Short Story by Indian Young




Joy of a Candy

Twelve year old Abdul pushed the tyre tube in order to pace up the momentum. He ran with the wheel on the narrow dusty stretch dividing the factory boundary and a water stream where factory waste was dumped.
Even the stink that prevailed in the air couldn’t discourage him from enjoying his free time outside the factory, but his joy was short-lived when at the end of stretch he saw Akram, The six-foot giant with an ugly scruff in exchange of a beard.
Abdul suddenly lost his momentum, the tyre strode a good distance ahead of him and collapsed on the ground. Akram came closer to him and grabbed his collar, thus further tearing the already worn shirt. Akram raised his other hand and swing it backwards to strike a deadly blow on Abdul’s sunken cheek. Abdul closed his eyes and raised his shivering arms and waited for the blow but Akram swing his arm above Abdul’s head, thus missing the target intentionally.
Abdul opened his eyes to the sound of incessant and uncanny laughter of Akram still holding him.
“Come to work…” Akram said in an authoritative tone.
Abdul said nothing but nodded and followed Akram to the main Gate of the factory, from where Akram dragged him inside the factory. The factory was enormous, Abdul always got fascinated by the size of the building but what attracts him most was the water cooler which was near the gate where he could drink as much cold water as much he wants.
Abdul followed Akram hesitantly through a flight of metal stairs that led to a corridor, with several rooms running parallel to each other, Abdul glanced at each room as they moved across the passage, and the walls were charred with black dust and the floors occupied by children even smaller than Abdul.
They enter into a similar room across the hallway. The children were sitting with their backs towards the wall, forming an elliptical shape with baskets of raw material in the centre. Abdul sat in the corner next to Raju, Who was as skinny as Abdul but a good two inches shorter than him.
Akram passed him a similar basket which was filled with a black powder and rolls of paper. Abdul took out a paper spread the powder on the paper and rolled a perfect stick with his little fingers.
The children made thousands of those sticks and store them in a big box in the corner of the room. They worked at full speed under the timely inspection of Akram. But as soon Akram would have left the room the children started to sing….
Here hope dies at the beginning of hour
The taste of our mouth is sour
Sad frowns and tattered clothes is all we wear
All day long we labour in our childhood tear
They beat us, curse us
Badger us, exploit us
But we wait for the day
When tomorrow will be a new today….
Raju forced a smile, removed a candy from his pocket and offered it to Abdul. Abdul took it without hesitation and passed a smile while putting the candy in his shirt pocket, instead of putting it in the mouth right away.
Akram saw the two peasants wasting their time in idle talk and giggle. He came closer to them and quietly grabbed them by neck and bumped their heads, “Work. You two fools, I don’t feed you to sit idle.” And he slapped Raju with a brutal force. Then he turned to Abdul.
Abdul with his frightened senses, took a leap and jumped out of his reach and ran out of the room. He only stopped near the water cooler to catch his breath, and to fill his growling stomach with water, he saw something stashed beneath the water cooler, rolled in a plastic paper.
He quietly removed the object from its hiding and unwrapped the paper, He saw a bundle of tobacco leaves rolled in a stick. He recollected the memory of his Uncle used to roll one of these leaves and would inhale the smoke produced by burning its tip.
Abdul placed one of the tobacco leaves in his mouth and searched for a matchstick to burn the roll. A security guard, who was standing beside the gate saw him and ran towards Abdul. He snatched the biddhi from his mouth and said in a loud voice “What were you doing, don’t know it is banned in here… Who is your station coordinator?”
“A… Akram Ali…” Abdul answered with a fear in his voice, but he hid the bundle in his back pocket.
The guard took Abdul back to the hell hole from where he escaped. Akram received his prey with a grin and said “You pig, can only be disciplined with a beating.”
Akram lifted his arm, forced Abdul to bow down and with his elbow he assaulted Abdul’s back until his own arm hurt. The room felt mute when Akram left, neither they nor the other children spoke a word but only the silence listened to their moaning.
The sun came down and the harsh sky turned into a comforting grey, the foreman rang the bell ending the day’s peril for the tortured soul’s and all the children form a line and marched to canteen where they got their day’s pay in the form of meal to satisfy their day long hunger.
Abdul and Raju were an exception to this feast as they were detained by Akram to work for extra hours, Akram sat on a chair while Abdul and Raju sat beside him on the floor, Akram was listening to the radio and said “where is the bundle of biddhi that you stole from water cooler?”
Abdul looked at Akram flabbergasted, wondering how Akram knew. Fearing Akram would hurt him again he removed the bundle from his back pocket and offered it to him. Akram glanced at the bundle with a smile and said “Now you are learning some manners…” and took the bundle.
He took out one stick and placed it on his mouth and took out a match box from his side pocket. Akram lit the biddhi with the help of a matchstick and threw it on the ground.
What Akram was unaware of was the fact that the matchstick still had a sparkle left when it touched the ground, which was covered with the black powder. The powder instantly caught fire.
Akram saw what he had done and ran out of the room, Abdul and Raju followed him in a hurry, while the fire grew stronger and like a monster with a giant appetite ate anything that came near it.
Outside, the children and the workers heard a loud bang and saw a huge fire-ball erupting through the windows of the upper level. The darkness of the sky was overshadowed by the monstrous light that was slowly swallowing the building into its dark pit. Everyone ran outside the gate.
The only people left inside the building were Akram and the two children. Akram ran hesitantly towards the stairs, the stairs were hot but he started to climb down the stairs, with great caution. Abdul and Raju couldn’t follow him with their bare feet. So they stood at the edge of the stairs and saw a burning splinter falling over Akram’s head.
They were alone, waiting for death to come as they were trapped between the fire and burning splinters, when all of a sudden Abdul saw an opening which led to a balcony for ventilating the floor. They both climbed on the boundary of the balcony and saw the water stream right in front of them.
Both were hesitant, as neither of them want to jump from such a height, they saw each other in the eye, nodded doubtfully and jumped out of the building without the slightest of the knowledge where they will fall or whether they will survive or not.
In a matter of seconds, Abdul felt his body hitting the water and completely engulfed by soothing coolness of it, he almost forgot about Raju. He cried out Raju’s name three to four times before listening to a faint cry.
Raju was in a semi unconscious state when Abdul helped him out of the water and to the surface. They were panting profusely and laughing at their close escape. They hugged each other and bid farewell after drying themselves under the cool moonlight that bathe them with joy.
When Abdul got home, he saw his mother sad and lost in a trance. Abdul expecting a joyous smile on her face, tapped on her shoulder. She saw him but instead of even a smile she frowned and said
“You survived…!, it would be better if you had died there at least we could have got compensation….”
Listening to this, he ran into the house crying and thinking, whether she was his real mother. He laid on the bed his face down, Abdul felt something in his breast pocket, and he stood up and checked his pocket. A candy came out.
As placed the candy in his mouth. He forgot his worries and a satisfactory smile spread all over his face and he knew that Tomorrow will be a new Today.

                                                                                                 VIBHOR AGARWAL
                                                                                       National Post Graduate College

1 comment:

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