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The Boy on the Street

Vishwa Parikh

“There is no meaning to it.
Just words, Di. Just words.”
Well, yes. But are there no consequences to words spoken out of anger? Is it really as easy to listen and forget, as it is to speak and forget?
I have known this boy for three weeks now. He has never been to school, does not have parents or siblings, uses the porch of an empty, locked, broken down house as his “home” and eats leftovers that people keep near the end of the street for dogs and cows. His name is quite long and di􀉢cult to pronounce for me, so I call him “B”.
His home lies hidden behind a big temple, which with its half broken and half whiny stairs, poses as the perfect meeting place for us in the morning, when I walk to the station, and at night on my way back. But tonight, something seems di􀉡erent. Usually when I return from work, he waits with his favourite stray at the porch step. And although it has become a routine, I remember each moment of this tiny everyday rendezvous. Every moment of each
day.

Like yesterday: I remember walking home. The darkened streets and the silence. The warmth of the soft glow of persistently hesitant streetlights and the coldness underneath my awkward yet motivated feet. I remember the boy sitting with his hand on the dog’s
head and the dog lying hungry yet satis􀉤ed on his thin legs. I remember him smiling
and me bowing my head, out of friendliness? Reverence? A bit of both or just a
failed attempt to become either? But it doesn’t matter.
That was yesterday.
Today, the boy lies cold.
Cold in these streets full of paradoxes. Wrapped in the blanket that was supposed
to give him warmth and comfort, he looks anything but in its battered and torn
remains.
The boy lies cold.
And I’m shivering.
But I don’t know what passed in the moments in between.
What happened ? Yesterday was just another day, and it ended as such. The
twenty- 􀉤rst day of me knowing him, of him smiling and me nodding. A day of them
scaring him and me running away. A night of him being brave and optimistic and
me being concerned and cowardly.
Twenty one days and I still don’t understand why they hate him. I think sometimes it
was his whistled tunes that annoyed them. Sometimes the white thread he tied from
one shoulder to the opposite waist and sometimes the chants he tried to mimic in his
stammering yet ambitious notes. Maybe it was the way he stood right below the
highest step of the temple to catch a glimpse of the enigma within. Or it might be
the fact that he stared at the priests the way a student stares at his favourite
teacher.
I don’t understand their contempt. Is it because he wanted to be like them? But isn’t
that ironic? Hell, they force kids like me to become a fraction of them despite us
refusing all through our teenage years. They force kids of di􀉡erent religions to share
their beliefs, because apparently di􀉡erences in faith are arrows to questionable
characters right?
Well then what did he do wrong? He wanted to share their beliefs. He removed his
rags to make space for a thread on his frail chest. He wanted to learn their prayers,
their methods, their purposes.
But that’s not how it works, is it? Teachers choose which students they want to
focus on, not the other way around. You can only want what you are allowed to
have. And apparently, if you’re poor, you aren’t allowed the bene􀉤ts of faith.
I had seen him being called a menace to society, an unwanted soul, untouchable,
dirty, and a lot of other words that were intentionally spoken in a language such that
he would understand exactly the amount of disgust being thrown at him. But these
words, they didn’t faze him. Not one bit. He always responded with silence and
backed away, only to return once it got quiet again.
He would tell me “Di, Ma used to say that those words don’t mean anything. This is
my home. Nobody is unwanted in their homes.”
Home.. well, B did not remember where he was born. Not his house, or the lanes.
For him, home was this street. This crowded, lonely street. For B, home was where
his people were. And although he did not have anyone now, he used to. His parents
had begged on the corner of this temple for as long as he could remember. They
walked along the edges of the streets, only to return at night with a few grains of
rice and sweets for him.
I asked him about his father, but his memories were mixed up, except for the stories
told by his mother. Stories of their love. Stories of him collecting daisies for them
everyday. And amongst them was a story of an accident behind the temple. B did
not recall much about the accident except that his father went to collect 􀉥owers,
and he had just stopped being visible when suddenly, the car horns sounded nearer
and people got louder and his father just.. did not come back. I asked him more
about his mother, and realized that she was his favourite topic. His Ma was his
favourite memory. He remembered each detail: Her habits, her laughter. Her food
taste and her beliefs. Her tales of the village where she was born, and her gasping
last breath as she died of a heart attack right at the edge of this street. Right next
to the porch. “I sleep where she sat”, he told me. “Sometimes, my hair moves, and I
imagine her 􀉤ngers on my head, and those days I sleep longer.”
I had only known B for three weeks. But I’m pretty sure that I knew him better than
anyone else on that street did. That did not mean I was of any help. The men calling
themselves “the men of God” still yelled at him. They still threatened to hit him, and
he still returned. I did take a vow though, that the moment one of them actually hit
him, I won’t stay quiet. I’ll give them an educated curse, and I’ll take him away with
me. That’s the thing about us cowards, see? We keep watching the fall occur in slow
motion, until the point where gravity doesn’t need to work anymore.
But it’s the beginning of the fourth week, and things have changed. Not even three
steps into the street, and there he is: Unmoving. Quiet. Cold.
I rush to him and touch his neck with trembling 􀉤ngers.
“He’s alive.”
A man walked out of the shadows, with a small bowl in his hand and a dog following
behind. He sat down by the boy’s pale face and started gently stroking his forehead
with 􀉤ngers dipped in an orange paste, while I tried to 􀉤gure out why he looked so
familiar. It took my boggled mind a long time to make my mouth move so that I
could ask the right questions. “What happened? Who are you?”
“We have wishes, all of us. This boy? He wished to see the Man in the temple, and
today, he did. He climbed up the one step he avoided, and walked to the pillar on
the left? There, you see? He peeked inside. And I guess the boy found what he was
looking for.”
“What do you mean?”
“The boy kept staring for what seemed to be minutes, despite the priests
screaming for him to leave. They yanked at his arms, pulled at his thread till it broke
into strings and yet he stood, as if in a daze. Then all of a sudden, he fell
unconscious.”
I looked at his closed eyelids and held his hand. My 􀉤ngers started making question
marks on his unresponsive palms as if to ask: what happened? What did you see?
“He did wake up once for a few seconds. Didn’t know who I was, didn’t know where
he was. But he kept murmuring something. Over and over again”, the man said with
tears in his eyes.
“What did he say?”
“She is here. She’s with him. They have daisies.”
And that’s when I noticed the thread. B tied a white thread around his shoulder as a
step towards knowing his God and now, the frayed edges of the thread were tied
together with daisy rings.
You see, the boy did not remember much about his home and his family. But he did
remember his mother. And in one of our late night conversations, he mentioned how
his mother used to bring him a daisy every day, pressed it 􀉤rst to his chest, folded
his hands over the 􀉥ower with her own, and kissed his eyes, whispering all the while
“He’ll take care of you. He carries daisies, and he is far away. But he will take care of
you. He will give you daisies just like these. Just like he gave them to me.”
The boy’s mother was not rich. Not educated, and not modern. But she was a good
mother, and a loving wife. When her child was sad, she told him stories of his father.
Of how when everyone else got bangles and clothes as gifts, she got daisies.
Sometimes in the form of bouquets, and sometimes tied with a thread in the shape
of a ring. When B was sick, she made the same rings for him.
Daisies.
Oh.
“You work in the temple, don’t you? I saw you wince when those men were yelling at
B. You left sweets in his bowl too, didn’t you?”
He smiled uncomfortably and said “I didn’t want Binend.. I mean. B. I didn’t want B
to starve. Those men have forgotten what it feels like to have nothing. I can’t. And
yes, I’m the gardener.”
“Are you? Have you been a gardener ever since the accident?”
He paused.
Smiled.
“Some answers are better left in the memories. And for those, I left him a gift”, He
answered.
Right then, B woke up. He looked around for a while, saw me and clutched at my
hand with desperation in his eyes:
“Di! Di, she’s not dead. Ma’s not dead. I saw her, I did. The tree behind the statue,
she stood there, Di. She pointed at a man and he had daisies in his hands. It was
Baba. He’s not gone, Di. He’s here. She was there too. I saw them. They were there.

I looked up and saw the man walking back to the temple, already several feet away
from us. He looked back one last time and smiled at me with tears in his eyes.
I smiled back, held the boy’s hand tighter, and told him “Yes, they were. Your father
promised your Ma that he would take care of you, right?”
“He did. So he lives in the temple then? Did he become God? Is that why he left me?
To become God?”
“He can be God if that’s what you want him to be. And no, he didn’t leave. This
street is as much his home as it is yours, you see? And you can’t be unwanted in your
own home, can you?”


12 comments

  • Edifying literature. ♥️

    Rutvi Patel
  • Soo much felt emotional while reading this story…! Wonderful plot of the story u have narrated…! One of the best short story any one would love to read it..! 🙌🏻🙌🏻👏👍

    Shaily Parikh
  • Good one, emotions express is very heart’touched. Keep it up.

    Abhay Shah
  • Just Wow!! Absolutely heart touching ❤

    Jigisha Prajapati
  • Expressed emotions very beautifully. Loved it. ♥️

    Jigisha Parikh
  • Very nice

    Bhupat sadani
  • Too touchy, too deep. God bless you beta.

    Nayan Brahmbhatt
  • _💓

    Chandni_
  • Its so emotionally beautiful when the plot turns in the end. A beauty in its own way❤

    Jilshi sheth
  • A great piece u have beautifully written 💯💯

    AP🦋
  • Beautifully written

    Aayushi Amin
  • This is one of the best story I’ve ever read. Can’t get over how raw the expressions, emotions are🥺 absolutely loveee the narrative💯

    Carol

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