The Package

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A poor women, a boring speech and a package as a reward. Read on to know more about Prabha, her dreams, dilemmas and struggle for a better life. The Package!

“He wanted an India as a land without any discrimination, today we are here to make come true, this man’s great vision.” The fat aging man yelled out from the stage, the evening sun acting as a perfect spotlight for him. Prabha stood right beneath the statue of B.R Ambedkar, trying to avoid the heat from the spotlight and nodding to every word the speaker said, just like the thousands in front of her.

The stage set up, the gathering and the locale was all new to the speaker but not for Prabha and her friends from the slum. In fact Saturdays were always filled with a sense of euphoria for her, lending ears to such a boring speech which transcended every boundary of logic, nodding to every word and the long queue was all worth it for that small package. A small bundle for bearing with the minister and an unspoken agreement to remember him on the day of voting. But the point the rhetorician on stage forgetting was that, Prabha and many like her in the crowd had been receiving such bundles and packages from the past two months from many like him, who were warming up for the big day.

‘Wait I look stupid when I continuously nod like that, just like those boggle heads I used to sell during the village mela,’ Prabha thought. ‘From now on only logical statements deserved a nod.’ Prabha decided to listen attentively the rest of the speech, though she was sceptical about finding any logic in the monologue.

“Who would have thought that a dalit boy like him could one day be one of the founding fathers of our nation? You all could be like him, we will take you there, your voices will be heard….”

Prabha wondered how Ambedkar reached such heights. Stories like these had always been an inspiration for her; at least it helped her forget the real world.

If her Chandra had been alive, she would have made sure she reached such heights one day and earn enough to run a family. Prabha leaned on to the statue and tried to remember her face, she lamented for not having a clear image of her Chandra in her mind’s eye. And then part by part just like a jigsaw puzzle she started to form her daughter’s image behind the closed curtains of her eye lids. She came like a full moon in prabha’s dingy life, that’s when she called her …. ‘Chandra’.

Only challenge left in front of Prabha was to make sure Chandra grew up as a healthy baby, she started to work more, swept more houses, washed more clothes of people, cooked more food for the kids of rich couples and it was only after a long hard working day that she brought home enough money to buy food for her fast growing daughter.

Chandra was her only hope and a reason to live.

When Chandra used to crawl on to her mother’s stomach, only to kiss her goodnight, Prabha would tease her, “One day you will find a boy and leave me all alone” and Chandra would hide her innocent blushing face with Prabha’s long hair. But she would have never thought that her bundle of joy would leave her so soon, at a tender age of seven.

Prabha snapped out of her privy world with the thunderous sound of clapping. The organiser standing behind the speaker on the stage was signalling everyone to clap louder. The older lady next to her poked, “why are you not following his instructions, he is keeping an eye on all those who are not following the dictum, he won’t let you stand in the queue, once the truck with the packages come.”

Prabha raised both her hands and started clapping, louder and louder. Her tears from the very thought of her daughter trickled down from the corner of her eyes. She clapped few seconds more than anyone else, only to get noticed by the organiser, getting a place in the queue was her only Saturday mission. She wiped her eyes clean with the tip of her tattered sari once she stopped clapping.

“Ambedkar ji wanted equal treatment for everyone, be it lower or upper class, we will make sure you all get basic amenities like medical aid.” The ministerial candidate continued.

“Rascal,” Prabha muttered under her breathe. ‘Medical aid for us?’ Prabha thought, ‘what a joke’ and continued with her nodding.

She still remembered that night when she took her shivering seven year old in her hands to the hospital. It was then that she learnt that mosquito bites too can take lives, but Prabha deep down in her heart somewhere believed that if those doctors had not ignored her because of not having any money for the treatment, her Chandra would have been alive.

Poor Ambedkar had not visited the new India, imagined Prabha. Here no Shudras, no Kshatriyas and no Brahmins. We have all changed and developed. Now we have only rich and poor.

Rich on the stage, poor down here nodding.

Rich inside the hospital and poor outside its premises.

Hah! Ambedkar’s unfulfilled dreams, Prabha thought.

Just then a truck forayed into the maidan from behind and everybody’s gaze towards its direction. For that fleeting moment everyone forgot to nod.

“This is for all my brothers and sisters who had come to listen to me in this maidan.” The ministerial candidate proclaimed loudly.

The truck came and stopped right behind statue and this time Prabha did not had to push or fight with her friends to get first in line.

The packets were thrown from the rear of the truck and Prabha caught hold of one tightly, she felt like she had completed an onerous task. The honchos of the organiser lathicharged the ones breaking the queue and Prabha emerged out from the crowd. she walked out from behind the screen of dust, clutching the packet tightly in her hand.

She felt the packet with both her hands while walking back home, ‘It seems rice not chappati today’ Prabha smiled to herself.

Submitted: June 03, 2016

© Copyright 2022 Ashish Thomas. All rights reserved.

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