It’s a little after 4 in the morning as the morning azan has ended and the birds are chirping outside.
There is a faint smell of dew and the air seems wet from the rain yesterday. Suru had heard it all night, falling on the tin roof of his small hut. Normally, he would be fast asleep at this time, but today was different. The smell of freshly made rotis filled the air as he got up to wash his face. His papa is talking to the neighbours outside.
Everyone else seems very busy with their work but 10 year old Suru is very confused as his Papa says that they are going back home today. It is confusing because all this time, Suru thought that this hut in Gurgaon is his home! He asks papa, “Where are we actually going papa?” “Dadi’s house beta, in MP”, papa says. Suru understands.
Since the time Papa stopped going out in his auto rickshaw and Maa stopped going to clean homes in the neighbourhood, they have had all kinds of problems. Sometimes there was no food in the house, sometimes Maa had to wake up early in the morning to fetch water from the government tankers. It is tough for Suru to see his parents like this.
He misses his friends and the occasional chocolates he used to get when Papa came back from work. He knows that this is all because of some “Corona virus”. Some people had come to the basti from somewhere warning the people about the effects of this virus and how they can stay safe from it, it didn’t have much of an effect on the people but they were happy to get the food packets! He goes out in the gali to meet his friend Radha one last time before he goes. He goes to her hut but Sarla aunty tells him that she’s sleeping. He starts thinking of all his friends with whom he plays all day in the narrowly constructed “galis” of his basti.
He’s had extra time to play with his friends since his school has shut down due to the Virus but he’s sad that he won’t be able to see them for a long time. As he gets back to the hut to see Maa packing their clothes and the Rotis she made in the morning. She hands him a bundle of clothes and asks him to take it out to the auto which his father was loading. He picked up the bundle Maa gave him along with the bundle of his books he had packed the night before and headed to the auto. As he was handing the bundles to his father, papa looked at him with a weird expression, shrugged his shoulders and asked, “Is this important?” looking at the bundle of books. “Of course!” said Maa from inside as she came outside with the Rotis.
Suru smiles, Maa is really determined to see him becoming a police officer. Papa says it is only because she likes Singham too much! But if you ask Suru, he wants to be an actor! A hero! Papa shrugged his shoulders again and said, “Accha bhai, theek hai! Surendra sahab, aagya ho toh kitabein andar rakhun?” Suru laughed as Papa took the bundle from him and kept it in the auto. Maa looks at her husband and son and then at the bundle of books and for a second, she remembers all the hardships she faced for making Suru study. She wants Suru to have a better life than her. The first day she met Sapna ma’am flashes through her head. Suru was 8 years old and Sapna ma’am had come to their basti to take him out of his house to study! She had seemed so adamant on making him study that she gathered quite some people who came to watch this woman invest so much time on this one child. That’s when Maa knew that Sapna ma’am could offer Suru what she had wanted for a long time, a better life.
It had been 2 years since and Sapna ma’am had been teaching Suru. She had started teaching through online classes since May and wanted Suru to continue studying even when they went to MP. Maa looks one last time at Radha’s house as Radha waves at her. Till now Radha used to share the phone with Suru, but now that they are going, Radha’s chance at an education is gone for a while. She wishes she could take them but she quickly puts that thought away and comes back to reality. She notices Suru looking at the bundle of books kept at the back of the auto, making sure they were kept properly, and she smiles to herself.
Papa looks back to check that everyone is sitting and on finding everyone present, he sighs and touches the picture of goddess Durga near the steering wheel and prays for a bit. Suru feels a little tingling in his stomach as he is very excited to be going to meet all his cousins! As the auto starts, Suru can already feel the wind rushing through his hair as if he is already in the fields of his dadi’s house. He looks one last time at Radha and a worry about how she is going to take the online classes hits him. But he knows that she is a smart girl and will figure something out so he lets
that thought pass.
The child’s mind is happy as always, unaware of the struggles that life is throwing at them while the adult brain is continuously trying to find ways to solve problems and make ends meet. Both these ways of thinking are important. But it is up to us to decide, whether we think like children and focus on ourselves and what we can do to improve ourselves or would we think like the adults and think about the people around us and focus on helping them along with us? If you ask me, it depends on what you want from life. What do you think? Do you want to focus on bettering yourself or do you want to enrich yourself while helping others?
Penned by- Riya Singh, Intern, UPAY Gurugram