Breaking free

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Ken wouldn't have dreamt that one day he would be sleeping on the very same streets in the main city that he had often visited right since his childhood...A short story

Submitted: March 18, 2007

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Submitted: March 18, 2007

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Bondage with ease, or strenuous liberty? - Milton

I.

Ken wouldn't have dreamt that one day he would be sleeping on the very same streets in the main city that he had often visited right since his childhood. The very gardens he often saw and passed through during his college days, the very library he was a member of, the very museum he sometimes visited to appreciate history. Was it a nightmare that had come true, or simply the price that freedom extracts from her ardent followers?

Ken was a middle class youth in his twenties, out of his teens for long, and trying to live. Perhaps languishing. Or rather, trying to 'adjust' - the term that really applies to people in his situation who work, marry, and live, all while at home. He tried to 'adjust', for there were really no other options that occurred to him. A good job is all that was required to clear this first step, the next being marriage.

Perhaps Ken would have found a suitable job with help from his relations, and his life would have been 'settled' for him. Perhaps, he would have 'adjusted' to the world around him. Yet, he was also a lover of freedom. He had always felt a deep desire to live a free life, on his own terms, and see the world through his very own eyes.

Sooner than later, the deepest desire of the human heart stirred in him. The desire to live a free life all by himself. He could no longer allow it to lay dormant and get extinguished by the unstoppable passage of time and events. He had to find his own way out, take control of his life, and live as he would please, even if that meant working on the streets doing odd jobs.

Ken therefore decided to leave home and make a living for himself. He was prepared for a stark naked confrontation with the outside world, a head on collision with reality. It was for the cause of freedom, his personal freedom, that he was now to sacrifice his all - his home, his education, his belongings, his relations, almost the whole of his past existence. It was not going to be a new beginning, but rather, a rectification of his entire past existence. Freedom was to make him anew. Ken now wanted to re-invent himself, and become a new man.

II.

As the day broke, Ken got up and went about his usual routine. Soon it was going to be time to leave. He had already kept his belongings ready - a pair of clothes, some toiletries, and most important of all, a handsome amount of money he had managed to get his hands on from the cupboard. Soon enough, he was walking out of his apartment, through the familiar narrow, busy road that took him to a nearby bus stop. Instead of taking a bus, he hopped into a taxi, and was soon on his way to the main city centre.

The money he had carried along was a good amount, and he made plans to skip meals, and take the bare minimum - subsist on bread and tea alone for as long as possible. Renting a room was out of question. So the only shelter was the streets where beggars, drug addicts and petty hawkers and food sellers slept. Ken soon found a place near the public museum, on a raised platform that circled round the building.

It was also the time to think of doing a small business on the streets and earn for the day. He did not make any attempts to get a small job. Working in a restaurant did not appeal to him, for it was way down his education. The idea of selling flowers stuck to him as novel, for no one else appeared to be doing that. Very soon he discovered the place where wholesale vans carrying flowers arrived from outside the city. Ken bought a couple of bunches, and fixed the selling rates at twice the price he had paid. It was now time to fix on a location, and chance brought him near a small temple in the market, where he could stand on a corner and do business. His neighbour here was a young boy who ran a fruits stall.

He had a number of buyers, but at the end of the day, he could only break even - recover his investment. With his clothes and shoes, he stood starkly in contrast to other hawkers in the market, and often people thought he was waiting for someone with flowers! This he learnt later from one of the passersby. A middle class lady saw him, and left with sad comments to the effect that a man from a 'good family' was doing this work.

Ken's business failed within a couple of days. The flowers were perishable, and the unsold lot had to be thrown away. He now strolled along the streets during daytime, and went to sleep early on the pavements. He had to get up before the sun rose to avoid been seen by early office goers. He would then go and sit in a park and stay there for a couple of hours. It was time then to stroll the streets. He tried various places where he could spend the day, but it was easy to be recognised as an unemployed and attract inquisitive glances.

The money Ken had carried was soon nearing its end. With no other job or business in sight, he hopelessly wandered from one place to another. That is all he could do now. It was a matter of time, before his money was to run out. It was time to go back to his comfortable home, and try to 'adjust' again, but with the secret hope that one day, he would live by himself an unfettered life of a free man.

*******

First published on my blog at sulekha.com:
http://amitontheweb.sulekha.com/blog/post/2007/03/breaking-free.htm


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