The sky was populated with puffs of grey crowded next to each other as far as the eye could see. In a crack between these thundering clouds, six or seven shafts of golden rays shone down, steadfast and shimmering.
To many people, it was the just the beginning of monsoon & the rains. To me, it means a whole lot more work. More mud mixed with cowdung, more dustbins filled with semi-solid content. I wish Patil Sahib would give me more than one pair of those nice rubber gloves per month. I should check Geeta Tai's tin box when I visit her this weekend, maybe if I have collected more than 100 rupees I can afford that raincoat. But yes I also enjoy the rain when I'm in my room having chai.
That tin box on top of Geeta Tai's steel cupboard has been my savings bank for many years now. I trust her like a mother, infact she has taken care of me like a mother ever since Aai succumbed to TB.
That is also when we came to this city, Poona. I love being here. Of course it is very strange compared to our village. In the village I was very popular, I was the smartest boy in school and helped my friends with their homework also. Bansode Master said that I should grow up and be an engineer and help people. In a way, I still help people, I keep these roads clean, no ?
I have made some good friends here also. Ganpat is the closest. He works with his father at the food stall in the Railway station. His father lets me have vada pav and chai for free sometimes, he is a hard working man. Ganpat is also hard working and kind, he lends me money sometimes. When both of us have some free time, which is rare, we walk to MG Road. There we see many girls, who look like Bollywood heroines. Maybe one day I will find a nice Maharashtrian girl like that, but she should not wear jeans.
I don't get to see many movies, but I regularly see advertisements and songs because some shops on the roads have these big televisions on their showcases. I also watch 20-20 cricket there. I saw World Cup also like this. But I couldn't see the last few overs because the shop had to be closed. But I knew we won because many boys outside my chawl were bursting crackers and shouting all night. I went outside and walked a little bit that night, everyone was happy. I also was happy. But I was also thinking about all the garbage from the crackers that would have to be picked the next day.
I live on the terrace of my chawl and often stare at the sky. When I was a boy, we could see many stars, but now because of the smoke of all these cars I can't count more than sixteen. My aim is to buy a cycle within one year, and cycles don't give out smoke, so I won't be adding to the smoke. Ganpat says that I should want more and pray for better things in life. Only then I will become rich and have a room of my own in the chawl.
I can't tell him this, but I don't want all those things. I'm happy like this. I have a job. That job gives me enough money to buy food everyday and put some money in the tin box. Sometimes people see me and move away, but some people appreciate the work I do, I feel happy when someone appreciates me. I give chanda for Ganpati every year. Once I saw a man trying to beg for money near the station, he wore torn clothes and looked very thin. He had come from Konkan region a few days ago, lost his bag and did not know what to do. I felt sad for him and asked to come and join me in my job, he reluctantly agreed. I somehow convinced Patil sahib saying that he was my relative, I know I lied but it will help someone so its ok. He now earns 83 rupees everyday, he thanks me everytime he meets me. I feel proud that I helped someone, I think I will get some punya because of this act. I think I will tell Ganpat that earning punya is more important than money. Maybe he won't laugh at my ambitions then.
Vada pav - Maharashtrian snack
Chai - Tea
Chawl - A mansion with many single rooms rented out to different families
Tai - sister
Aai - mother
Chanda - donation for festivals
Sahib - Sir, means of addressing someone respectfully
Punya - good deed
PS:This was not entirely a work of fiction