The Boy by the Roadside has been edited by Rushi Bhimani.
Monday, 7:30 A.M
It was a busy Monday morning, and little did I know a young boy by the roadside was going to alter my perspective radically.
Like any other morning my mother had to wake me up by yelling. Her constant yelling and the fear due to not having studied anything for that day’s practical exams partnered quite well to wake me. It was early May of 2015, and I had my second semester going on. I had woken up late, had to do all my chores and reach the college before 9 anyhow. The fear of flunking the exams, the chills of not having prepared anything were another terror.
Thus I finished my chores at around 8:20 and grabbed my bag and the keys and rushed to the college on my bike. “It is a short 20 minute journey if I keep riding at a pace like this”, I said to myself, shooting down the accelerator. The roads are usually filled with the school-buses with cheery boys and girls, collegians, and the office-goers. The traffic added to my worry of not reaching on time. It was a constant battle of the gear, clutch, accelerator and brakes. Somehow, fighting all the rage and worry, I kept going.
So I reached halfway around Gota, just before the bridge, that’s when a young boy—around 10 years old—wearing a pale yellow shirt with blue shorts, clutching a little bag caught my attention. He was asking around for a lift. I had observed him from quite a distance. Although I had paid little attention due to my hurry, I did notice his worry…the striking similarity with mine was something left me a little uneasy. It seemed like he wanted to get to his school, though unfortunately he couldn’t afford the transportation. Therefore, there he was trying to get a lift.
Just when I thought I was the most unlucky person, this particular moment made me realize how wrong I was.
Due to the rush I was in, all I could do was to sympathize for the boy in my head. I just couldn’t take a second out and give him a lift. It haunts me; the kid had looked at me with hope and I despise that act of mine till date. I rode off with pace to my college and somehow made it by 8:50. I gave my exam with his worrisome face imprinted on my mind and went home with a bittersweet feeling.
Tuesday, 7:20 A.M
This time she didn’t have to yell at the top of her voice. I woke up pretty early. It was the same as the day before. The terror of not having read anything for the exam, the fear of failing it. But it was nothing I hadn’t done before. The only difference this time was that I didn’t have to hurry, didn’t have to worry about reaching late, because I had done it the day before and was quite confident about managing it further. It was the same ritual all over again; I grabbed the bag and keys.
But this time I strode off a bit consciously.
Same woes, same fear, backed by a little experience. However, I still managed to curse God for this boring and awfully monotonous life.
Everything was exactly the same, like the day before. The scarce yet annoying traffic, the buses and everyone’s hurry to reach their respective workplaces. As I take the same route everyday, I reached at the point where I had spotted the boy yesterday. There he stood, with the same weariness and worry even today. The only thing different about him today was the colour of his shirt. He looked at me with hope, and I could not help but pull the brakes this time round. How could I live with that nasty feeling again?
The bike stopped at some distance from him. He had a broad smile on his face and hopped on with such zeal. He settled on the seat quicker than I grab pizza. I smiled when he said “Thank you, bhaiya”.
We were now riding over the bridge when I asked him “kaha jaana hai?”
“Bas ye raste ke khatam hote se hi jo chokdi hai na, udhar” he said.
Since I was quite relaxed today, my curiosity got better of me. So I threw a question at him,
“Kahan padhte ho?” I don’t know why, but there crept a sense of awkwardness. The boy didn’t say anything for a while, I thought he didn’t hear me.
So I asked again, “kaunse school me padhte ho?”
Again, the silence. This time I couldn’t resist and turn back. I think he probably felt a little embarrassed. Gradually words left his mouth. He said, “idhar road ke side pe agarbatti ki ek factory hai, udhar kaam karta hu bhaiya.”
Now I was the one who felt a little embarrassed. But the kid was quick enough to stop it from getting awkward. He gave me a beaming smile and said,”Bas idhar utaar do, aur aapka bohot bohot shukriya.”
His smile was something that could be the perfect moment for a photographer to capture, a painter to paint, a writer to describe, and an actor to portray.
A young boy with a single pair of shorts, a flimsy cotton bag and no means of transport taught me something that can hardly be put into words. His vibrant nature lifted my spirits too. This 10 year old boy who worked at an incense stick factory, was stronger than me in all aspects of life. He neither whined nor was he ungrateful. I was a little ashamed of being a brat. While was complaining about not having a car. He couldn’t afford school. I am in a A grade University yet I complained about not having enough facilities. The boy in blue shorts was way happier and contented with his life than the guy in the blue jeans. The boy in yellow shirt made the guy in flamboyant tee ashamed. With his ability to smile, with his glowing radiance at the least of luxuries. His misfortunes were greater than mine, but so was his happiness.
I reached my college with a very strange feeling; a weird amalgamation between happiness and confusion. I could not focus on my exam, but it was like it stopped mattering in that moment. That lift I gave him was emotionally uplifting for me.
Disclaimer: The author or any member of Lutalica does not intend to glorify or support Child Labour. This article wishes to highlight the futility of our tantrums while displaying a child’s innocence and vibrancy even when helpless.
To read more by the author of The Boy by The Roadside, click here.