A deafening war-trumpet blew and the very ground beneath his feet shook violently, under a thousand hooves of the enemy. The frightened boy ran as fast as he could, having stared certain death in its eyes – only to stumble hard after a short sprint, and awaken, before he hit the ground.
Panting, sweating, he sat up, curling into the refuge of his mother’s arms.
Only, it was not his mother. It was the limp beggar under whose wheelchair he had been sleeping. Who was trying to caress him out of his nightmare. A youngster sleeping next to him was laughing uncontrollably. The boy stood up in a flash, and stormed away: embarrassed and horrified.
First train of the day had entered the platform, shaking and waking everyone with its booming horn. As the crowd poured on the platform, the train halted to catch its breath.
The hungry boy peeked out of the public toilet, shyly. The limp beggar had fed the boy for two days, out of his petty earnings. But it wouldn’t happen forever. The boy was old enough to understand that. Hunger had drunk his tears too, and yet blared like the railway horn. Desperate eyes spotted a food stall near the station entrance and it wasn’t long before he found himself begging to the people coming out of it. Nobody had time to spare him a look. Disappointed, his teary eyes searched around again, for a kind heart, or for his mother perhaps. Instead, they spotted a coolie, being paid by the heavier owner of a heavy luggage.
As another train entered two platforms across, the boy mustered up extra strength and ran to catch hold of the heaviest bag. After his requests and insists, the owner agreed to trust him with the luggage, but only for half the usual charge. It broke his bones to carry it up the crossing, and then down. As he brought it down on the first platform, he called out to the youngster who had laughed at him in the morning. The youngster almost carried the bag for the boy.
The boy ran to the food outlet as soon as he was paid. Amidst the well-to-do’s haggling for change, the happy young rag forgot his school arithmetic, to feast on the treat.
The day ended.
The boy – now a day older – stood before the wheel-chaired beggar, with a parcel of food in his hands. The beggar smiled at him through his wrinkles and beard, and invited him to lie down at his usual spot. Without a pocket to keep his earnings, the boy slept, clenching them in a fist.