I’m going to receive my first pay, after a long time. And ‘m happier when compared to the day I got my first salary at the age of 20. That day I know I will remember each and every moment along with its date- Jan 31st 1952. I did my first job as a clerk in a government office, in Mumbai-India. And I offered my first salary to the God as my mother told. After 50 years, I ‘m again awaiting my first pay but today ‘m longing to have proper meal with that money. After straining every nerve since morning, I find it tough to stand on my 70 year old legs. I‘m working for some construction works, as a daily wage worker. Currently standing in front of my owner’s office; which is right on the main road. There are four people in the queue ahead of me and another two behind to collect the wages. My stomach is growling with hunger. I can sense that the person behind me can listen to the noises in my stomach as he was looking at my belly and face. Not sure where I will go to have my food tonight. Wherever be it, it’s going to be a feast. I was pushed by some person on road and ‘m brought back to reality.
Since the owner is receiving continuous calls, the queue is moving slow. Seeing the people around, I realized ‘m actually overjoyed. After waiting for almost an hour in queue finally my turn has come. As though my father bought a balloon when I was a kid or I ‘m on trip to the mountains (which I like the most), happily received the pay. I wish I could share this happiness with someone. I looked at the sky and tried to find the gleaming eyes of my wife in those shining stars.
Its 8 P.M, where to go? I know I can’t head to a five star hotel with the 350 bucks that ‘m carrying. But as I looked at my tattered clothes, I felt even if I step into any decent hotel, they may as well call me to come from rear entrance to offer leftover food. I was looking at every possible hotel to have dinner. I found a vendor preparing Dosai (made out of rice and black gram batter) on a moving cart. I asked for 3 dosas and mentioned I may need more. For which the vendor said, “As many you want, provided you can pay for them all”. I noticed people having dosas sitting on the big rocks which are randomly spread at the side of the moving cart. I too joined them and had my dinner. I went back to the same slum to sleep in my cozy shed. As its cold outside, I thanked myself for buying a blanket and pair of clothes, with whatever money I had till yesterday.
During night, I dreamed about my wife. In the dream, my wife Zahra is still in her mid-forties, she looked very beautiful with her bright smile in the reflection of moon light. She was definitely happy and wishing for something looking at the sky. I can only see but couldn’t hear anything, not even I could listen to the breeze that was blowing her hair, crisscrossing her face. At the end of the dream, from her lip-movement I could make out that she said, “World means nothing without you”. I woke up suddenly from my dream. I know I can’t sleep anymore. I had to question myself why ‘m I alive in my 70s? I have neither wife nor children and not even a house. The memories of childhood, the early days after wedding, and the affection of my wife flashed in front of my eyes. But the recent floods washed away my priceless possessions, my wife and my house in which every room and every wall reflects the remembrances. May be I can re-build the house but it can never be the same, hence I dropped the idea of going back to my place. I felt there is some purpose for this living-life, as I’m driving myself to live in spite of a lacklustre routine.
Next day onwards I started working in the first shift, so I started my day quite early, at 7:00 A.M. Had my breakfast at the same moving cart and headed to work, reached the work area at 7:30 A.M. I’m involved in counting and carrying the bricks from the truck and stacking them at the construction site. I have three more people with me who are doing similar job. Out of the other three folks, a person is of my age. We instantly became friends, when we met yesterday as we had common topics to discuss, nothing personal that we shared till now. And in the afternoon he asked if I would like to visit his house for lunch. When I was hesitating a bit, he mentioned that, I can pay for my food. His wife provides food services taking money, to the workers during afternoons. I went there and had proper meal and got back to work. I worked for a few more hours and started back to home at 3:30 P.M after collecting daily wage.
My home as I said before is a small shed, which I’m sharing with two other young folks. These folks found me at the flooded area and decided to help me. I came along with them to live in this small town called Ajra which even belongs to Maharashtra. Once I reach home, I sit and relax on a wrecked chair, watching the people on market-road from the window. I don’t know from when but I started waiting for the evenings, just to get a glimpse of Zahra in my dreams. If I don’t get sleep I feel desperate that I may miss to meet her in my dreams. More than the dream, I want to decipher those spoken-but-not-heard words of her. When I go to bed, I can feel my wife’s hand around me and touch of right leg over mine. At times, after I sleep I could listen to her whispering – “World means nothing without you”.
The routine went on. And after a month, one day my manager at work called me, asking if I would like to go to town and work. As the construction work here, is almost coming to an end and a new project is starting in Kerla- Thekkady(South India). I was skeptical to accept, but I said yes. In a weeks’ time I ‘m travelling in a bus to reach Thekkady. With the address in hand, I went on foot to find the Construction Site. The construction site is near to the Lake and I really liked it at the first site. I joined my co-workers and started working from day one. One night I noticed, I stopped dreaming about my wife after coming to this new place, which made me feel very lonely. I happened to meet a new friend here by name Ashok. Ashok is 15 years old, who was also working along with me in the construction work and goes to school in the night for his studies. Recently his parents passed away which brought him here. Though his Uncle and Aunt were ready to support, he wanted to live independently. We both were working for the same apartment’s construction and were let to stay under the roof of partially constructed flat. At times we both go to enjoy the Lake view in the evenings after dinner and from there Ashok leaves to his night school. After he leaves, I remain gazing at the stars and trying to break the mystery of my dream.
One day in our room, I dozed off watching the stars and without closing the doors and windows. Next morning I was caught with fever. I couldn’t work for next two days. Ashok took care of me, as though ‘m his grand pa; always helping and asking me if I need something. Still I felt and very lonely. I was angry with Zahra, angry as she left me alone, angry as she doesn’t visit me anymore in my dreams, angry as I find it tough to live without her. Though I recovered from fever in two days, I had trouble in getting back to my work. After a few days, I again got a dream. But this time, I could see myself alone staring at the sky intently. I was so engrossed watching it, as I could see Zahra’s face in the Moon. She was calling me and wanted me to come along with her for a boat ride. At last I could listen to her voice, which said- “will you please come home early today?” And the clouds slowly swept the Moon due to which I woke up suddenly shouting Zahra’s name. Ashok came to me running, comforting that everything is fine.
I kept thinking about the dream until next morning. And then slowly I recalled an incident from our past. During our mid-forties, Zahra asked if I could take her on boat for a night as she always dreamed during childhood to go on a boat ride with her love, in waters, only two of them away from noises and humdrum of everyday life, gazing at the stars and to feel the happiness of timeless eternity. I was definitely not harsh but I denied her wish, as I felt it’s very fancy. Now I feel it’s a simple wish that my wife asked.
TO BE CONTINUED.. …