I watched as they collectively ran towards the white gypsy vehicle in an impulse, throwing their hands in the air; stretching their arms out to reach the window, behind which sat a white skinned foreigner. From what I could see, she wore black sunglasses, and a straw hat. She fished out a couple of ten rupee notes and flashed it towards the half naked children, who excitedly screamed, shoving one another, and some giggling among themselves.
One of them had a bad fall, and before I could reach out to help, he sprung up straight away and pushed his way through the rest of them. I watched as she whispered and chuckled something to the person sitting beside her, another fair complexioned person, assuming it to be her spouse.
The driver who had been gone for a while, reappeared and frantically started shooing away the children, searching for an object that would scare them away. As they scattered away, the driver couldn’t stop apologizing to his precious VIPs’; the woman put the ten rupee note away and signaled the driver to leave. They drove away, leaving a cloud of black engine smoke and dust, which blurred my vision. I saw the disappointed children run behind the four wheel drive with high levels of optimism; except one, the one who had bruised himself.
He sat on the hard ground clad in his half pants, dusting the mud from his wound. I walked up to him curiously, seeing him so involved in cleaning his wound and talking to himself in whispers. I crouched beside him, trying to examine his leg. He looked up, a mixed expression of amusement and irritation on his face. I smiled, and he responded too, after which he got involved in clearing the injury. I asked him why can’t he go home and get it cleaned. He looked at me, as if, not understanding the language I was speaking (though I was speaking in the local language). He didn’t answer and looked away. I asked him where he lived, he pointed towards a small shack house, quite a common sight in a place where I was. I asked him who lived with him, no answer again.
I smiled to myself and asked; “biscuit?” He looked up instantly and grinned. We went to the roadside tea shop and had tea with some glucose biscuits. He asked for an extra pack to take home. I bought him two more. He was elated; he jumped with joy and asked me to visit his home. I readily agreed and followed him back. He stopped suddenly and hid behind a bush, just a few feet away from his house. I walked up to him asked what the matter was, which he blissfully ignored, devoting his complete concentration on a huge framed man who walked out of the household. As soon as he took a turn towards the nearby street, he jumped out of the shrub and took me by my wrist to the small dwelling. I heard a woman’s voice from inside; he called out for her, “Amma”. She came running out and hugged him dearly. She looked at me and then the boy. I stood there next him, as he introduced me as the “biscuit akka”. She smiled and invited me inside. I denied her politely, since I had a bus to catch and was running late.
I bid adieu to the family and walked away, while the boy followed me and thrust a piece of peanut candy in my hand. As he was about to leave, I stopped him and asked why was he scared of his father. He looked at me and bent his face.
“He’s not my father. I don’t have a father. I was left near Amma’s house when I was a baby, so she is my mother but he does not like me. I earn money by begging. The biscuits were for my brother. If I show my wound to Amma she will worry and take me to the doctor. If he comes to know, he will beat her.”
He finished and I looked at him with disbelief and shock. He smiled at me and left. I looked at the silhouette of his frail body walk back…to a place he called home.