School? I wish I could get in there once. I see the girls in the nice ponytails and those beautiful uniforms. The boys who look so awesome just pass by right in front of my eyes every day. Dressed impeccably, some of these children run to school and some crib about school being a punishment. I pity the kind who don’t know the worth of school, I know the value for that’s all I’ve ever wanted to be. Sometimes I wish I could talk to them. I’ve never been to school in the entirety of my 12 years of life. Why have I never been to school? Hold the thought… I’ll tell it in a moment.
The signal turned red and I could feel people going nuts of not being able to make it through the green. People usually hate the red light. But to me, I find it an opportunity. I start walking straight ahead.
Damn! Imbeciles! Some of these bikers just don’t stop! They couldn’t even see me cross the road!!! All these people want is to zoom so fast that the end up dead some day. A truck almost ran me over. Nevermind the minor setback. I move ahead and knock on a window and beg, “I need money, I haven’t had food for days. Just one rupee. In the name of God, just spare One rupee for a girl.”
Yes, I am a beggar. The one you find in the streets. They sort of people you wish never existed and that’s exactly how you treat us; as if we never existed. You, may not want to know about a nobody. But, we have stories too. We too want to be heard. And I shall tell mine.
Yes, as I was saying. I haven’t been to school. It’s not that none of us go to school; my brother does. The people from the Government offered my Mumma to put me and my three siblings into a local school for free. But, only my brother was allowed to go to school. Why not me? That’s because I’m a girl. How would my family earn if I would go to school? My brother would learn, grow up and earn.
In a way, I feel that’s right too. We girls, we can do nothing. It’s a shame that I was born a girl. It seems to be a universal fact that me, being a girl, I’m destined to bed a man my entire life and eat off the money he earns and the little which I would beg.
Oh! I’m sorry I got deviated a bit, I just happened to go in a flow; You don’t want a rant. You’re here for a story.
So, yes I went on knocking windows. People looked away, they looked right ahead as if they had nothing to do with a begging girl. Some looked at me and waved me off, and some dropped in some coins into my outstretched fingers. I begged in front of cars, two-wheelers, autos and even standing on the sides of buses. Each red light brought me about at least eight rupees.
But today wasn’t the same. My head hurt pretty bad and no one seemed to care about me. It felt as if I don’t exist. People kept on driving into me and I had to jump every time a biker came by me. Was it such a crime to be poor? That people don’t even look my way?
Sometimes I just look at the window panes of cars and I don’t beg or speak. I just look. People sometimes shoo me off. But, I just look. It isn’t something I do to make you better off people uncomfortable, I just like to look at myself in the glass. I said I’m poor, not ugly. Sometimes, even the poor are beautiful. And that’s what I feel about myself. Without putting up any makeup that I see rich women putting on their faces in their cars. I feel that I am beautiful.
But, beauty comes at a price. A price that’s too heavy for a poor girl to pay.
Oh my god! Yes! My head hurts. I remember why. I was running last night. Running away from my uncle who wanted to sell me off to a local brothel owned by the local mafia. And I never knew that Mumma loved me so much. All she did was whine that I never brought in enough money, I was a burden. Now I am. Why was I even beautiful?
Wait… My mom? She was alone… I’m scared now. We were cooking dinner last night when they burst in, drunk as usual and were threatening her if she didn’t let me go with them. She tried to stop them from getting me. I was scared. I huddled in a corner behind her. She stood at the doorway of our room. She was the only defence we had to protect us from Uncle.
But why was uncle being like this? Did he get into debts? And was he threatened to be killed if he didn’t send me off to the goons? He was never like this. What happened? I may never know…
Mumma screamed at me to run, Run as fast as I could. I didn’t know what to do. I stuttered, “Mumma… But you?” I was in tears. Mumma is the one I loved in the world. My siblings were still out, I didn’t have anyone to turn to after my father died after he fell off from a construction site.
“I’ll be alright!!! You run!!”, she shouted at me, I never heard that tone of authority from her ever. But now wasn’t the time to think about that. She picked up a rod the pan on the flame which had the dal we were to have for dinner and threw it at my uncle. He shrieked in pain. Mumma turned towards me and said, “I love you, but you have to run. Mumma will make things right!”
No Mumma … The words just stopped in my throat and I was unable to say anything. I turned around and ran from the back door. I didn’t know where I was running, but all I did was run. I could hear a few men running behind me and all I did was run faster and not look back. I kept on running and I stumbled and fell to the ground.
Maybe that explains why my head hurt. I don’t seem to remember anything after that. I woke up in a daze and found myself here and out of habit just began to knock car windows.
What am I doing here? Where am I? I looked around. I tried to read the sign boards but I couldn’t. I tried learning the written language from my brother’s notes. I tried asking a Chaiwala. But he didn’t even look at me. It seemed as if he didn’t even hear me speak. Why is it that we go through so much for just being born poor? Why?
Where’s Mumma? I need to find her. I tried walking around to find a landmark and tried asking people where I was and the area where I lived, but no one even looked in my direction. Even the downtrodden have a right to be heard, if speaking up is too much to ask for. I couldn’t tap someone. I’m an untouchable here. I’d just be beaten up if I tried anything of the sort. So, I just kept walking.
Each step just increased my anxiety. I finally reached the temple that’s near my house. I ran towards home from there. My brother was on the footsteps holding my unconscious mother in his lap. He was staring into space. He didn’t react when I stood in front of him.
I tried to hold my mother’s hand, but I was unable to lift it. I felt weak. Or did Rigor mortis set in? Thinking that is so not a priority here! I asked if my brother was alright and if he was hungry. But, he didn’t react. He looked down upon Mumma and silent tears rolled off his cheeks. My little brother. I never wanted to see him cry. I help on to Mumma’s hand tighter and I could feel a faint pulse running through her veins.
I heard a sound from behind me. It was my sister. My brother looked up to her and asked, “Did you find Didi?”
“No”, she said and fell to the ground crying. “Where, did didi go? We need her. What do we do now? Mumma isn’t waking up. And Didi is missing. And dad isn’t here!”
I shifted my position and tried consoling her to no effect. She just wouldn’t listen Could she even hear me? Why are my own siblings ignoring me? I’m right here in front of the both of you? Why do you still cry?
“You both must be hungry… I’ll try getting something”, I went inside and everything was toppled over. I found nothing worth having. As I walked out, I saw a few neighbours coming in. I begged them to check out for Mumma, but they ignored me yet again and picked her up.
I then ran out to go ask Aamer chacha for some food, he wasn’t home and I went in search of help everywhere. I gave up. I wasn’t going home without food. Alas, I went to the dump yard to forage some food, we had to do this quite a few times in the past and today called for compromise.
I felt defeated. I couldn’t even manage food for my siblings. As I walked towards the dump, I saw blood around. Maybe it was some goat that was killed last night. And the remains were thrown there. I went on walking. I found some food from the big restaurants, I found a bread thing shaped like a rod with vegetables. I don’t know what it was called but I smelt it. It seemed to be alright and took a bite. The flavor was amazing and I felt like having it all, but I put the paper wrapping around it to take back home.
I turned around to search for more but a bracelet caught my eye. It was similar to the one I wore. The bracelet was worn to a hand. A hand? I approached the bracelet and removed a pile of cardboard and clothes over the bracelet.
My face stared back at me. A wound on the side of my head. I reeled back and fell to the ground. I put my hand on my temple and saw blood on my fingers. Everything seemed to disappear from my mind.
I’ll now be the girl who went missing. Missing from all records. Missing from all police registries if there were any. I am the void…. I buried my face in my palms and wept…
I am a ghost now. Well, I was treated as on since time immemorial. I’m already used to it. I sigh…
You might’ve wondered what my name was? Or is it just a delusion of mine?
For all I know, you can call my story as A Day in the life of a Nobody.