Neon Lights

neon lights

Suhani closed her eyes.

Tomorrow will be another day, another struggle.

 

One doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand abandonment. Even when you see it as a norm everywhere around you. Like the saying goes, a two wrongs don’t make a right. So when you are six, and your parents stop being your parents one fine day, you understand, there is something fundamentally wrong.

With you.

May be I was not good enough. May be I did something terribly wrong. Like I had drunk the milk from Shyam’s bottle when I was hungry once. Like I had refused to sit on the lap of the old uncle who I had never seen before. It all adds up, doesn’t it? So it just happened to me one day. When the tall lanky man appeared on our doorsteps, asking for father, I remember I had run away. Not for long. Father got me back and we all sat together looking at each other for some time when my father and the man talked about money and had a little argument. I was to blame, I know. So when father offered me to visit Mumbai with the tall man, I knew I had to agree this time. And so I did. I think mother was crying that night. I still didn’t get what wrong I did to make her cry. I had snuggled up to her that night and she had hugged me tighter than ever before.

But I had to leave the next day and I did. If I wouldn’t have left that day, how would I have seen this beautiful city? The hundreds of cars of every colour running around busy streets. So many people getting down from the train together. Such busy streets, and busier than them, its people. And of course the kind man that the tall stranger at our doorstep had turned into.  I call him Lambu chachu but he is good like that, you can call him whatever you like. He takes care of me, not only me, also many other boys and girls who I assume would have had similar stories. And because of all of them, I felt safe, I knew that I was not the only one who was being punished by her parents for being unreasonable. Yet, I knew, the onus always lies on us. We could have avoided to be under the caretaking of Lambu Chachu and happily or sadly continued living our life with our respective parents, only if we had learnt how to behave. Behaviour is everything. Your behaviour determines whether you live under a roof or on the streets. I have learnt that now.

Each of us have a different journey. Like Rubina, who had to leave us last month. She was such a good friend. We had spent so much time together, talking about each other, talking about life, money and freedom. But she had to go. Immediately after her birthday. I remember we sitting on the pavement the night before she left, she had cried. She was not sure about leaving, but she knew she had to, she was not the same anymore. She was growing, and for girls like her, the streets are apparently not safe. That’s what we were told. Why? I had asked her. Why would the very streets which nourished us, would turn its back on us? Why would the very people who had been oblivious of our existence become suddenly aware of our presence? What is it, I had asked innocently. In response, she had cried and held me. You will know one day, was her answer. I knew, I would have to find the answers myself, it was just a wait for the right time. Until then, it would suffice to know, this is what they call as destiny. And the more we fight with this monster called destiny, the more it sucks us into its dark hole. I remember how Rubina had cried the following night, when that short and fat man, with a creepy smile showing his discoloured teeth had held Rubina’s hands. You will have a home soon; he had promised her. But didn’t we all have one? You no longer need to run around and sell stuff to keep you going, he had promised. I was sold, really, I had thought the world around works on one simple principle. You give to the world, and you take from it. May be I am wrong, but nothing has happened to me so far for me to change my belief.

For some it’s even worse. Gopi had lost one eye.  Suleman’s leg was cut off. But they went on in their lives, making the most of what they could. May be that’s what we all should do. Instead of crying, just take life in our hands. I wish Rubina had understood it. I know I will. All thanks to her, I will not stop thinking. 

I know I am doing this for Shyam and my parents. To get enough money to bring them over here or even better, go back to them, one day. When that would happen, nobody knows. It has been five years now since I came to Mumbai. So far I have never seen them or heard of them. May be they are still upset. But now I know, maybe they were equally at fault for letting me go. Would they not be missing me – I have a life ahead of me, but would they have another little girl like me ever? Or maybe they are not, else I would have heard from them once. May be this was the give and take moment of their lives. Give something you love to the world and get something you wish for. Is it money they traded me for? The money I can earn just by cleaning car windows? The money I can earn by picking garbage? Or selling books or roses on the busy streets? But then, isn’t money easy – easy to earn, easy to lose? For example, I wouldn’t trade the rusty silver earrings I had found once from the garbage for anything, any money. That is precious to me. I wear it sometimes in the night and then keep it back safe in my little box, which defines my world and my territory on the pavement.

So tomorrow is the day Lambu chachu is waiting for. It doesn’t excite me that much, except for some old and sad memories. I know the reason of his excitement, he gets to have his give and take moment I suppose. I know because Lambu Chachu remembers each of ours Birthdays and tomorrow happens to be mine. It’s one special day we are told, this day our journey into this life had begun. I am not sure whether this day I was born to my parents or not, but this must be the day the new me was born. Alone, all by myself, free in this crowded city, trying to find my foothold. I know one day I will and till then I am happy selling roses, pick up plastic bottles from the dump yard or occasionally cleaning car windows at traffic lights.

Suhani opened her eyes and looked at the dazzling neon lights. The traffic was dead. The world was fast asleep. This is the time she craves for every night, away from everything, everyone, some special time with herself, her thoughts. The lights, tireless and bright, just like her dreams. She knew, it’s just up to her to reach there, no one can or no one will ever do it for her.

It has to be me. And I will.

She smiled.

 

This story of mine is written as part  of the A2Z Challenge 2016 , today’s letter being “N”.

 If you liked what you read, may I request you to kindly share your feelings, what you liked about this story and what you didn’t quite, please do let me know it all. It’s great to hear your thoughts on this, so please do take a moment. If you enjoyed reading it, please don’t forget to spread the good word.

Thank you !

© “And Life Unfolds” and Subhendu Mohanty, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Subhendu Mohanty and “And Life Unfolds” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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