The Angel

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story about the plight of children and their inner desires.

Submitted: June 16, 2016

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Submitted: June 16, 2016




Rajeev, laid down on the pyol, and thought hard about that old lady who always called the little children from the streets and gave them candy. Usually after a hard day’s work he would be quite fatigued and immediately slumbered, while his step-mother counted his day’s earning. The old lady calls out to Rajeev too, but Rajeev doesn’t go, he always has suspicions especially after what happened to Hamid last year when he mysteriously disappeared. The lady comes and waits beside that ancient banyan tree and calls out the children as they pass by. Recently however the kids from the slum are already present before the old lady arrives and when her silver haired head appears she is a welcome sight for them. She gives candy to all the children. Astonishingly she never runs out of candy no matter what is the size of the crowd of the chattering children. After her usual fans have gone, she waits for some more time calling out to other children as well. She calls out to Rajeev as well but he frowns and goes away. The pyol started shaking; Rajeev’s thoughts were broken; as a matter of fact the entire shanty started shaking as a train passed by. Rajeev’s half-brother was also lying next to him while his step-mother was fast asleep on the other pyol across. Today Rajeev got to sleep on the pyol otherwise he would be on the wet ground, thanks to his more than usual income for the last couple of days. Rajeev closed his eyes. Thoughts of his father came to his mind. A tear rolled down his cheek. His father was probably the only one who last cared for him. His step-mother was a monster ‘rakshahshi hain’ as he would sometimes describe her to his friends. A year ago Rajeev’s father died in an accident on the train tracks. Apparently some witness said he was walking dazed along the train tracks and apparently paid no heed when the train came. “He was probably drunk”, Rajeev remembered someone saying. Whatever his father was he wasn’t a drunkard or an addict. Those words had hurt Rajeev very badly. The next day Rajeev woke up as usual, bathed himself as usual and then was off to work. Rajeev was only 11. Rajeev walked steadily, making his way steadily around the ditches and potholes on the narrow winding lane. As he passed the banyan tree where the old lady usually waited with her sweets, he noticed something glittering beneath the tree. It was quite early and the place around the banyan tree didn’t have many people nor had any lighting, so nobody had probably noticed. Rajeev went forward. He peered at the ground. There was an earring lying in the dust. It was small but had a few white stones embedded on it. He picked it up and turned it around on his palm, it was beautiful, but then it was bound to be beautiful, it wasn’t every day that a boy like him finds these sorts of things. Rajeev thought who’s this could be and suddenly he remembered that it was the old lady’s. Indeed it was hers; Rajeev remembered that he had once seen an earring similar as this on the old lady. It must have slipped from her ear yesterday. Rajeev put it in his pocket and walked away. Khan sahib was lounging in his throne like chair having his tea when Rajeev appeared. “Boy, you are late, “said the large burly man. “Haan Saab, please forgive me, “said Rajeev with his head bowed. Khan sahib smiled. “Take that bag and go to spot number four today, you know the rules. This bag better be empty when you come back”. Rajeev picked up the bag and went off. Rajeev’s job was a very odd one. Actually he inherited this job after his father died. Two days after Rajeev’s father’s accident, his step-mother took him to Khan Sahib. Khan Sahib immediately gave him the job. His job was easy. The entire adjoining area was divided s into a number of spots. Each day Rajeev would get a new spot. He would have to go and wait at that spot every day and when a potential customer came he would give a signal and after the payments were made Rajeev would hand him a packet of some white substance. All this was of course done swiftly and in a considerably conspicuous place. For each packet sold, Rajeev earned ten rupees. Usually he sold about fifteen to twenty packets daily and on some days he even sold twenty-five packets. Rajeev never knew what he sold and before joining Khan Sahib had strictly said that he was not to ask any questions. Today was spot number four. Business would be a bit tough today. Customers wouldn’t turn up before eight. Rajeev stood beside the road under the overpass. Thoughts about his father came to his mind. Rahim had once said that his father’s job wasn’t a very legal one. “Your father works for Khan Sahib, the man has shady business,” said Rahim one day. He also mentioned that if his father was ever caught, he would surely go to jail, just like Rahim’s father. Rajeev had asked his father once about his job, his father had just looked at him. He still remembers his father’s face, he had never seen so much of desperation, so much anguish and guilt in a man’s face. Rajeev then was too young to understand, and as fate would have it, Rajeev too fell into its clutches. As the day went by, business progressed. By noon he had already sold eight packets. He always thinks why people buy this. He sees his customers, they are people who can barely manage one square meal a day and here they are for a small packet and paying hundreds of rupees. Despair and injustice reigned supreme. Rajeev was engrossed in his thoughts when suddenly saw the old lady standing across the road. The old lady seemed to be smiling at him. Just then a truck passed between him and the lady blocking his view. When the truck passed he didn’t find the old lady there anywhere. She was nowhere. Rajeev crossed over and looked around, there was no sign of the old lady. He was surprised. The lady is quite old, how could she have disappeared so quickly. Rajeev got back to his place and waited. He took out the earing he had found in the morning. An expression of doubt came on his face. He remembered very well that when he found the earing it was silver in colour and it had white stones on it, but now it had turned golden and there were red stones instead of white. Just then a customer came along and he had to put away the earring. At around five or at least when he thought it was five, Rajeev made his way back to Khan Sahib. There he would have to give back the remaining items and also the money after which Rajeev would get his due payment. Miraculously Rajeev had sold everything today! He himself was a bit surprised, spot number four is tough place to sell and he usually sold about fifteen or so, but today he had sold everything! Khan Sahib was quite happy and Rajeev received an extra fifty rupees. Khan Sahib may have shady business dealings but he was a generous man. Rajeev took the extra fifty rupees. He wasn’t going to tell that old witch about this. He went to the corner shop and bought a chocolate bar, his favourite one. After having eaten he made his way home. Just as he came near the banyan tree he saw the old lady standing there. She was standing alone there, and as she caught sight of Rajeev she smiled at him. Rajeev instantly remembered the earring and felt inside his pocket. He took it out. “It could be hers, why not ask, “thought Rajeev. He went towards the old lady. The old lady was smiling all the while. Rajeev came up to her and held out his palm with the earring on it. “Is this yours?” he asked. The old lady looked at the earring for some time and then felt her ears. “Yes it is, it must have dropped off yesterday,” said the old lady. She took the earring from Rajeev’s palm and put on the earring. Then she looked at Rajeev again and smiled. She took out a handful of candy from her little bag. ”Here take these,” she said. Rajeev took them and put them in his pocket. The old lady was still smiling at him. Rajeev was looking at her face. He just couldn’t get his eyes off her. Her face had a certain radiance, and her smile was divine, just like an angel. “Thank you again.” So saying the old lady walked off. That night Rajeev again lay on his pyol. Thoughts about his father crossed his mind again. Soon he fell asleep. Rajeev dreamt today, but this dream was different. He dreamt he was on an ever extending meadow which went rolling away. There he was, walking about the soft grass, the breeze gently blowing. He walked in a certain direction when he caught sight of the old lady. The old lady was calling him. Rajeev followed. “Come Rajeev , come with me, your father is here”. Rajeev ran. The meadow was endless. Then he saw his father there, standing, he too was calling at him. Rajeev ran now. “Rajeev where are you going? “shrieked his step-mother. Rajeev had stepped out of the hut. He was walking in a daze. “Rajeev !” called out his step-mother again. Rajeev saw nothing of the dirt around, for him, he only saw the meadow with his father standing at the end of it, calling at him. Rajeev stepped onto the train tracks and broke into a run. He ran, his father seemed to be so near him. Far away a train was coming, one could hear its sound, but Rajeev heard none of it. He heard only his father. The lights of the train appeared, but Rajeev saw none of it. He saw none of it. Rajeev ran and ran, there he was, only this far away from his father, his father, standing with his arms open. Rajeev saw a light a blinding light, he shut his eyes. When he opened them again, he was in his father’s arms. His father was holding him. Rajeev could feel the embrace. “Come now son,” said his father. Rajeev held his father’s hands as they walked on the meadow. Rajeev turned his head as he walked. The old lady was standing there, only now she had wings on herself. She was still smiling at him. Rajeev too smiled back. The next morning there was a huge crowd by the railway tracks. The remnants had been removed and police were busy dispersing the crowd of onlookers. Only there by the tracks, in the creeks of the stone chips lay an earring glittering.

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