Sunday, February 1, 2009
THE MARBLE GAME
The blanket was torn at really odd places. Shantama could never let Tipu sleep with that blanket on especially during the morning hours, when the street is all crowded! Tipu wished he were Mani- Mittoo's dog- it slept all day long. No one dared go near Mani.
Tipu's morning was vapid and disgusting. Shantama had been quarrelling with Kamla mausi all morning. Why? Tipu never cared. They were always quarrelling. The asbestos sheet above was broken. So was the cot. Tipu stepped out of the house.
Mangoo and his asinine crony- Bhatti, were walking towards him. Tipu was in no mood to fight. They had had a fair deal, the day before. Tipu had won- and so he got Mangoo's four marbles. End of the story. But Mangoo was not happy. Besides, Mangoo was twelve, while Tipu, only nine.
"Give me back, my marbles"- Mangoo had a bossy tone. But Tipu was not scared. "They are mine, now. I won them", he said- a tone so true and as pure as truth, itself. Mangoo pushed him down while Bhatti caught hold of his hands, tight, Mangoo took out the four marbles Tipu had kept in his trouser pocket and spoke thus- "They are mine . And will always be mine. Get your own marbles if you wish to play today. Else, forget the game.." . He kicked Tipu hard on his ribs, and left along with Bhatti.
"..only ten rupees, ma. I need to buy marbles. If I don't have marbles, I can never play the game again with Sukhi or Hari and all those other big boys out there ma. Mangoo took all my marbles..". Shantama was worried. She hardly had any money to get rice for the dinner. But she could never be happy unless Tipu was happy. She said, "I'll ask 'Baiji'. If she could get me, I'll get you marbles".
Shantama- a single working parent. She was a house maid. She was not a very good one too. People who let her work, let her do it for they only pitied her. She was weak and always sick. But a very sweet woman. Soft, and one who can be trusted. "Baiji" - as Shantama called her, was the only person, whom Shantama could depend on. Thanks to " Baiji", Tipu attends the local school. “Baiji” was her only hope.
"Baiji" had left to Shirdi. And Shantama could not go anywhere else. Tipu was heart broken. Today's game was the most important one. It would change his life. If he wins today, he would get twenty one marbles- he'd be rich… RICH… And then, he'd be the leader. And Mangoo won’t be able to do anything about it.
Tipu could do nothing. The sun was in high spirits. The road seemed everlasting. Tipu could feel the void inside his heart. He was vexed. He cursed Mangoo. He cursed "Baiji". They had ruined his life. But suddenly, he saw something on the road. A piece of paper. An important piece of paper. Money- an end to all his miseries! Ten rupees!
Tipu was filled with life. All his hunger, anger and helplessness, vanished. Mamaji's shop was just around the corner. Full of life, he held one hand high up-in the air, a ten rupees note, tuck safely inside his fist, he ran. He ran past the quarrelling women, hungry children, past the lame beggar, toiling labourers. Finally, when he reached Mamaji's shop, he was sweating- it seemed as though he had bathed in sweat!
"Mamaji, four marbles.."
Mamaji was busy attending other customers. He took no notice of the panting Tipu.
"MAMAJI, FOUR MARBLES..."
Mamaji turned. He saw a shirtless little boy, drenched in sweat, a ten rupees note, clasped tight in his fist, dirty feet, dry hair, bright sparkling eyes.
"Who gave you the money?" Mamaji demanded.
"I found it", came the reply.
Mamaji seized the money and shouted, in anger and disgust-
"You thieving little brat! Get lost.. Never set foot inside my shop, again. For I would kill you if you do. Get lost.."
Tipu stood there, transfixed, seeing his dreams land safely into Mamaji's cash box..