It was half past four in the evening and the hours-long drizzle had almost stopped. A 7-year-old boy, Somesh (Somu) was coming back from bus stop to home with his mother, Suneeta. In the usual school attire, a T-shirt and half pant, walking on the road and striking pebbles coming in his path. Every time he did that, mother scolded him with words like this: “Somu, Agar is baar bhi juta fat gaya na to Papa naya nhi leke denge!!” (“If the shoes get torn again, your father is not going to buy a new one”). Somu replied (in low tone) with a cute smile, “this time it won’t happen”, and again kicked some more stones.
He asked his mother, “What is for dinner today?” and after the mother’s reply there was a silence, because he never liked bitter gourd. Anyway, he was aware that he is going to get something else, because his mother also knew it very well. Somu asked again, “When will father come?”. Suneeta replied “The usual time, ten in the night after the tuition”. Somu’s father, Rakesh, was a tutor and used to give tuition in many homes. It was their only source of income. Along with his father and mother, Somu also had an Uncle, Vikash, with them living together. Uncle had his own stationary shop which his father helped in setting up.
Somu was about to reach his home but that day had something different and unexpected in it. Around ten meters away from his house, Somu saw huge flames rising and almost touching the evening sky. Plenty of people were throwing water and trying to get fire under control. Yes, sadly it was Somu’s small clay house on fire. Suneeta’s eyes were filled with tears and she also started throwing water to stop the fire quickly. The small boy was completely quiet, standing at the same position and staring at the flames. Finally, after a collective effort of Suneeta and her neighbors the fire was put off. There were no more flames now, only ashes. The damage was done.
The color of walls turned ash gray. Pages of books and notebooks, clothes and many such things had turned in ashes now. Somu was now sitting outside of his home with his mother. His gaze constantly shifted between the burnt house and his devastated mother. Since there was no phone at that time, there was no way to contact and inform Rakesh or Vikash. They could only wait. The wait would be long as it was only half past five in the evening. Perhaps, Somu’s mother was thinking, how did this happen? Was there any short circuit or any of the jealous neighbors did this? The mind can think of any possibility in these situations, unless it gets a satisfactory reason.
In this huge slum tonight, Somu’s house was the only one which did not have light. A small kerosene lamp (borrowed from a neighbor) was the only source of light inside his home. It is 9:30 in the night and Rakesh entered the house and the first line he uttered was “Suneeta!!, Somu!!, where are you? Is everything fine? what is all this? How did it happen? When did it happen? ”. Suneeta couldn’t answer a single question and started crying. Rakesh was trying to convince her, “Don’t cry, don’t cry!! Everything will be fine”. He asked her to sit and then asked Somu, “Beta, thik hai tu?” (Are you alright?) and a single word reply “Ha” (Yes) was enough to end this conversation. After sometime, Suneeta told the whole story to Rakesh. Both were blaming their fortunes as why they have been facing so many problems.
“Mummy, mai bada hoke tere liye naya ghar banaunga!!” (Mother, I will make a big house for you), Somu’s words brought some relief to Rakesh and Suneeta in this hour of grief. Suneeta hugged Somu and everyone’s eyes were filled with tears. Those lines from a 7-year-old were the proud moment for his parents and that was the only time there was a smile on their faces.
“Being together is the biggest happiness in this world”
This was a small part of Somu’s life and there is a long way to travel the amazing journey with Somu.
The next part will be published soon!!