Today I woke up before sunrise. I don’t blame long sleep but definitely the tension I had about today’s work. I have been assigned a bigger responsibility today and I have to stand up to it to be able to survive the competition in business.

By the way let me tell you I’m little too young to work as my boss and family think but I am happy. As long as I get to earn and I am independent. Well not really independent but I get to go out on my wild adventures. At any time of the day I can just freak around the place I stay and more outstandingly, Mumbai.
Yeah that’s the place where my family and I stay. Since generations we have been in Mumbai. Over the years, now everyone in family knows each and every corner, every gully, road and buildings of whole Mumbai, except me. When we lived around Thane, it did not help us much. The economy was ok; well there was no monetary strength to be frank.

After shifting the business area to main Mumbai everything bloomed, our family business and economic strength like I mentioned earlier. I have better friends now. Though I initially found their names little too difficult to pronounce and remember; now they are part of the family.
Jamya, idharaaa”, called my boss. “Aaya bhaiya”, I responded. “Jamya, jaldi se kuch khaa le aur jaane ko taiyyar hoja.Aaj tujhe badi important signal pe baithna hai.Tu Dhiliya ke saath jayegaVashi. Bintu bola udhar kafi traffic rehta hai aajkal, zyada kamaai hogi.Samjha chokre?” he said smiling at me and holding my face in his hands.My eyes could only gleam on hearing it. My bhaiya, aka boss, says that since he started with his business with a group of beggars, I have been the best kid among all those he had trained. This makes my maa really proud of me. My baba is now in a better position. He does not go for begging now; he trains new guys coming here and collects the money from them and then divides their wages according to the collection.
“It has to be a great day’’, I told myself on the way to Vashi.

Vashi seems like a very good place. I have never been here before. I really liked the big malls at the entrance itself. “Dhiliye”, shouted someone looking at us. “Aye Bhingra”, replied Dhiliya. “Saale kitne time baad aya hai tu idhar.Iss area main tum log ab aate hi nai,” said Bhingra to Dhiliya and then looked at me with his one normal eye and one stone studded eye; while he rested one of his hands on his stick. “Ye Lokha ka chota chokra hai na?” he asked hugging me. “Haan ye wahi hai. Aaj is ka isss area mein pehla din hai toh socha main bhi iske saath idhar hi aaun. Chal jaldi se apne jhopde mein le chal, kapde badalte hai, thoda muhpe make up maarte hai aur kaam pe lagte”, Dhiliya said and then we three laughed at it. Make up!

We had to walk a bit slow since Bhingra had little problem in walking. He bent putting his weight on the stick and then putting other feet forward. I did not understand if he had so much trouble walking with the stick, why he used it. God knows!

We soon changed into our begging clothes and daubed some mitti on our faces and sprinkled water to look totally tired. Bhingra made a fake mark of an awful looking wound on my hand. But it looked so close to a real scar that it scared me looking at it, as if I really had it!
We went to the first signal. It was the first as we entered in.
Knock knock. I knocked at the window of one of the cars at halt. “Aye maaiikuch de de”, the lady just did not pull the glass down. I begged her four times, still no reply. Heartless! Dhiliya signaled me to do over acting by saying I am hungry. Now, time for next car. “Sahab, amma kuch de do. Ek thoda paisa”, I said and did eating action too. The man was kind enough and gave me 5 rupees. I prayed to god for his well-being.

There came the next target on a two wheeler; then next in a shining big car. The whole two hours before lunch break went like this and I made good money. Then we went for lunch. Bhingra had arranged special treat for the two of us. He got us vada pav, cold drink, biscuit. I enjoyed it. Now it was time to go back and start with the work. The initial one hour went little lazy. This was the after effect of good lunch, I presumed. This car, then that auto and a few two wheelers with a few people walking by. It was a tiring day and we decided to wind up by 4 o’clock. The vehicles drove by and I made almost a fortune.

Dhiliya shook his hand, asking me to come to him. This sign of his meant ‘pack-up’ for the day. Relief! From the scorching heat. While walking across the road, the signal went red and I thought to myself that let me make use of it. But I had decided in my mind that I will not give this money for the day’s collection. And call it my luck, an auto with a kind looking girl stopped little behind from where I was standing. I rushed to her and started with my job. I did not say much except for calling her Didi, to get her attention; she turned to me. And I made the gesture that I am hungry and begged her for money. She at once opened her brown purse. It looked very simple. She, in fact, looked very simple. I guess her economy was not so good, but better than mine. She took out a ten rupee note and gave it to me.
“TEN RUPEE!!!!!!”
This rang like a bell in my head and I was unable to move my hand to get it. Then Didi said, “Ye lo. Rakh lo bachche.” Her voice was as sweet as my grandmother’s. I took it in hand and with a feeble smile told her that this is the first time in life that someone has given me such a big money note. And a tear rolled down my eye. She smiled back at me and just then the signal went green. She left and I quickly hid that ten rupee note in my chaddi.

‘Ten rupee’, on my way back home, this was all in my head, all over my head, hands and stomach. As soon as I reached, Dhiliya went to bhaiya and told him my today’s performance. Bhaiya looked happy hearing about it. But at that moment, there was only one thing in mind.
I rushed towards my jhopdi and shouted, “Maa! mera pillow cover kahan hai?” My maa came in and opened her cupboard and gave me the cover. I looked at her and she replied with a huge smile as she knew I was going to add money to the saving. She went to check if anyone was standing near the door. Since this is a secret between me and my maa.
beggar boyShe covered the entrance and came in to hug me.
Maa, maine aaj dus rupay kamaye. Mujhe ek didi ne dus ka note dia. Ye dekho”, and I pulled out the note.
Maa was extremely happy and replied to me by kissing my cheeks and hands. I have never heard my mother but she is the only person I understand the most and the one who understands me. She does not know how to talk. My baba says she’s gungi and that means she does not know how to speak in any language and so cannot talk to us. But it does not matter to me. I love her.

Today, when I look back I can only think of the ten rupee note. My first ten rupee note. I know god will always help my maa in keeping my pillow cover safely. Once a good lady gave me this pillow cover when I was in Thane. Her son came running and said that she must not give it to me along with other clothes since he thought the pillow cover was lucky for his studies. And when I asked him how, he said he had it since first standard and he used it during exams and got good grades. I did not know anything about standard and grades but I knew studies, as once baba told me that people, who study, live a good life. Since then I believe this cover will prove lucky for me too. Someday even I will be studying. I will also teach my maa some language. Baba says it will require money and so I am saving for it, secretly. I do not know when I was born or how old I am but I know I will start living when my dream will come true. One day it’ll be my lucky pillow cover.

Sonali Pal

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