Today is 7th November. Yesterday just yesterday last year, it was my 9th birthday. I remember well. It was my 9th birthday because my mama came on my birthday and he brought 10 candles and it was told to me that I should blow off only 9 candles and let the 10th candle burn.
I asked what will happen if I blow off all the candles. They said…
Nothing will happen but just don’t say that!!
And while blowing off the candle, I got little nervous and in jest, I ended up blowing off all 10 candles.
I almost cried but my mama and mumma both laughed it off, chiding me that I am in so much hurry to celebrate my 10th birthday.
Later my father lit the 10th candle, but in hurry he ended up lighting the 9th candle only. Yes!! The candle he lit was the 9th candle and not the 10th one. I knew that. But I didn’t say it to anyone then.
We ate really good food that night. I still remember taste of that night food. I loved most eating that kachouri with aaloo dum or may be I am not sure because even pulaao was also very tasty.
I didn’t eat such nice food with so much of affection ever after that.
That day I got an extra pieces of special rasgulla that my mama has brought from Lucknow. Next day he taught me how to spin the ball.
We also went for shopping next day !!
Our dresses were already bought and I had one extra dress bought for me because it was my birthday. It was in addition to the new dresses that were bought for the marriage ceremony of K di.
That day woollen caps were bought for us. My cap was of maroon colour and they were talking that Delhi was going to be very cold!!
I won’t take bath! I thought!!
I actually forgot to tell you that that day after we were going to Delhi to attend wedding of K di. She was my favourite di also.
We were all very excited!!
We slept early that day because the train was early next morning. I don’t think I ever slept so well in my life after that.
May be now I will sleep well!!
We boarded the train. First time in my life, I slept in the upper birth. I got to know that you have a stair in the end of the seat to climb up to your bed.
I loved climbing up to my bed.
When I got up, I got to know that the train was late by 4 hours and we will be reaching Kanpur by noon.
I wasn’t much disturbed because I really loved climbing up and down to my birth. My younger brother also learnt to climb up and we were playing ludo there. Then, I also had my new Billoo comics to read. The train journey was really fun.
We reached Kanpur when it was almost evening. We got down there.
I knew that one of our elder uncle, whose son Bunty was three older to me, his sister was also getting married and after attending her wedding that night, next evening we will be going to Delhi for K Di’s wedding.
So after we reached there, my mother went inside and Bunty was called to show me around.
Bunty had a gun and I instantly liked it. That gun was different from my gun. My gun was a usual toy gun that you buy in Diwali, you use chutputia patakha in it. It’s not like a real gun with barrel having feature of loading and unloading of kartoos and most importantly from his gun the bullet used to come out from the front barrel, like they show in films. It was like a dream gun for me. He fired a shot from it and it had everything like sound, bursts of real gunpowder, smoke, everything.
I told you it was a dream gun.
Bunty bhayya told me that the gun is so powerful that agar isase sata ke kisi ko maar do then he will die.
I loved Bunty bhayya so much that I just got stuck with him and didn’t to leave him for a moment after meeting him.
Then he asked me to come down with him. And we went outside. I was just following him and we reached to some circle in a very busy road. He bought me an orange lollipop ice candy. Then he asked me come aside and asked me to wait there and then he just ran away.
Yes! He just ran away. I saw him running away.
Yes! He left me there and ran away.
I didn’t know what to do. I looked around and found the place really scary. and it was getting dark. It was middle of the town and very noisy. I didn’t know what to do.
I wanted to cry but I was so scared, I started trembling. Tears started rolling down my cheeks.
I was so nervous that I was not even crying for a while. After a while, I started searching my uncle house and started running here and there but I couldn’t see anyone.
I was lost.
I stopped a passerby and told him I have lost my way to home, he didn’t even listen to me, next person I called, he pushed me so hard that I fell on the road. Now I started crying. I started crying loudly.
Then a rickshawala who saw me crying came to me and asked what happened to me. He was the first one to speak to me in good way, I couldn’t say anything and I kept on crying.
Then a policeman came there. He asked me what happened why I am crying ?? Then he took me to a house.
I entered that house where many policemen were there. He took me to a man who was very heavily built and had thick mustache. This policeman told him that he found me crying in the laal bazar. That mustache guy looked at me and asked…
kya naam hai, kya hua ??
I couldn’t say anything except that I have lost my home. He asked me to stop crying and told me to sit down outside. I came outside and sat there. I was very scared. After really a long time, almost half past a day, he came outside, and asked the policeman if anyone came looking for me, that policeman said…
No ! No one has come !!
He looked at me pointedly and told the policeman who brought me …
Pandit jee isko ghar panhooncha dijiye.
I felt so happy. That was the last time I felt happy. Punditjee made me sit in his cycle. But he didn’t bring me to my house but to some other house.
He went inside and there was a very fair and very fat lady who opened the door there. Pundit jee told her…
Saheb isko bheje hain
She looked at me happily and immediately asked me to come inside. Before I could enter she asked me…
Chappal bahar kholo
I came inside. Then she asked me to follow her. She brought me to the kitchen.
She showed me utensils lying there and asked me to clean them up.
I was shocked. I couldn’t understand anything. I wanted to say something but by then she has left.
for a while I just sat down in the kitchen. She came back after five-ten minutes and when she saw me standing baffled, she pushed me saying…
Saaf karna shuru kyon nahi kiya, abhi saheb aa jaayenge to kya hoga…
I wanted to say that I don’t know how to clean them but couldn’t say anything. I was very scared of everything. I wanted to cry but I was so scared that I couldn’t cry.
But I couldn’t stop my tears from rolling down my cheeks.
Ro kyon raha hai ?? Khana nahi khaya hai kya ??
Then in a small plate she gave me two roti and little sabji. Food was very cold because it was leftover food from last night…
Pointing out by finger she said…
Wahan baith ke khaa aur jaldi se phir bartan dho de…
I was very scared. I went there holding plate in my trembling fingers. I sat down on the floor. I didn’t know what to do. I was so scared that I wasn’t even crying loudly, I was shaking because of fear and tears kept on rolling down my cheeks.
She was still in the kitchen… After a while she came out searching for me and saw me crying. She said in a very cold voice
Ro kya raha hai…jaldi se khao aur bartan saaf karo…
I collected my strength and told her that I am not a servant, I study in school and I want to go back to my home.
Listening to this, she got really angry and she screamed at me and said
Say these things to saheb when he comes back!! now quicken your luncheon and get back to work. bahut kaam hai !!
Then I saw all those dirty utensils that I had to clean, I have never cleaned utensils ever in my life. It was little cold and water was also very cold but I had seen my mother cleaning utensils, I knew how to do it. I cleaned all of them. But I couldn’t clean it really well.
She asked me to bring all the cleaned utensils to the kitchen. I started bringing them but then I heard her screaming, she showed me that utensils were not properly cleaned, and I don’t know anything.
She slapped on my face twice and screamed at me asking me to re-clean them and stop crying.
After cleaning all the utensils, she asked me to clean kitchen floors and bars. I was really tired but still did cleaning because when I again said that I will not work and I want to go to home, she picked up a chalni and hit me with that, and shouted that…
Sahib will now come on Monday and I should say these things to him and now if I won’t stop crying she will break my legs.
She was very heavily built and she was very rude to me, so I was really very scared, and after cleaning the floor, I sat down outside the kitchen, this is when I heard name of Monu bhaiyya first time, that fat woman was his mother and he was complaining to her that his socks were not clean and he has to lead the band of his class tomorrow.
I heard she telling Monu bhaiyya to give those socks to me for cleaning and they will be be dry by morning. He came running towards me and threw the socks on my face asking me to leave everything that I was doing and quickly wash the socks.
Monu bhayya should actually not be bhayya because I learnt that he studies in the same class, class 5th, in which I was also studying before I lost my family and home and became servant of this house.
In the beginning whenever anyone would come home, I will think that my father has come but he never came.
Monu bhaiyya says that his father has bought me from my father to work here as a servant.
Monu bhaiyya is actually not very bad. He comes first in his class, but he is very snobbish. He doesn’t talk too much.
He does not like people touching his stuffs. Once he got really angry at me and thrashed me because I touched his comics.
Amma, that heavily built lady was called amma, saw him pulling my hair and pushing me to the wall . But she didn’t help me, on the contrary, when I cried, she hit my back saying that why did I touch his comics when I know he doesn’t like anyone taking his stuffs.
I was not even reading those comics; it was a new Billoo’s comic, Billoo in Hostel… Billoo was my favorite comics. I was only flipping through the pages.
I remember for some days early, I waited for saheb to come.
When I got to know that day, that tomorrow he is coming, I felt happy after a long time. Everyone in the house was excited by this news of his arrival and they were always talking about it.
Saheb finally came tomorrow. Amma called me out and as always she was screaming at me…
Okay! Arey has become my new name, everyone calls me Arey here. She screamed again..
Arey! you don’t hear at all, you are deaf or what !! bring a glass of water.
I was waiting for this moment. I was sure that now when sahib will see me, he will scold amma and Monu bhayya, pundit jee everyone for treating me like a servant. I was sure of that…
When I reached the door, I heard his voice; he was the same voice who asked Pundit jee to take me home…
When I reached the door, I heard him asking how I was doing…
Amma was complaining that from where has he has brought me, return me back as I keep on crying all the time saying that I have lost my home and wants to go to my family, ye woh…
One day Monu beat him so much because he was constantly crying in the night and because of that he couldn’t sleep well and reached school late and got one point reduced.
When I entered the room, sahib asked me to come near to him and when I reached there, he slapped me so hard that I fell on the floor.
My mouth started bleeding, I almost fainted, my head was spinning, before I could do anything, he kicked me again held my hair very tightly and said very angrily that I must do all the works that they are asking me to do and ever once after this day, I ever talked about home or father and mother, he will beat me up so much that I will die and if I ever step outside the house he will cut my legs.
I was trembling and crying, I was in deep pain, and so scared that you can’t imagine but he was shouting at me asking me to be silent.
Ek dum chup !!
He said that if I ever start crying again they will stop giving me food and will throw me in a jungle…
I came out. Monu bhaiyya was standing outside. He was not happy because sahib, actually his father now I know that, has not brought him his bat as he has promised.
When I came out, I was crying and in pain, tears in my eyes and I looked at him and I don’t know what made him so angry that he came almost running on me and pulled my hair, pushed me to the wall and punched my stomach twice.
I had no strength in me but I mustered strength and crawled into the kitchen. I just didn’t want to be there. I came to the kitchens and saw those dirty utensils that I had to clean.
May be that was the first time I realized that this may become reality of my life. First time I cried out of sheer pain. My heart became so heavy that it seemed that it was sinking inside.
I knew that I don’t have much time for crying, I had to clean these utensils, clean the floor….
I couldn’t cry in the day time. I hardly had any time also for that. I always had some or other work given to me. I learnt cutting vegetables, cleaning rice, pulses and many other kitchen related work, I hated most masala peeshna but I had to do that everyday twice.
I used to cry every night. earlier I used to sleep on the floor of Monu bhaiyya’s room. but he got so angry with my sobbing in the night that he threw me out of his room one day and then I started sleeping outside kitchen.
But after some time I stopped crying. I knew that I have to get out of there. They will never take me to my home. But I was not allowed to talk to anyone, neither anyone ever wanted to talk to me.
Everyone will just place some or other order on me whenever they will see me. I was everybody’s extra body part.
I was not allowed to go outside. Maximum I will be allowed to go out in the backyard garden of the house. There also mostly I was at work. Either sprinkling water or brooming out dirt.
My life became very tough. But I had one friend, Tommy ! He was a stray dog who used to come to their house everyday and sometimes in the night used to sleep in their garden. I always had a thing for those brownish red Tommy dogs. He will come and lick my feet. I used to feed him my roti.
Sometimes I used to miss my home so terribly. Like us, they also used to go out for cinema. Whenever they used to go out, they will lock all the rooms except kitchen area.
The kitchen area had a little large open space and a big grill door that used to open to the backyard garden.
Sometimes when they will be out, I will sit down inside and Tommy will be sitting outside. I will tell Tommy about my home, my father, my mother, and my younger brothers with whom I used to fight and play. About my school, my friend, my mama and how Bunty bhayya left me there and I ended up here.
I will cry and pray to god along with him. I saw tears in Tommy’s eyes sometimes; maybe he was also crying listening to my story.
Slowly by slowly I started feeling stronger. My legs and hands became firmer. I was capable of lifting two large full buckets of water. And I used to love the way my fingers have become leaner, longer and little rough.
I just needed an opportune moment. I have made this plan in my mind several times.
Sahib used to drink whiskey every night and sometimes he will be affectionate to everyone, except me obviously after drinking but sometimes he used to get very angry at every one. Once there was a fight and he said something that stuck to my mind….
He told Amma that her brother takes sleeping pills to sleep and he doesn’t want to do that!!
This struck to my mind that if Amma’s brother ever comes here I will mix those sleeping pills in their drink and then run away. I was waiting for his arrival. Now I had planned everything. I was just waiting for the day.
I knew the way to railway station. Not that I have gone their using that path but so many times I have heard amma and Monu bhaiyya telling guests that’s it’s just two kilometer away and how to reach there that I could have reached their while sleeping.
I was waiting for the day when Pintu mama as he was known would come home.
He came one day along with his maami. But after dropping maami he went out in hurry and came back only after a week to take maami back. I couldn’t get any glimpse of those pills. But the story got confirmed that he does take sleeping pills to sleep because I heard Amma and maami talking about it.
I kept on waiting but he didn’t come. Almost a year was passing.
But day before yesterday, just two days before my birthday, he came. I saw where he was keeping his pills.
I stole the whole pack of tablets previous night after he slept. Yesterday he left in the morning.
I only had tonight on me or may be tomorrow but I was so desperate to get out that I didn’t want to hold it for tomorrow. I had to do it tonight. I knew Sahib will ask for water and Amma used to drink milk before sleeping.
First I thought I will mix the tablet in the food but then I dropped that idea. Because I remember the conversation between Amma and maami where maami said…
Sometimes she also takes the pills and if you don’t take it regularly then even half a pill can give you a very sound sleep.
God helped me that day. Around 11 o’clock Sahib asked for water. I knew it was his last demand of water. I mixed four pills in the bottle. When I entered the room, amma also asked for her milk. She was going to sleep and asked me to close the door and switch off the milk wala gas burner.
I mixed just two pills in her glass with extra sugar because I was little scared that she may get the difference of taste. She scolded me kitnee cheeni daalee hai!! I will never learn and I should be sent back to the jungle from where I was brought.
I came back silently to Monu bhaiyya‘s room. With winter coming, I had started sleeping on the floor of Monu bhaiyya’s room again. Monu bhaiyya was sound asleep on his bed after drinking full glass milk mixed with two pills.
I lied down. I was waiting for night to pass on a bit more. I have already checked that everyone in the house was sound asleep.
I knew that if people will see me in the night they may have doubts. So I was waiting for pre-dawn time. I wore Monu bhaiyya’s track suit.
It was three thirty in the morning when I opened the main door and came out of the house.
Finally, I came out of my prison.
It was dead silence all around and still little dark. I started running, first slowly then little fast then in full speed. I was there in the railway station. I was going to find a mall gaadi. I knew they don’t stop on junctions and travel faster than the regular passenger train. My maama has told me that in that train journey to Kanpur.
I saw my maal gaadi standing there. I climbed up. It was empty.
I lied down on the floor. It was cold but when I looked up I saw that it was dawning now.
Then I remember what I did just before leaving the house. My heart felt a little chill and body shivered but then an uninspired smile came on my face.
I remember after wearing his track suit I was packing some of his comics in his bag there I saw a new razor blade kept on the table. It was shining. Monu bhaiyya has stolen it from sahib’s shaving bag.
I took that blade, held Monu bhaiyya wrist with my now strong left hand and in one stroke, I slashed his wrist. Blood started sprinkling out. I wiped my hand on his bed sheet and came out of the house.