A Day With A Value
By Saurabh Burungale
That day I left the library 20 minutes before my usual time. I was impatient. I was anxious. We decided to meet at 6 PM at the railway station. The library was just 2 minutes away from the railway station. Yet I left it early. My exams were nearing, every minute was important to me. Yet, I chose to leave the desk early. Anyways I was also not able to concentrate. So it was ideal for me to leave the place.
Soon I reached the station. As I reached the spot early, I was very nervous. I had never experienced such kind of nervousness before. But this person made me experience that!
It was 6 PM. With great excitement, I saw a train coming! I was hoping not to wait any longer. I started searching every coach of the train minutely. Only to get disappointed. But again hopeful of finding him in the next one. So as the trains kept coming, I kept searching for him and kept disappointing myself. It was already 6:15 PM. I was waiting for the past 30 minutes. So I got a bit frustrated and sat on the bench again waiting for him. In that state, I went back to dreaming about our first meeting about which I still wonder.
It was the month of January. That day I left the library at 6 in the evening. Usually, I used to leave by 5 PM but I requested the librarian to let me stay for one extra hour. As I was about to complete my day’s target. It gave me a sense of satisfaction after I solved all the questions correctly. I reached the railway station and was about to board the train. But the train was a bit late. The announcer informed on speakers about it. So I sat on the bench waiting for the train to come. While sitting, I saw a little boy sitting beside me. When I looked at him, he smiled and I smiled back. For some seconds I was observing him. He had no slippers on his foot. It looked like he didn’t bathe for many days. His clothes were dirty too. It was enough to convince me that he was a beggar! Yet another unlucky fellow to have been born in the wrong world.
He caught my attention. You might be wondering, why did he catch my attention? He was just a beggar like many others which we see day in and day out. But he seemed different to me. Perhaps the reason was he was not begging me. He was neither begging other people. Then why he looked like a beggar?? Questions started flooding my head. I couldn’t control myself. So I started asking him.
I asked him about his name and his age. His name was Vikas Bhosale. He was just 14 years old. Then I asked him why was he doing this. What was his problem? He replied saying that he and his family needs to survive. They had no proper meal to survive. I asked him about his mother. He said that she can’t beg because of his little sister. His mother’s health was also not good. I was shocked to hear that. It hurt me badly. I was feeling very sorry for him and his family. Then I asked him about his father. He told me that,’ his father used to drink a lot.’ I asked him ” What do you mean by 'used to'? Where is he now?” To which he replied,” My father is no more. He was diagnosed with TB. We had no money to cure him. So he died. Now the entire responsibility of my family is on me.”
His words struck shocking waves in me! I was shocked and amazed at the same time. I can’t even imagine, what it feels like to lose your father. How does it feel to not see your father around you? Who the child will look to for help? Whom will he/she ask to fulfill his/her wishes? Who will he/she be afraid of? How does it feel to not say ‘Daddy’ again from your mouth for the rest of your life? What kind of void he/she might be feeling in the home when he is not there? Just by thinking about this, a dark world came in front of me. It was showing me how life would be when not having your father around you. I felt numb after that. It was shocking to hear from a 14-year-old! And yet he had a smile on his face. It takes a lion’s heart to face such situations in life. And it was a tremendous loss. Mom and Dad are the worlds to any child. And this little one just lost his half. After listening to him, I wanted to know more.
I asked whether he had an uncle who could help his family or someone else from his mother’s family. The answer he gave to me was very terrifying and devastating. After listening to that, my heart broke. He said,” I have a maternal uncle. He gave us 18000 rupees to build our hut. My mother borrowed it from him. We had no money at that time. He said that we can return the money anytime at our convenience. To which the mother agreed. But after my father died, he came for money. Mother told him about my father’s loss, yet it didn’t affect him. He told the mother to return the money.”
I asked him,” Your mother is ill. Then how can she be able to return the money?” To which he replied,” That’s why mother came to take me. I was staying in Nagpur. I was living in an ashram and studying there. I was in the 6th class. Mother came and said that we should go to Mumbai. She explained the story to me. And now the onus was on me to return the money. My mom was ill so I made her understand that she needs to stay home and take rest and take care of herself as well as my sister.” I had a heavy feeling in my stomach. I didn’t know how should I respond to this. Such kind of words coming from a 14-year-old was not an ordinary thing.
”What happened then?” I was curious.” My teacher was not letting me go. He wanted me to complete my education. I was also enjoying the learning. He tried to explain the importance of education to my mother but deep down he knew that there was no other option. So I came here and started begging. My target for a day is 150 rupees. With that money I have to feed my family and also save some amount.” he explained. It really showed the magnitude of the tough phase he was going through. I asked him related to money. ” How much did you repay him till now?” To which he said ” I returned him 5000 rupees till now. From the 150 rupees, I earn daily, I save 100 rupees, and the remaining 50 I give to my mother to run the house.” Again then I asked,” And what if someday you are not able to achieve your target?” He said,” So I wait for a longer time. Till the late 10-11 pm. I can’t afford to miss my target as I want to repay the money as soon as possible and join the school. My mother scolded me and requested me to come home at 6 pm. At late night some men kidnap little children like us and sell them to other strangers. But anyhow I have to dare and take the risk and have to complete my target as soon as possible. I have slippers but I don't wear them because people won’t give me money if they see me in slippers. It's inevitable for me to look like a beggar. So I have to bear this all for survival.”
After listening to what he was going through I desperately wanted to help him. It was impossible for me to just sit and feel sad about it. That young guy was in desperate need of help. I started thinking about how I could help him. So immediately I gave him 100 rupees as I was having only that much. I know it was a drop in the ocean. I wanted to help him more. I started asking him about his requirements and needs. He told me that as it was the month of January, it gets very cold at night. They hardly had a blanket. Which was small for the three of them to sleep in. Also, to bathe and go to the washroom they had to pay money in public toilets. To save the money for a bath he goes some 15 km away from his house to a lake. Where he can bath free of cost and that too no time limit. He said that he hates to remain untidy. It feels very bad. It concluded that he was not a typical beggar. Life brought him in such situation. He was a good, decent boy who was studying peacefully until the time a mountain of responsibilities fell on his shoulders.
I told him to meet me. He told me that he can come after 2 days. I said,” I will give you some blankets and some clothes. I will help you for sure. Don’t worry. The struggle is there for everyone. You are just misfortunate. These days will pass and you will again start studying. Just meet me at 6 pm. I will wait for you. Don’t forget.” He replied me by saying, “No I won’t forget. There was one girl just like you who promised me that she will help. I waited till 10 pm. She didn’t come. I hope you won’t forget that.” This added additional responsibility on me. It was already 7:30 pm then. A lot of people were watching us while passing. They might be wondering what we might have been discussing. One beggar and a young middle-class boy talking about something very serious was not a common sight! We both agreed to meet 2 days after.
I woke up from that daydreaming. I realized that I was lost in my thoughts. It was already 6:30 PM. And still he didn’t come. My heart just broke out. I was crying inside. My mother gave so much for him and that dumb was not there to receive. I was very excited to see the joy on his face when he was going to see that my mother gave a saree to his mother. And that fellow didn’t come. I was angry and frustrated. I lost my patience and looking at the floor I started walking helplessly with heavy heart. I lost hope. I was now about to board the train. When I was looking for train, I saw a young fellow was running towards me. I couldn’t believe that it was him. By seeing him, dark clouds from my soul just faded away and it drastically changed into pure sunshine. I was very delighted to see him.
I waited for him for almost an hour. But with the sacrifices he made and the pain he was in, it was all right to wait for such a great guy. I was not helping him in a great way. Yet, he had the value of all those small things. It was small from my perspective. But it meant the world to him. The happiness he had on his face when he saw a sweater is still one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. That sweater was made by my mother to me when I was a child. It was still new. And he was on cloud 9 when I gave it to him. When I told him about the sweater, he was hesitant to take it and requested me to take that sweater back as it was from my childhood. After seeing his generosity and kindness, it really made me cry. It made me very emotional. A guy who has almost nothing to survive, life has been harsh on him and when he is getting some help in this kind of desperate situation, he is kind enough to not take that sweater! I almost cried. At such a young age, he was showing great humanity, generosity and maturity. I was in awe of that boy. He was giving me many life lessons. I was witnessing a brave young lion.
I gave him some blankets, a sweater, clothes, a saree, and other stuff. And he gave me a lesson. A lesson of valuing things! I was just older than him by age but in a true sense when it came about living life he was surely elder and way ahead of me. From that day, I started to value all those small things I have. Right from my food, clothes, and parents to the slippers. I started valuing everything. And from that day I stopped complaining. I only felt gratitude towards everything. And now I am happier and more humble. Thanks to this 14-year-old fellow. We both parted ways. We could not have met if I had left the library at 5 pm that day. We were destined to meet. Destiny played its role to make us meet. I am grateful to you my little friend. I will never forget this lesson and of course you.
By Saurabh Burungale