Chhotu a 9 year old boy lives in Vijay nagar slums. His clothes are dirty; pockets are torn & full of dust. Inspite of his condition he has an ever smiling face like the moon shining out of the clouds. Curly hair and and sparkle in his eyes are his trademark.
Chhotu is happily prancing on the streets, suddenly he stops in his tracks. The smell of food titillates his nostrils, he sees the fat shopkeeper frying some tasty fritters. He has not eaten a morsel since last evening.
His stomach starts making noises and gates of the dam opens right in his mouth. He can hardly resist the sight and smell of the fresh food in front of him.
“Uncle” Chhotu calls the shop keeper in his innocent tone.
“What is it?” the fat man asks in a rough tone.
“I want to eat some fritters, but I don’t have any money”, he shows his helplessness.
“Go away you brute”, says the fat man without any mercy.
“Uncle I am very hungry, have not eaten anything since yesterday. Touch my tummy, it’s growling” Chhotu’s dry lips try to re-convince the man.
“Go away you scoundrel else I will break your bones. Bloody beggar”.
Chhotu gets scared and takes 2 steps back. The shop keeper gets busy with his work.
In the fight between hunger and helplessness, hunger takes over and he fearlessly lunges forward. Chhotu’s small feet now move further and he quietly picks up a few fritters from the large plate.
“You thief, how dare you?”, the man shouts and grabs Chhotu’s arm. The man starts twisting his delicate arm as if a cane crushing machine is working on the cane.
“Uncle, please leave my hand, spare me. I was just touching those fritters.” Chhotu tries to justify his act. “Ohh Mom…. My hand”, the little boy cries in pain.
But the fat man does not listen and violently strikes on Chhotu’s back with his elbow twice. This almost kills the little boy.
Chhotu sits right there, covers his head with his little soft hands as if saying beat me but please don’t hit on my head.
He is now finding it difficult to breath and everything looks darker to him for a few moments.
A shot of pain pierces Chhotu’s arm and blood oozes out of his nostril as he falls down on the stony street due to the surgical strikes on his back. Perhaps his arm has also been dislodged.
Crying in pain Chhotu starts running towards where he lives in the slums. The place is dark, stinky and dusty. Running through the narrow streets, Chhotu enters a ramshackle dwelling, which he calls it his home. He pulls out an old bed sheet and spreads himself on it. He rests his head on a brick which is his pillow. On the wall right across him is a picture of a woman smiling out of an old worn out frame. Yes she is his mother.
“Momma…” tears rolling out of his innocent eyes “Where are you? Do you even know how hungry I am?”
“That bulldozer has beaten me so hard, he even abused me. Twisted my arm and see my nose is bleeding too”. Chhotu complains to her.
“It’s hurting me so much. My breathe was just stuck in my throat…do you know? You always used to say you shall leave me if I don’t eat my food. Mom please come back I promise I will ever obey you… Please please please”. Tears start rolling from those innocent eyes. But she keeps smiling from the wooden frame.
“Son please call your Dad and Mom, I need to talk with them.” Suddenly a woman’s soft voice interrupts his dialogue with his mother. Startled he looks at the door. It’s Mrs. D’souza a social worker of that area. A fair skinned Mrs. D’souza has been working in that area and Chhotu has seen her many a times helping people. Adorned in a light blue saree she appears like an angel and her glow has brightened up the dimly lit house.
He says nothing and keeps crying looking at his arm. “What happened to your arm son?” He says nothing and keeps weeping. Like a doting mother she cajoles him and takes him to the doctor. A plaster cast is wrapped to support his arm.
Mrs. D’souza gets to know more about Chhotu’s life and her motherly instinct arises. She questions, “Son would you want to study?”
He nods his head with a yes, but pauses and asks, “And will I get food?” He asks in a worried tone. Mrs. D’souza is further touched by his innocent question.
“You no longer have to worry about the food. Just study well.”
“And son please call me Mom”. Mrs. D’souza smiles & places her palm on his head.
“Ok Mom”, Chhotu sports a wide grin and thinking to himself that his daily struggles will now end. He is no longer a slum boy. A convent school and higher education from London, Chhotu’s life takes a 360 degree turn. With his education Chhotu has now graduated to Bhaskar.
Now a well educated man back from London and the founder of an eye wear brand Zebrina, his new mother’s name whom he worships as God.
Bhaskar sitting on a high back chair in his glass cabin and looking at her mother’s picture and breaks out in tears. He picks up the phone and asks, “Julie are the Food containers ready?”.
“Almost ready, Sir. Just the last 4 are to be packed” the assistant tells him.
“Alright”, says Bhaskar.
The food containers neatly arranged in a carton and placed in his car Bhaskar is going towards Vijay nagar – his roots. The food is meant for the poor children. Lost in thoughts he is already in the narrow lanes and finds himself in front of an old tin shed. He enters inside. The atmosphere hasn’t changed a bit the sunlight still sneaks in through the holes in the roof and the wind lets itself in through the broken windows. The only upgrade in all these years are the rats which are parading in the room. On seeing the suited gentleman they too vanish.
In the corner lies the old bedsheet and the brick. Bhaskar or should I say Chhotu spreads himself out on the bedsheet and rests his head on the brick staring at the wall where his smiling mother used to be. He closes his eyes and dozes off.
Back at the office the next day he continues to check the annual revenues of his company Zebrina. The photographs of his mothers placed on the wall just behind his chair. Their smiles say that their pride is immeasurable.
Perhaps he will always be a little Chhotu for them. Always.
LIFE IS FULL OF CONTRASTS and continues to Amaze us…..Isn’t it?