Update for week ended 8 Feb 2013
Vimla and Ramlal rushed to the entry gate no 7 on the river banks and squeezed themselves through the hordes of the people who thronged the gates for entry. Ramlal fished out the pass that he had got and waved it frantically over his head, shouting out to the gatekeeper for attention. Vimla was not far behind him with their family belongings and after much jostling, they reached the guard who checked their documents and read – “entry for 2 people” and let them in. Ramlal was relieved that he managed to get into the fair grounds and it won’t be difficult for him to now locate the tent assigned to them. For all the chaos outside the gate, the tents within the fair grounds were quite civic, with enough lighting and good directions to the different sections. “At least, we can now rest before the morning dip in the Great River”, Ramlal said to Vimla. She was tired and she replied, “Monu will be tired. Let us head to the tent quickly so that we can buy him his milk for the night”. That was when the couple noticed that Monu was missing. Vimla started getting hysterical and screamed out for Monu. Ramlal asked her to quieten down and he in turn asked her to wait at the tent while he would check at the gates. It was quite chaotic there and he was confident that Monu must have got stranded there but in the good care of the security guards. The night siren went off indicating the shutting of the gates for the night. Ramlal was sure he would find a sobbing but secure Monu at the gate, though he was still unsure, “when did I let go of Monu?”
Meanwhile, Monu was sipping his tall glass of milk that the kindly Sadhu Baba gave him. The Sadhu baba was also holding the glass for little Monu and urging him endearingly to finish off the whole glass while it was still warm. The night was likely to be cold tonight even though the sky was cloudy, he thought as he looked at the little lost boy. He had sent one of the novice initiates to the Security tent near their enclosure to report Monu. He was sure that the parents would be nearby and he could re-unite the boy to his parents. Although the crowds had increased over the years, the systems had improved and there were fewer instances (on a relative basis) of children getting separated from their parents, unless they were indeed forcibly abandoned. He shuddered at the last thought. What if Monu was abandoned by his parents? He had to find out if there was domestic strife or poverty or some calamity that befell the family for them to have taken such a step. Monu was so young. It was unjust and cruel for someone to have taken such a step. He was determined to find out about this and was hopeful that the initiate would return with good news of his parents. Meanwhile, Monu was getting a little less edgy at the temporary Ashram, hermitage, and asked the Sadhu Baba if there was a TV nearby? The Sadhu Baba smiled and shook his head, but he told the boy that there was a lively prayer meet scheduled in an hour and if he was awake, they would take him there. Monu, who had got less frightened of his surroundings by now, but yet wary of the crowded streets outside sulked and instead went off into a tent, and asked the occupants where he could sleep. The Sadhu Baba was surprised at the maturity of the boy who knew that he was lost, yet trusted his new finders. It was so unlike what he remembered from a long time ago when a young lost boy was petrified at being lifted up by a bearded mendicant. The foul body odour, the sharp eyes, the strong arms were all intimidating. This was not on the vast banks of the confluence, but the banks of the Great River. The boy was a little older perhaps, and he was at the Great Fair with his siblings as well. Their parents had taken them to one of the community kitchens and asked them to partake a meal, while they said they would wait outside. The innocent siblings, 2 boys and a girl gingerly walked in to have their first meal in 2 days. Even the bland and runny rice and lentil, Khichdi, tasted like manna from heaven. How they wished they could stay on here for longer just to get a meal a day! After wolfing down the insipid fare, they walked out to meet their parents, but they were not there. The girl was the youngest (perhaps 3 or 4 years old) and she looked quizzingly at her brothers, as though asking them about her parents. The eldest brother asked the younger one to stay back with the girl and went out looking for his parents. He must have been 7 years old or so. He ran as fast as his little bare feet could carry him, until he bumped into this tall ochre robed Sadhu. The young boy craned his neck upwards and in the moonlight saw a towering bearded and hairy figure look at him with fiery eyes? The young boy froze and tears welled up in his eyes.
Monu coughed a little from within the tent and the Sadhu Baba’s attention
was diverted from his thoughts. He wiped his eyes as they too had welled up and he got up from his little stool and walked towards to the tent where the Monu was. He saw Monu cuddled up under a quilt blanket and muttered, “Poor child! God, may his destiny not be unkind like it was to me”!
The D Boyz who had lost their way among the many fairs in their City and Streets were still struggling this week to find their bearings. And if they were slightly relieved the previous week at the possible revival of the fortunes at D Street, the sirens were blaring out the shutting up of some of these gates – as the GDP slowed down to a low of 5%. The boys shivered as the signs of slowdown were here to stay while it snowed down in Kashmir and parts of north India. The cold wave also swept into D street for a while, and even though the government did try to revive some sagging spirits by selling some of their family silver, it was not heartening at all and the D Boyz who were lost in the maze were tired too… and the benevolent SENSEX looked down at the tired Boyz as it shed some of its weight in sympathy to end at 19485 – another dip of 300 points!
Entry Gate no 7 was shut and the security guards were finally relieved after a hectic past hour and crowds thronged outside the gate clamouring for their attention and beseeching them to let them in. Ramlal rushed to one of the guards and told them about his loss. He wanted to know if they had found the child. He was worried that perhaps the child was outside the gate. The guards did not know what to do. They had not found any lost child at that gate, but could not say for sure if the boy was stranded outside the gate. And they could not open the gates, as it would cause a commotion with crowds already pushing against the closed gate. Ramlal was getting despondent and not knowing what to do, asked to be let out. The guards resisted and asked him to check on the next day when the gates would be opened again. Ramlal could not believe what he heard. He got into a rage and yelled out at the security guard, “a little child is lost outside and you expect me to stay calm till the next morning.” It was almost getting into a fisticuff styled situation as some of the guards and others nearby restrained Ramlal from hitting out and being hit out at. Ramlal screamed and kicked and finally fell in a heap as he cried out, “Monu, Monu!” As he was overpowered physically, a senior guard walked up to him and gave him a suggestion – I can let you go out, but after an hour, when the crowds at the gate would have thinned out and tired itself out for the night. Ramlal could not wait that long, but he had no choice. He kept howling, “Monu, Monu!” till his throat went hoarse. Vimla was sobbing outside their tent, while the other occupants cajoled her to at least walk into the tent and rest instead of staying out in the cold. Her only lament was, “how can I be in comforts, when I don’t know whether my son has eaten or drank anything, or where he would be in this open Fair Grounds. How am I to remain calm when my mind is racing with multiple terrible thoughts. Is he safe? Is he afraid? Is he lost? Is he kidnapped?” the last question was horrifying as she burst out sobbing loudly now. The Sadhu Baba, walked into the tent to see if Monu wanted to join the evening prayers. Perhaps he could play the little cymbals. Monu was fast asleep, tucked into the quilt in a foetal position. Sadhu Baba smiled and asked the novice initiate to turn down the lamps, and to stay with the boy at all times. He did not want the boy to wake up in the middle of a dark night with no-one near him. Loneliness scared the Sadhu Baba, as it had scared a little boy many moons ago!
So will you help Ramlal find his lost son? Have you tried helping out a lost child at a fair or a mall? Do write in.
Meanwhile, have a safe week ahead! Cheers….