“Chhote…do chai la” (Chhote, bring two cups of tea)
Chhotu, really Bansi, wasn’t listening. It was a cloudy, windy day. Just the way he liked it. Sitting below the big banyan by the tapri, he was enjoying himself. Looking at the dark, moving masses of clouds through the branches and shoots of the banyan, he was lost in a different world.
“Abe laude, chai la bola na!” (I asked u to bring tea, dickhead)
Chhotu snapped out of his daze. Laude. Here in the tapri, only he had the distinction of being called a lauda…which literally meant penis. He didn’t mind…it was more like a nickname for him here. He was happy today too…the weather was one thing, but the five rupees he had managed to pocket the earlier day…ahh! Today he wouldn’t mind if they called him lundkatya…dickless…
He checked the little secret pocket he had stitched himself on the groin of his half-pants, from the inside. The touch of the cold five rupee coin excited him.
“Abe kya andar hath daal ke baitha hain…chai kaha hain? Kaat dunga saale tera fir kya chhooega?” (Get your hands out of your pants…where’s the tea? You wont have anything to touch if I cutoff your thing)
Chhotu ignored the man. He was still thinking about the five rupees. He knew what he could do with them. It had been a long time since he had seen a movie. There was one in the local theatre…stall seats for a measly Rs.5/-…Aishwarya Rai, his favorite, in the role of a princess…he was in high spirits.
He got up. Chhotu was 17, but hardly looked it. The shirt he was wearing was that of a 12 year old, discarded because he had outgrown it.
Chhotu passed the two cut-chais and went back to the banyan tree. Today the tree felt like home. His banyan tree.
The skies had darkened now. A lone kite circled above them…its unmoving wings giving it a ghastly, pale, phantom like look against the grey-white streaked sky. A long, forked bolt of lightning cut across the sky…bisecting it mercilessly..the brightness and the darkness. Chhotu looked up and saw a second kite…it seemed to have appeared straight out of hell with the bolt.
He smiled and started to lose himself again…romancing Aishwarya…flexing his muscles…kissing her…making love in the hay…
He jumped. Only Kanhaiya, the tapriwala, called him by that name.
He stood up and faced him. One look at his face was enough for Chhotu…Kanhaiya knew about the missing five rupees.
“Paanch rupya. Hisaab mein kam hain. Kaha hain?” (Five rupees. Missing. Where are they?)
“Nahi pata. Humare haath mein kaunu paisa deta hain?” (I don’t know. No one around here gives me any money to keep.)
“Humse baatein banata hain? Paisa kaha hain banchod? Kal sigaret ke liye diya thha tereko saanth rupya. bees sigaret pachpan ka hua. baki paanch?” (Dont tell me stories. Where’s the money sisterfucker? I had given you Rs. 60 for cigarettes yesterday. 20 cigs are for Rs. 55. Where’s the remaining 5 rupees?)
“Saanth ka bees hua. Teen ka ek hain.” (20 cigarettes for sixty rupees. One cig is for three rupees.)
Kanhaiya slapped him across the face.
“Maa ki choot tere. Humse jhoot bolega tu? Abhi panwala aakar gaya. Nikal paise madar!” (Dont lie to me, motherfucker. Give me the money.)
Chhotu gave a sob.
“Ro mat chhakke…paise nikal!” (Stop crying and give me the money, eunuch).
Kanhaiya started searching him. On finding the five rupee coin, his face contorted with fury. What followed was an all-out assault on chhotu. He was pinched, kicked, punched…thrown about by the hair. His clothes were ripped and his lips were bloody. Somehow, he managed to escape from Kanhaiya and bolted towards the nearby ghats on his cycle.
Lying under a tree, he looked up at the twilight sky, sobbing, licking his lips. The moon was up amongst the clouds…a thin, diffused crescent. Silhouttes of spider webs cut across his vision…the trees alive with shrieks of insects. Then it started to drizzle.
Chhotu stopped crying. Rain. He loved it. Breathing in the cool air…his senses coming alive…the smell of damp mud…the cool breeze…he felt safe…secure in his own cocoon. The sense of safety broght in a new optimism. He started to have happy thoughts again…”I’ll earn my own money. I’ll buy Kanhaiya’s tapri. make it into a big hotel. I’ll keep kanhaiya as a waiter. Ahh! That will be great!”
And so his thoughts went…every passing second making him beleive he was living his dream life. Reassuring himself he could do it.. Why not? Amitabh Bachchan had done it in a movie he had seen!
He picked up his cycle and started cycling back. ‘I will apologize to Kanhaiya. He would let me stay for a few days…then I could go and buy him out…’ He started singing a merry song…”rain is falling chhama-chham-chham…”
Two lights appeared a little way ahead. It was dark now, and Chhotu was thankful for the lights. He cycled towards them. A police jeep.The officers inside seemed high and merry…hawaldars mostly and a driver. Chhotu stopped and got down the narrow road. The jeep took up most of it. Chhotu watched as the jeep approached…it was going fast.
‘Just as in the movies. Must be going after some gang of dakus…’ he thought.
He looked down as the jeep approached closer…knowing that the police could mean trouble. He was releived when the jeep didnt slow down even after its lights fell on him. Just then came a loud laugh from inside the jeep. Abruptly the jeep swerved and hit Chhotu head on. He was thrown down in the rocky valley, his head hit a rock, and it was over. The police got down, threw the mangled cycle in behind him and drove away, not wishing to own up for their mistake.
The next day, nobody knew where Chhotu was. No one tried to find out.