Its afternoon already. The sun is blazing on my face and my throat is parched. But I cannot stop talking. I have to sell all the 20 pens in my hand by sunset. Clearly, I have no option but to continue to walk from car to car, auto to auto, persuading people to buy a pen. There is no place I can get a drink of water, so I see no point in sitting down somewhere or looking for a way to get water and wasting time.
I walk from window to window, thrusting the pens in the faces of the memsahibs, hoping they get attracted to the bright colours. I linger around longer where I see children, in the hope that they will see the pens and urge their parents to buy them one pen, if not the stack. But like every other car, the memsahib ignores me and pulls up her window. She is afraid I will nick something from her car. What will she lose? That rich woman, if I do take a small shiny thing from her hand anyway? She is capable enough to buy another, I am sure. “Selfish, heartless men with money”.
My own mother is nowhere to be seen. She must be somewhere on the other end of the road begging for money. The ‘badha sahib’ tells her to drag herself on a low chowki across the road. This, he says will bring more sympathy and thus, more money. I don’t like to see her like this, but I have no choice. Sometimes, I tell her to just walk normally. But she says she is so used to this that tiring her feet makes no sense. “The badha sahib is right too. And what if he sees me on my feet? He will surely kill me, or break my legs for real”, says Amma.
Sometimes I get scared, that she too will be crushed like Abba under a speeding car. The loons in their big cars have no sense and often drive over our friends and the other beggars at the crossing. Then we have to endure the kids’ cries of pain for months as they moan their loved one’s death or tolerate a broken leg or hand. Work doesn’t stop of course. Sometimes, it comes as a boon when occasionally, a kind-hearted man gives us 10 rupees when he sees a bandaged hand. But very rarely do we come across such people.
I look at these people in their big cars and think to myself, if ever I will be able to rise up to their level. Maybe someday I will run away and sell all my pens for a better price and get a better deal somewhere. But that is not easy. The ‘badha sahib’s’ men will beat up Amma and dump her in the river if they find out. Maybe I will run away without telling her. But then, who will take care of her? My sister already has to carry around 3 more brothers all day, and see to it that they get a morsel of food. I don’t know what to do right now, but I will figure something out. Someday, after Amma goes away, I will run away and make more money. I will drive a car just like these badhaa people. But I will have the heart to give away a few rupees, maybe even a hundred, to the people on the street. People like me.