The shop was laden with lights and lanterns. People exited their cars with elitism. Ladies drenched in glitter entered the door with vanity. Men with heavy wallets strolled through the sprawling lawns. Children held their parents’ hands with excitement.
Just beside the heavily decorated door, a pair of eyes searched for something. They looked for a coin, hoping it would buy her a sweet or two. She looked at the tall figures passing by, waiting for a tinkle in her bowl. She knew it was festival time, and she wished someone would be generous enough to moist her tongue with a rosagulla.
The sound of crackers scared her. It was too deafening. But, without a roof on her head and an empty stomach on most nights, this was nothing to bother about. She just wanted something to fill her tummy, it was grumbling for a few days. Her eyes gazed at the horizon, her mind thought of food.
But she knew she can’t be lucky all the time. A morsel of food can never be guaranteed for children like her, she thought. Her mind said, ‘It’s okay if you don’t get food. Aren’t you used to it?’ However, she wasn’t alone. Her friends were scattered, in the hope of some money. She wondered whether her best friend got a penny. At least, she and her friend could fill their stomachs. But she was too frightened to go to the nearby dhaba.
The man with a big stomach would make them stay there at night. He would do things with her that she didn’t like. She looked at her empty bowl, and worried as to why she couldn’t say ‘no’ to that grumpy old fellow. A woman passed by; her child holding a doll. Seeing the child, she wished she could get enough food, she wished she could wear a good frock and play with a doll, she wished she could run around and play on the swings in the garden nearby, she wished no one would ‘shoo’ her away from the park, she wished there were elders to take care of her, she wished she knew who her parents were.
With a jolt, she came out of her dream world. Maasi slapped her because she wasn’t doing her work; she wasn’t begging. She took her bowl, stood in front of the sweets shop, full of hope, but also despair. She once again wished she could live her life, just as the children in the park. She once again wished she and her friend would get something to eat. She once again wished that man with a big stomach would leave her alone. She just wished her wishes would come true!
By Sarah Jacob