds of kids like him, all his age.
From that day onwards, his father would take him to work every day. But the child managed to finally understand how he was trapped when he was stamped as ‘permanent’. That was when he finally stopped dreaming. He realized that river banks were way more peaceful than construction sites.
Seeing his friends play every morning when he left for work with his father, he learned what it meant to be a labourer’s boy.
“I grew up way too early,” he would think every day on his way to work.
The morning breeze which earlier had put a smile on his face, calling him to play with his friends, would now bring sorrow with them. Physical barriers were broken, but he was getting barricaded by social norms because of the profession into which he was dragged. Those kids playing on the streets, who were earlier his friends, they were now his haters, envious of him since he was supporting his family. Little did they know about him!
He would be repulsed every morning when it was time to go to the site where he was once very eager to go. His mother’s food, which he used to run away from, was now as delicious as anything else.
He spent every day questioning himself, “Why me? Why is it that the sand with which mother used to stop me from playing is now everywhere around me to the extent that I smell like it? Why is it that my father had to do what my grandfather did? Why do I have to do what my father does? What if all the windows I broke with my flying shots actually meant that I could be a cricketer some day? Why did I grow up into an adult so early in life?”
Another dream died, another dreamer died, another excellent player died. And with that, his promise to his mother to build a ‘pakka-house’ also died.
This story submitted as part of our Short Story Contest