I was wandering with my sheet converted into a bag and dangling at my right shoulder, when suddenly a red turbanwallah stopped me, snatched my bag and searched in it. I looked in complete astonishment.
“This damn thing has nothing in it!” He hurled my potli aside.
“I know you scoundrels very well. You roam around with these empty baggage waiting for a right opportunity!”
Actually he is not wrong; but then everyone is doing precisely this. Each one carries an empty bag dangling in his heart looking out for a chance to grab something sometime.
I was hurling abuses at him when I suddenly bit my tongue red. What I really wish to tell is that I relished the taste of my blood. I savored it going down my gullet. If only the resources of our food could be churned out from our bodies, we’d be liberated from all the hassles and struggles of our living.
I had now reached the Bungalow road. On both sides of the road, are the beautiful buildings made of polished stones. Multicolored gardens make these bungalows more spectacular. The road beneath my feet is so clean that as I walk on it, I appear myself to be a blob on it.
I turn to enter the back lane. As I enter, I feel perked up with the familiar odors tingling my nostrils. Lost in my thoughts, I turn the garbage in front of bungalow no.2 upside down. I spread the garbage like an eager dog. I start sorting it out and pick up the objects of my choice and put the rest of the refuge into the bin. The filth of the lives of the people living in these houses stares nakedly at me as I turn over the garbage cans belonging to each of these houses. This drum usually has waste paper, half and quarter empty bottles of liquor and countless cigarette butts. The master of the house is so engrossed in his newspapers and in the news around him that he has no knowledge of the goings-on his household. Day in and day out, when this professor blackens the bundles of sheets, his young wife warms up her young servant in the room right next to his.
To begin with, I search for the liquor bottles. Hard Luck!! Not a drop of liquor in any! Rascals! I remember the day when I laid my hands on a half filled bottle. Wow!!! I almost fainted in excitement. I drank all of it on my empty stomach and entered into a world full of beautiful women who kissed and licked my body and sucked away all my fatigue.
As I moved ahead still thinking about that fateful day, Babu, the dog, started barking.
Why are you barking, Babu? Remember this much, Babu – All these walls stand secure here because they keep their mouth shut. They would crumble down the moment they opened they’d speak up. Now, tell me Babu, from where does the mistress of this house come so late in the night? I questioned pointing my finger to bungalow no.3. No, you fool, her husband knows it all. In her absence, he only puts the children to sleep. When she gets back, he opens the door and pulls her inside by the same arm that carries the purse. But quiet! That’s none of our business. So what if he is just a clerk. He lives in much style! So what if with his own income he would not be able to meet even the two ends. He has a huge bungalow!! Whatever he does is just fine. The bin of their house is generally empty. They usually throw their filth in their neighbor’s bin, only to keep the back of their house clean.
The drum ahead to this drum is overflowing with garbage. I sit down searching for objects of use. The maid of the house rushes out of the backdoor and dumps the filth on my head – garbage over garbage. The owners of this drum are two brothers. They run a cloth business. The older one lives on the ground floor while the floor above is occupied by the younger brother. Their old invalid mother survives on the terrace. Many a time, I have heard her wailing for food. The brothers would let their mother die of hunger, while the left over in their bins is enough to feed ten people at one time. The older brother chides away his crazy younger brother all time. As for his wife, he would keep on looking for a chance to get her alone and paw at her. Battia, had let it out to me – all the five children of the younger brother are actually the elder brother’s progeny. The older one’s wife is no less….she has her crazy brother-in-law in her power.
I examine their garbage slowly and carefully. I had heard that the shopkeepers indulge in dark doings and when there is a police threat, they throw bundles of notes into the garbage to save their skin. Today, I found nothing. Just few knotted up bunches of hair of both the women. I picked them up and threw them in my potli. All at once, I heard the sound of the old woman’s wailing from the terrace. Who would attend to the old woman? I wondered!
I moved ahead. Hardly had I taken a few steps that my ears perked up with the sound of a child’s cry. I looked around…there’s no one…I hear the sound again…both the animals…the dog and I…start moving towards the cry. We now stand near an open garbage bin in which, we see a new born baby, lying on the surface of the garbage. As I look at the baby, I start wondering-What times are we living in??