Slumdogs and other insignificant humans

A man stands in the shadows in an unknown alleyway in an unknown street in a known city. His face cannot be read, but his face is tired. He wipes the sweat off his brow, and clutches his cloth bundle tightly. Business has closed for the night in the inner cities, but in this part it is still open. Sleepy eyed owners try to woo in more customers before they close. As the night ages, the shops close, one by one. First go the hawkers and the street-vendors as their bhel and paani-puris lose their charms, then the pop-ups who draw their tarpaulin sheets and curl up inside their make-shift roofs of asbestos sheets beneath sticks and stones. Drunkards and beggars lie like fallen ballerinas-crushed by worry, snoring lightly. Finally, the shop that had been the point of such intense curiosity, by that man in the shadows, drops its shutters with a sound that wakes the beggar on the pavement, but only slightly. The shopkeeper tucks a bunch of keys into his pants, hands a wad of money to his assistant who gleefully touches it to his forehead in respect and then they part ways.

Ten long, silent seconds pass. The man moves out from the darkness, his tired face showing signs of relief. From another alley appear another man and his bundle, and from that moment on for a few more hours the steady stream of men and bundles appear from broken pieces of shadows, each settling on the cemented verandas of shops. Someone lights a fire at an end, a greasy tawa is thrust into it. Someone else opens his bundle to take out a bowl of flour, kneads it as he squats beside the fire. Yet another one waits until he could roll it out and then cook it on the fire. Together, they eat. Like family, they say goodnight to each other, spread their moth-eaten sheets and sleep.

And I pass through this unknown street, looking out of the window of the car to see the ghostly shapes of these same men against the light from the streetlamps as my uncle tells their story.

“And what happens to them in the morning?” I asked.

They wake up before the sun and go to a public toilet to freshen up before they go to their jobs- their jobs at railway stations working as coolies, or in restaurants washing dishes, or simply working on construction sites handing in the bricks in the blazing heat.

If waiting fifteen minutes at the station for my uncle to pick us up annoyed me a great deal, what would be me if I had to wait for hours in the darkness near a shop so that I could go to sleep? What would be us-me and you- if we had to cook our meals in light borrowed from streetlamps and sleep counting the beginning of dawn? Where would be our self-esteem if we found the sense of an ending, the slow moaning of lungs as we froze to death slowly in the cold?

I bow to life in its glory, but I surrender to its devastating beauty in its miseries. If the city could cripple and burn the backs of men who made it in the day, there are no limits to the things it can inflict on them during the night. They may be slumdogs and other insignificant human beings whose rags-to-riches dreams do not win them an Oscar, but they do teach us life lessons that are worth their weights in gold.

2 Responses to Slumdogs and other insignificant humans

  1. Elizabeth says:

    You move me with your words I feel all you describe I find it astounding that one so young can feel so much and write with such brilliance. I praise only those I admire most and I certainly do admire you Aiswarya as I said on my Facebook page India should look to you with pride young lady you are its hope and its future!! Your friend Elizabeth

  2. Sunny Johnson says:

    Fantastic as in this early age you alone can think and write like this, no doubt you are a genius with golden pen in your hand.I admire you and eager to read more of your creations as a get time. May god bless you abundantly.

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