– Mumbai (1990)
It’s funny how captive the mind of an 8 year old is, a mind that is yet to be fully introduced to the horrors and joys of this world. So when his mother came home that evening, he was as usual eager to find out if today he would be surprised with something unusual in the bag of veggies she had gone to shop for. But to his disdain, the bag had exactly what it should have had, some boring veggies and adding to his displeasure was his mom’s warning, “someone is coming home, so behave
Five minutes later the bell rang & in came that someone, a disheveled man wearing a white shirt which had definitely seen better days, and green chequered lungi with a huge contraption under his arm. As the man hobbled inside the house with a genuine smile of gratefulness, oh the horror set in, the man has just one foot, something an 8 year old had never closely witnessed before. He hobbled his way, leaning on his crutch towards the couch but instead of sitting on it, he used it as support to lean & placed himself on the floor.
Surprised by his humility, the mother forced him to shift up on the couch and he finally gave in to her coaxing, but his actions clearly suggested that the change of locations was most certainly out of his sheer reverence towards her which was compounded by the fact that he kept calling her “akka” (elder sister). The kid, clever as he was, decided to choose the safest location with a clear exit route and quietly stood behind his mother, shielded by the curtain. But oh the horror, his first line of defense, his own mother got up and went to the kitchen leaving him alone with… well he was yet to decide if the one legged man was an enemy or a friend!
As he shriveled in the corner, the man gave the warmest smile ever, asking the kid repeatedly if he remembered him. Before the kid would have a pointless meltdown, his mother thankfully appeared with a tray full of food for the one legged man which was gratefully accepted. The rest of the encounter was a blur except for the fact that the man had a voracious appetite as though it had been sometime since he had a decent meal or two. And between mouthfuls, he narrated to his akka, how he lost his leg as the kid listened with rapt attention.
The man used to work in some restaurant and had risen from doing menial jobs to a respectable position. Like every self-respecting South Indian, where he started earning handsomely he bought himself a gold chain and a gold ring. One night after closing the restaurant he was on his way home and decided to take the short-cut by crossing a railway track which would cut down his travelling time by 15 minutes. As he was carefully navigating the multitude of metal tracks in the dead of the night, he was accosted by two guys with a knife. They wanted his gold and purse or else, well they had a knife.
Not wanting to die for a few pieces of gold, he gave it to them and decided to walk away. But just as he turned to head in the opposite direction, they hit him in the head with the butt of the knife and threw him on the tracks. When he gained consciousness after a few minutes later, he saw the ominous light of Mumbai suburban local heading towards him. With a concussion and very little time to spare, he tried to pull himself off the tracks. He managed to almost get out of harm’s way except for his….
The kid’s mother could no longer bear to hear the story narrated by the victim who while narrating it had the same warm smile he had given the kid a few minutes back. She told him to finish his food and that she would pack him some food to take back home as she told her son to go in the bedroom and finish his homework. The kid didn’t need to be told twice and he quickly escaped thanking his stars that he had been spared by the one legged man, a man who didn’t look threatening in anyway but was definitely disturbing.
A man, who by some weird anomaly stayed in this kid’s imagination, maybe because of the smile, or the singular leg or just through coincidence as he shared the same name as the kid’s father…Chandrasekhar…
2014- A Tale to Tell… http://wp.me/p3Uo6o-7P