The slogging labourers, the tea-seller, the egg-seller, the dog hiding the piece of roti and the sweepress – they leave no stone unturned in order to satisfy the pangs of hunger. The labourers leave the comfort of their houses, so do the birds and animals. All for those notorious hunger pangs. With sharp strokes of her pen, the writer recreates the following scene which she witnesses during her morning walk .
Morning Meanderings is a popular musings column by Dr Santosh Bakaya. Enjoy her jottings with a hot cup of coffee. 🙂
One more building was again coming up and more labourers had congregated on the scene along with their meagre belongings from far off lands. I saw two labourer women bathing under the tap of a huge water tank which the builder had provided them, along with some other perks, while the men maintained a discreet distance, some brushing their teeth, and some splashing water over their faces from a couple of buckets lying around.
“Kahaan sey aayey ho?” I asked when the two women smiled in my direction.
“Itnay door sey?”
“Kya karey, pait key liye karna padhta hai?” One of them remarked, pouring a mugful of water on herself.
“Come and bathe with us.” The two bathing beauties invited me, smiling.
Taken aback by their invitation, and afraid that they would pull me in their midst, I blurted out, “Kissi aur din nahaoongi aap logon key saath.”
“Holi bhi aaney vali hai, madam,” I could hear them shouting, as I was scurrying away.
A dog was coming towards me with a roti in his mouth. Why was it not eating it? Perhaps keeping the roti for its progeny? But no, it soon started digging a hole in the mud, and put the roti there, covering it securely with mud.
The tea seller who was watching my amazed expression smiled and said, “Don’t be surprised, madam. They do it all the time. It is not hungry, right now. When it feels hungry, it will dig it up and have its fill. We see it every day in our village.”
“Oh! Do they remember where they have hidden the roti?”
“Yes, they remember.”
The tea seller had earlier been coming with his entire family. Their two kids played the entire day in the mud or sometimes on a small bedsheet next to the kiosk while the mother prepared tea for the labourers. But I had not been seeing them for almost four months now, only the man would be there selling tea.
“I have just got a job as a security guard in that building over there,” he said with a happy glow on his face. Before I could congratulate him, my eyes fell on something yellow stirring in the kiosk.
“Oh, your wife has also come today?”
“Yes, my wife and our three-month-old daughter.”
The wife who had been sitting with her back to me, in a yellow ghagra choli turned in my direction with a huge smile, clutching a bundle to her chest.
“I had gone to the village for her birth,” she said with a shy smile, which was also tinged with pride.
Then I noticed a bike on which sat a tiny girl looking like a boy, and a boy looking like a boy, played with the mud on the ground .
Kuvar, Saakshi and Anushka were the three names painted on the bike.
“What have you named her?”
“Anushka,” said the tea vendor, beaming.
So, one did not need to be bright enough to deduct that the girl slithering down the bike, yelling “Paapi, Paapi” was Saakshi.
The father looked at me self-consciously, and said, “Look, what she is calling me. I am no paapi, but this pait is paapi, we are doing all this for earning our daily bread. Had it not been for that daily bread, why would I have left the snug comfort of my village and come here? Beta, Papa bol, Papa, Paapi nahi.”
“Paapi paapi,” the tiny one insisted, clinging to her father’s legs.
As I headed home, my eyes saw another heart-wrenching scene. There was a young sari-clad woman sweeping the premises, while two tiny tots, not more than three, clung to her sari. I looked around for the old woman who had been assigned the task of sweeping the premises.
“My mother has sent me as she could not come today, being unwell,” she said, reading the question in my eyes. I noticed the elder child was limping. Before I could ask her, why he was limping, I saw his left foot was bandaged and he was wearing no footwear.
“Go up and ask them for yesterday night’s leftover food items.” The boy forgetting the pain in his foot, raced to the third floor, hitching up his shorts, nose running, eyes twinkling.
“Kya karey? Paapi pait key liye sab karna padhta hai,” she said, with an apologetic look.
The labourers, the tea-seller, the dog hiding the piece of roti, the sweepress, all were doing it for money. I suddenly realized I could also feel the stirrings of hunger pangs in my stomach and ran into the snug comfort of my house.
Some leave the comfort of their houses, and some rush into it – all for the paapi pait, I mumbled, heading towards the kitchen to prepare the morning tea.
(Pics courtesy: Santosh Bakaya, Antara)
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