Metro Diaries - Child is the father of the man
“Oye Chotu..ek cutting” you hear someone scream as you approach Jagdamba Tea Stall , before your imagination starts’ running in comes “Chotu” – the man in question; surprisingly he is not a man. The owner of the tea-stall fondly referred to as Sethji seemed pleased with his work, completely unperturbed by fact that ‘he’ was not a man.
Chotu looked like any other 12 year old. Curly mop of hair gracing his head like a halo made him look like a perfect angel with twinkling brown eyes, a cute rounded nose and well defined lips. He had a habit of removing his curly locks from his face so frequently that sometimes it felt he imagined his hair falling in his eyes. He had a slight cleft on his upper lips a reminder of a horrible accident he had met when he was barely 2 years old. His eyes had a very haunting look in them, when looked closely you could see lot of dreams trying to hide the innocence and mischief in them, or perhaps a nightmare which simply refused to be forgotten.
With a complexion as sparkling as the honey he seemed to glisten despite all the darkness around him. The most striking feature about him were his oversized slippers which he carried around with ease making you smile. For his conditions he was always dressed in a neat pair of clothes , a pair of khakhi shorts paired with either a blue or a red t shirt, unfailing ensured by his mother daily. His mother would do household work in nearby houses and took his 5 year old sister along. However much Chotu hated this he had no option. His job at the tea stall was barely enough to make ends meet.
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His family belonged to the migrant lot who had moved to the city in search of better prospects. He did not remember much about his village Amrapur, somewhere in Gujarat except that he was born there and loved playing in the lush green fields they had. He also remembered that cold wintery morning very clearly when it all began or maybe it all ended. Back home, they used to live in a small tin roofed hut where his father would sleep outside every night as the three of them would cuddle up inside. There was no other reason for this display of affection each night except that the hut was too small to occupy all four of them together or three of them sleeping spaciously.
Just like everyday Chotu got up in the morning and walked out of the hut to see his father lying on the bed. Though barely he was ten at that time it somewhere registered in his mind that this was something unusual as his father was known to be an early riser. He went closer to him to see his face which was turned that side only to see him frothing at mouth. He screamed with all the strength he had inside and after that he did not remember anything. He just knew everyone said his father has gone to a deep sleep never to wake up again and his mother was continuously crying holding Chutki closely. For some reason his tears refused to come, perhaps his eyes had also gone barren like their farm.
After that day his world changed completely as nothing remained the way it was. It seemed as if his father was some glue holding things in place and with him not being there one by one things started falling off. Roaming around with friends on streets chasing each other was replaced with running helter shelter for work. And going to school was now a distant dream. There was a constant stream of visitors to his hut asking for money which he did not understand why. His mother cried the whole day and blamed the barren piece of land as the reason behind his father’s death. Unable to take it one day his mother walked away from there, towards this new city which was their home now. The day Chotu set his foot here was when he became a man, leaving behind his childhood somewhere in Amrapur along with that barren land, his hut and a fistful of memories of his father.