The Uncharted Territory

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
In a time, when countries like India are developing in a rate faster than previously estimated and are on their way to be superpower; there are some section of society whose lives are never taken into account. Most of the time, they are left behind, uncounted. Here two brothers Mohan, 17 and Suresh, 11; share an usual day with us. Both deprived of elementary education and quality amenities, Mohan along with his brother Suresh took to ragpicking to earn a living with their mother supporting them in this venture. Let's see the world by their eyes in a city full of prosperity and educational well-being...

Submitted: May 31, 2016

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Submitted: May 31, 2016

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(cring, cring…cring, cring; beep, beep…) “Abe saale uth; kaam pe nehi jana hein kya?” (Hey, you get up; don’t wanna go to work?); screamed Amma (Mom). It was quite foggy. Fall of November. Sun was yet to be seen. Though, I wonder, for people, like us, it is never sunny!

I got up at once, the third time she treated me with a mug full of cold water. My younger brother, Suresh, was already in his toes, with a thaili (plastic bag), huge enough to fit two guys like him inside. I screamed at Amma – “Why didn’t you give him that sweater Rajan Babu, gave us? Don’t you see he is shivering?” Amma replied, with eyes filled with those tears I’m accustomed to – “Beta (son), don’t you realize, that moron, took the sweater yesterday so that he could enjoy his jua (gambling) comfortably?” Amma was referring to our beloved father, who just only helped Amma give birth to us & rest of his life is spent on liquors, gambling & other offensive luxuries. Most of the time he could be found outside a adda (informal, often useless gathering) with morons like him. If any one of us ever tries to interfere, we need to face his violence, often get beaten brutally.

I could not expect more than a roti (a kind of bread) that I & Suresh shared. As she would go to work in a hostel, Amma didn’t take anything for breakfast. She gets her lunch there & manages herself all through the day. I and Suresh, packed with 2 thaili each, were set out of our haveli (building) made of a polythene sheet & some bamboos stuck in between. Someone might call that a camping in the middle of a city!! Our haveli was no more than a tent that needs to be put on every time a storm sweeps by the city.

Our neighbors were also nomads of same status. Some had their havelis made up of green polythene, some black, some blue & yet some with tin sheets. Those with tin sheets were those with higher economic status. As we travel a mile further, there were fancy apartments of all sorts. Most of them were educational institutions often crowded with students and professionals with high-end luxurious cars. There is an environment of education and prosperity. “Bhaiyya (bro)! Can you see that? That heap over there, there might be something valuable there…” Suresh exclaimed with his face lit up. We rushed there. There were some old torn-out notebooks, folders, pens, along with other non-essential stuffs. “Well done!! You are learning. We can earn a lot from these notebooks. They would give us a good price.” I applauded him. We started picking up, putting all those stuffs in the thaili. I could spot some big guys from that street rushing. “Hey, hurry up. Pick as much as you can, else they will snatch our part.” I shouted Suresh. As soon as they arrived, we took our part & rushed to the other side of that colony for those guys were healthier than us.

As we crossed that road, we spotted many students of age comparable to ours, with fancy uniforms with their mates discussing stuffs that I could not understand even though they were talking in the language I speak. Their faces were radiant, with full of hopes. As I was busy with that scenario of prosperity, a huge black car passed us throwing mud water all over our clothes. “Saale dikhai nehi deta kya? Andha hein kya?” (Can’t you see? Pretending to be blind?) That guy inside, was too busy to even respond us. Suresh tried to convince me to not to be angry. Anger – according to me – is a luxury only powerful people & my father could possibly afford. For us, it is just something that reflects our victimhood. We spotted more such heaps that day. Our thailis were filled with stuffs more than we could carry, though we never cared about the physical torture we were facing. Really not. Because, that’s something that pay us little bit more and we can have that extra earning as savings, kept far away from our father’s reach.

It was about 8. The sky was darker and air was colder. We rushed to the agency where we sell the stuffs we collected over the days. Rajan Babu runs it. From lower valued stuffs that we pick to higher valued stuffs, Rajan buys everything. Often, I refer to him as kala swar (black swine) both due to his physical appearance and his notorious mind. He helps us sometimes. But most of the time, he torture us financially especially when we need money the most. “Saheb (master), this much for today. Kindly weigh them and pay us what we deserve. Today it is colder. We need to go home early.” I asked him mercifully. He gave us a sharp look. Suresh, often, stands behind me, offended by his appearance. “Okay, take 80 rupees. (Roughly, 1.5 USD)” “Saheb, don’t be so cruel on us. All these materials are costly, you know that. We need to buy thicker sheets for house. It is getting colder.” I explained with eyes moistened with tears. “Dekh, yahan rona dhona band kar (hey, stop weeping here). I’m giving you the right price. Elsewhere, you are not getting even that much”. He screamed. I begged him thrice. “See, I wouldn’t give more than that. Still, if you need some financial help, ask your mother to come and explain. I can’t trust you, morons.” Rajan told smoothly with a smile that was unjustifiable. “You can’t be trusted either.” I muttered. We were left with no other choice, but to accept what he was offering. He gave a 50 rupees note and three 10 rupees notes. 50 rupees note was nearly torn. “Saheb, no one will accept this one. Please, change this.” I shouted. He again gave us a sharp look. But don’t know why, he didn’t give a second thought, and replaced that one with a new 50 rupees note. “Dhanyabaad (thanks), saheb.” And we went off.

Auto-rickshaws, bicycles, cars, motorbikes…with their beep-beep and cring-cring and sharp headlights, greet our havelis everyday. It was almost 8.30 by the time we reached our haveli. So, the street was flooded with students of those institutes I mentioned. Those were the students who are getting coaching for some sort of competitive exams. They would become doctors, engineers, collectors, magistrates, commissioners…to name a few. There were both prosperity and stress. For they are fighting with each other to get a place. They call it a big fight of their life. Though, I wonder, people like us fight everyday for a roti. But our fights, once again like our anger, are nothing, but reflection of our victimhood. No one cares for us. And neither we care for them. Though sometimes, I wonder if I could somehow go to school and dream like them. But our Amma always tells that big dreams are for big people and not for jhopri-wale (slums) like us. “Aaj, jyada toh kamayi nehi ho payi, phir bhi kal ke liye roti ka intezaam ho jaega” (I couldn’t earn that much today, though I would arrange bread for tomorrow), Amma was telling one of my neighbor. Suresh rushed to our Amma. I was inspecting the scenario. She blessed him. Though I wonder if that would make any difference in his life. “Amma, take this 80 rupees. Let’s go and bring some maida (flour) for roti.” I told her touching her feet. “No, beta, don’t you remember tomorrow there’ll be a big campaign nearby? They’ll give us free lunch. See that pamphlet.” “Okay”. I nodded. I gave a look that piece made out of fine quality paper. “Isme hi itna kharcha?”(So much spending on this?) “Bhaiyya, help me read this. What they are telling?” I requested a student crossing the street. He gave a look to that piece with his big spectacles. “This is a campaign featuring some local politicians, directors of these institutes, and some other respected people. There’ll be some talks about public policies, education, and other welfare of the city.” He told me. “And the best part is – those who arrive before 9 in the morning, will get a free breakfast. Samosa, mithai, namkeen (cutlets, sweets) and all these”. He added.

That night, I was wondering sleeping under our plastic-made rooftop, with cold breeze sweeping our half-naked bodies – what the hell we would get from these campaigns. Bhaiyya called that EDUFEST. I can’t even pronounce them. What these big guys tell us about education when we small people can’t even afford our rights.

The next day, Suresh, I and Amma, got ready before 7 for that so that we can get some free breakfast. Our beloved father was still in his deep sleep. For when alcohols taken in amount more than a person can bear, his body stays half in heaven and half on earth. As we were heading towards the event, the crowd became bigger & bigger. There were all sorts of fancy cars. The front row was crowded with big guys and students, and their parents. We were pushed to the last row with other people like us. They had nothing to do with this campaign. They are here only for free breakfast. And most importantly, we are getting these free stuffs, so that the crowd gets bigger & politicians can show off their influence in media. I realized that later.

“This place is called Mecca of Education. Each year we produce thousands of leaders who would sketch the future of this nation and the world. We are very pleased to serve this nation this way. Everyone comes here with a dream to make their life, and no one returns with disappointment. Stakes may be bigger or smaller, but they get the parts they deserve. We welcome more students from other parts of the country to come and join this noble cause and make a difference. I’m pleased to announce scholarships for students who score above 90%. We are also offering integrated programs for students who want advanced studies…”, spitted a director of an institute.

“We are realizing the dreams of thousands. And we are pleased to offer more facilities and funds to these institutes and companies to continue their noble cause. The locals will also be provided with many other educational facilities….”, spitted a fair-looking politician.

One after another, around 10 big guys gave speech. They also distributed some prizes to students as well as offered people with some pamphlets & something called COUNSELING. It was a 5 hours event. After that we got our free breakfast, though, by the time, it became lunch more than breakfast. Everyone was leaving and the crowd started to disperse. On our way home, I wondered what we did in these 5 hours. In a usual day, I could have collected rags & sell them for some money that we could have same. Today, time was spent in vain. I don’t know if Suresh or Amma could realize that, but I know that we all are black sheeps. If we are ever invited somewhere, it’s just to increase the size of the crowd. Everyone talked about welfare of those who are already well-off. No one even care for people like us. What about our education? I, 17 and my brother 11, have never seen school in our life? If we are never educated, how can our nation lead? Are we not counted among the people of this nation? Oh, but how can I forget that we are now part of The Uncharted Territory and we are never counted. We exist theoretically in charts, but never counted practically…


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