Like every morning, he was late for the office again. All he could think of, while rushing to catch the 8:20 Bus, was “Who can hire me if they fire me!!”
Though it was a cool day, the sun was resting behind the clouds and a sweet breeze was on its way to whisper into ears some place nice, Amit was so quick and kinda a restless to catch the bus that he was sweating profusely.
Surprisingly, Amit reached the bus stop 5 mins early. But to his surprise, the little boy who sells the newspaper every morning right at the Bus stand was not present today. Amit bought newspaper from him and made a small talk every day. He got kinda worried not to see the little boy like he did every morning. As the anxious guy he was, Amit kept thinking of all the possible reasons for the young man’s absence. “May be Raju has taken his business to some other Bus Stop.” Was one of the many thoughts that popped in his head while he was drinking water to get hold of his breath.
Suddenly, Amit remembered a conversation he had with Raju about a week or so ago.
“The taught us the Table of 19 last evening. We also read a small poem.” Raju had told.
“Ohh great. You seem to be really liking your evening school. Aren’t you?” Amit enquired with excitement.
“Yes. I am loving it all except Alka Madam. Do you know why she always is so annoyed and angry?” Raju asked
“May be because she doesn’t has a friend like you.” Both of them had a huge smile as Amit said that. Meanwhile, Amit saw his bus coming. He bid a farewell to Raju as he tapped him on the head.
Amit helped Raju get admission in the evening school. The day Amit first met Raju, about 6 months ago, he looked pale and thin who could barely get out words from his mouth. But he was shouting at his maximum possible voice to convince people to buy newspapers for him. Amit felt sad for the kid, barely 6 or 7, working hard on the busy, polluted and unsafe street.
“This is the reason I have no faith in humanity” Thought Amit, being a pessimist he always has been.
He stood there, waiting for his bus as he had already missed the 8:20 Bus. He tried not giving much thought and attention towards the little struggling boy or his story. He started playing with his mobile but couldn’t avoid looking when Raju coughed badly and almost collapsed. There were around 20 people standing on that bus stop, most of them well-clothed and looking their best, a few standing right in front of that ailing little kid, reading newspaper or at least pretending to, but none came forward to help Raju.
“Here, drink some water” Amit authoritatively asked Raju as he offered him his water bottle.
Raju, without even giving it a second thought, took the bottle and emptied half of it down his throat in one go.
“I was thirsty since morning. Thank you Bhaiya. May god bless you.” Raju said
“I don’t need your blessing. Why are you not at school? Why are you working when you can’t even stand properly? Where are your parents? Don’t they know this not only wrong but also illegal? You people just don’t understand the importance of education. All you care about is a little extra money. Take me to your parents. I will talk to them” Amit shot all this in one go, without even stopping to breath.
His eyes looked angry. He looked furious. He suddenly realized a wave of rage within. He has never felt this way before. But today, something woke his demons up.
“Calm down Bhaiya. So much anger is not good for health. Here, drink some water.” Little Raju laughed like a baby after. His innocent laughter melted all the lava within Amit and he sat near Raju.
After a normal and usual QA session, Amit shot the question, “Where are your Parents?”
“I have none. But I have Pappu, Ajay and Hrithik. Ajay acts like a mother most of the time.” Said Raju, and giggled again.
The enthusiasm and happiness on this little lads face was driving Amit crazy. He felt awfully uncomfortable.
“Why.. I mean where are they? What happened??” Amit had almost lost his patience by then.
“Nothing happened to them. I just never had them. Ohh Bhaiya!! A bus is coming. You must see if it’s the one you have to board” Raju said.
Amit saw his bus coming and immediately ran towards it. As he was about to climb the bus, Raju shouted “Bhaiya” Amit turned back “me and my friends play cricket in the park near the chowk. Around 6. If you get time, come. Pappu is our very own Sachin Tendulkar.”
Amit did not react. He got a lump in his throat. He got numb. All he could think was “How can that guy be so happy and satisfied?”
He felt guilty for each moment he fought his parents. For all the moments he complaint for nearly perfect life he had. A volcano of feelings had erupted within him. He settled it down with some water.
After that day, Amit got Raju a pack of lunch and a jar of buttermilk every morning. He greeted Raju with love and made sure to talk to him for at least 5 min every morning, no matter how late for work did he get. Every morning Amit taught a little to Raju and learnt a little from Raju.
Until this morning. Raju was not at the bust stop. Like every other morning.