After a long time when I was really fed up with monotonous daily routine and work, I finally thought to take a vacation, a leave from the daily chores. I finally packed my bags off and catch up a train from Kolkata. I was going to a place called Islampur. Islampur is a faraway place from Kolkata. It is located in Dinajpur district of West-Bengal. Islampur is a small town small town, nothing special to see there. Only attraction is one of my closest friends; Dr. Maqbool Hussain who lives there. We call Maqbool by his pet name “Shibu”.
After a long and hectic journey of about 10 hours, I finally reached Islampur. Shibu was waiting for me on the station. He welcomed me with a great smile and a big hug. After all we are meeting after 8 years. From station we catch up a “Tanga” (Horse Cart) and moved towards his house. He had a very traditional styled Bengali Haveli(house) and also he belonged to a very noble family of Landlords.
Within 15 minutes we reached his house. We just started our gossips when suddenly the phone buzzed. Shibu attended the call and then suddenly he became apologetic. I asked him what happened. He told me that he had to go for an emergency operation in Mumbai. He was feeling very sorry but I asked him to leave because it was more important because it was about life and death. With all this huffs and puffs he finally left.
Now, I was alone in his house. His mother asked me to take a quick shower to get fresh since I was very tired. After a cool shower she offered me the traditional Bengali breakfast “Loochi Aloor Dum” and “Rasgoolas”. I enjoyed the delicious food very much. But happy times don’t last for long. After taking breakfast I was thinking what to do next. I thought of taking a nap or what…I finally make up my mind to visit the nearby villages to explore Islampur.
I started wandering to and fro, since this place was not very familiar to me. I lit up a cigarette and started roaming. Suddenly, I heard a sound, a voice….coming from a very distant place. I could easily make up that it’s a voice of a boy hardly 9 or 10 years of age. He was shouting “10 minute er khela Babu 10 minute er khela” (In English: 10 minutes Game…Oh sir! It’s just a 10 minutes Game”). I thought that it was probably or for sure another case of child labor. Since I was left with no other option to move towards that place.
It was not very far placing. Just a few minute walk and I reached that fellow. I saw that boy was showing some magic games and was entertaining people with his circus shows. He was also having a pair of monkeys. One was a child and other was an adult female monkey. He was entertaining people with his magic shows and circus acts like walking on head or balance games. Children were really enjoying as it was evident by their smiles and claps. He also managed to play a show in which he was showing the female monkey as a teacher and the baby monkey as her student. Seeing this shows, reminded me of my childhood. I was feeling so nostalgic that that I didn’t even noticed that his 10 minutes had extended to 1 long hour.
At the end of the show when everybody was leaving, I was also about to leave when he shouted upon me. “Oh Babu…..Tumi to kichu poisa na diyei chole jacho…?” (In English: Oh Sir!! You are leaving without giving me a single paisa”). I laughed and called the boy. I asked his name. His name was Anwar. I paid him 10 rupees. I also asked him with whom and where he is living. He told me that he is staying in a nearby village with his mother. I enquired whether he is going to school or not. I was shocked to hear his answer. He answered me with a pale face that “Pora shone kore ki hobe…..Asol hoche Taka babu” (In English: What to do with studies….the real thing is money”). I got very much annoyed and he is just a bogus fellow. I paid him 10 rupees and left immediately.
I returned to Shibu’s house. His mother was very congenial towards me. They served me the best Bengali food I have ever taken. After having the lunch, I was thinking about Anwar. A face full of innocence was just a show? Or maybe there is some other naked truth that he was trying to hide. With all this thought process I could never know when I fall asleep. I wake up after 5:30 in evening when Samina (Shibu’s sister) waked me up for a cup of tea.
With the end of the last sip in the cup of tea I went for an evening walk, when I saw Anwar again. I called him. He hurriedly stepped towards me. I asked him how much he had earned in the morning. With a jolly smile he replied 35 rupees. With a bit of little interference in his personal life I asked him what the hell he was going to do with the money. He replied with a sad expression that he would buy foods and medicines. I recalled the word “Medicine”. I curiously asked him in details. He told me that he was going to buy some medicines for his mother who was suffering from cancer. His father expired when he was 1 year of age. He was the only earning source in his house. After hearing these facts I was feeling very sad and I was cursing myself, that without knowing the real fact how I could blame the boy. His family load was so huge that money has replaced his all happiness his joy his sorrow…..his education his childhood…his everything. I could do nothing but at least to satisfy my cursed soul I gave him 50 rupees.
I requested Anwar to take me to his house. He welcomed my wish with a joy. I reached his village within 5 minutes. As soon as I was entering their house a crowd of Hindu mass ordered me not to enter the house because those people were Muslims. They told me “Bauner er beta, Bacha, jeo na oder ghore…jaat jaabe…” (In English: You are a Brahmin, please don’t enter their house…Else you will lose your religion and cast). I was very much disheartened and got really red faced on hearing these words. In India and especially in communist states like Bengal people are still like this? I wondered. I didn’t care about them and just by ignoring these nuts I entered the house. Let I lose my religion and cast, no problem but humanity was my preferred religion.
I entered the house and saw a lady in her mid-thirties was lying in bed. Sickness had made her very much dependable to her bed. Her face turned pale and she was crying bitterly. I hold her in my arms and asked not to cry. I asked her not to cry but I could not know the way how I could sooth her for not crying. There was no one to help them as it was very apparent from the neighbor’s attitude. I learnt from Anwar’s mother that Anwar’s father was in army and was martyred in the borders of Kashmir. Also I came to know that no pension is provided by the government to them. I wondered how people could have a great family like Anwar’s whose father had sacrificed his life just for our happiness. “Just because they are minority?” I didn’t have my answer…so I came back to Shibu’s house.
The night was normal and I took my dinner then slept. But I was thinking and thinking…and I was not able to sleep for whole night. I puffed of a pack of cigarettes but it’s of no use. Next day after my breakfast I again reached that place where I had met Anwar first time. I waited a long but Anwar didn’t come. Finally I decided to go to his house. When I reached his house his house, I saw him playing with other boys. He was playing as if he had no burden in his life. I enquired why he didn’t come to show his game. He told me yesterday his full money got saved since I brought him food and medicines. Additionally I had given him 50 rupees. So he had lot of money for the day. I asked him what he was planning to do with this money. He answered a very infuriating answer. He said he would buy some foods and toys and a Blanket for himself.
I gave him a bad look to this rascal saying “Your mother is lying on the death bed and you are planning for yourself”. I was about to leave when suddenly another boy shouted to Anwar. I was listening to the conversation. That boy was saying to Anwar “Dekh amar kache Bat ache Ball ache tor kache kichu nei…tui Bhikhari” (In English: See Anwar! I have got a Bat, Ball but you have nothing you are just a beggar). Everyone was laughing at him. He was crying. Suddenly he replied ” Na amar kache onek taka ache ami kaal I sob kinbo..tokhon tora dekhbi…..” (In English: No I have got lot of money …and I will buy all the toys by tomorrow…..then you people will see…Who am i? …I will buy blanket for my maa(mother) and I will share with her. I will buy good foods for her).
After listening this conversation I realized, that Anwar was also a child. A normal and usual child with childish sentiments. He can also have wish to buy Bat and Ball..Because his age does not permit him to take the family load. He is also having a soul to have good foods. If my kind reader carefully observes his conversation, he can find that Anwar always tries to full fill his mother as well as his needs. Just think a child thinking this complex world’s truth. My God! He is also a kid his childish mentality had stopped him to work for the day. I can realize that in this age I myself sometimes bunk the office just to take rest.
I was worried about the condition of Children in India and also I feel for the minorities. I went to the DM but of no use. He was absent. He also bunked a day just like Anwar. On the third day, again I reached the same place where Anwar show his plays. Today he was there with a good crowd surrounding him. He was showing Magic Tricks etc but I was waiting for the monkey play. At last it started and today’s played featured the female monkey as mother and baby monkey as her child. Anwar asked the female monkey to hold the baby monkey in her arms and also asked her to help the baby to take bath, get him ready for school and serve him foods. The Monkeys were really smart. They played well. It was a show that touched my heart.
At the end of the show I asked Anwar about his mother. He replied that “she died in the early morning”. I angrily told him that your mother died and you are here. I shouted a lot. He left sobbing and crying.
I felt bad after some time. I make up my way towards his house. When I reached his house I saw him sitting on the floor like a statue with no emotions. He was not crying. Everybody was saying if Anwar had not gone in the morning to play the show, the last funeral of his mother was not possible.
I was feeling guilty now. I left that place. I hurried to a nearby field and sat calmly. I puffed a cigarette and was thinking; imagine a boy hardly 10 years of age. His mother died in front of him. But he was so unlucky that he had to go out for earnings for his mother’s funeral. He didn’t even have the chance to hold his mother on his chest and cry. I asked to myself “In today’s circus, Anwar why? Why Anwar…….you have shown the love between mother and son. When the play was going on what was going on in your mind Anwar? Your mother had died long before the play started….what would have been your feelings?”
On the 4th day I was planning to leave Islampur. I thought before leaving I should make a last visit to Anwar. But when I reached his house no one was there. The door was locked and no one was able to say where he had gone. I searched for him a lot. Finally I was getting late so I catch up the train to Kolkata.
I remembered that day was Maa Saraswati Puja in Bengal (Goddess Saraswati is the goddess of Education and knowledge). It is celebrated with great zeal in Bengal. I asked to Maa “Why Maa …why can’t u bless that child with your blessings? Why? What fault he has done?” But no answer came.
I thought and kept on thinking about Anwar. He was not getting out of my mind. In mean time I reached Kolkata. I didn’t celebrate the occasion and locked myself in my room.
I haven’t forgotten Anwar till day. I don’t know where he is…where he is showing his “10 Minute er khela”. But I wish for that child that wherever you are be happy for ever.
I don’t know when people will help others, love others, be unbiased to religion and biased to humanity. I don’t know when our government will pay the deserved Pensions. But till then thousands of Anwar will suffer. An innocent childhood will fade up on the Magic shows or in mechanic garage or in civil sites. And thousands of helpless mothers will die in the darkness of poverty and helplessness.