The next morning Binoy woke up in the same old ramshackle and dilapidated hut that was home to the four boys. He saw all the other three boys sleeping and didn’t disturb them; it was a li’l too early to start the day. He went through his old morning routine and then went to the shopkeeper who used to give him roses to sell.
“Kaka, Roses?” Binoy asked in an accustomed tone.
The shopkeeper looked up and did a double take. “Binoy??!!! You? Here?” Kaka’s face was like a picture that changed emotions with realisation and Binoy’s head hung.
“What are you doing back here? I was told you had been taken up to live with some rich and educated couple to their home.” Kaka’s tone was part accusatory and part melancholic. He took one glimpse at Binoy’s fallen face and nodded with lowered eyes. “Ohhh!!! So it was the same old story this time as well. They had taken you to make a domestic help and were mistreating you.” He heaved and went on “It is good that you came back then, better to be amongst your own than to be a servant to the affluent society.” He spoke with bitterness of some past experiences and added “I was so happy for you, you know. I thought they had taken you to give you a bright future, but Alas! Reality is a harsh and a bitter pill to swallow.” He concluded.
Binoy was silent, but he choked at Kaka’s words and tears welled up in his eyes. Kaka took it to be a sign of dejection and patted his back “It’s alright boy, it’s alright. You study under the lamp like you used to do. I will buy you some books.” Kaka said with a genial smile in hope to cheer Binoy up, but his compassionate tone made Binoy hug him and sob like a baby. The young boy who was trying hard to be a man turned into a little boy and cried as Kaka messed his hair lovingly with soothing words.
Binoy looked up and said in a broken voice, “No Kaka, they were not trying to make me a servant. They were magnanimous people. Aru Di, she reminded me of Maa…..” Kaka heard him perplexed.
“Binoy! If they were good then why are you back?” Saying this Kaka pulled Binoy back a little sternly. “Tell me, tell me boy, have you come back in fear after some wrongdoing or are you trying to hide some sin you committed to that couple?” Kaka was patronising Binoy with a rough hand.
Binoy couldn’t keep it to himself and told Kaka everything that transpired last night. He wiped his eyes on his sleeve and pleaded absolution “I had to come back Kaka, I just had to come back. I couldn’t let Bablu steal from them, be it at the cost of my future.” Binoy said earnestly, and Kaka’s eyes welled up at the young boy’s tenacity and grit. He patted his shoulder and gave him a bunch of roses to sell.
“Binoy I am proud of you son. Be careful at signal today, it’s raining.” Kaka said prudently looking at the dark sky.
“I won’t go the regular signal today Kaka. I will go to the other red light at the back of the petrol pump. I know Aru Di, and Arnab Bhaiyya will come looking for me at the signal. I don’t want them to find me. They don’t take the road behind the Petrol pump on their way to work. So, I will go there from today.” Binoy told and took the bunch of roses from Kaka’s hand and ran like the wind.
Kaka watched his retreating back with blurred eyes as he dried his eyes on his shoulder cloth. He was sorry at the atrocities of life; he was helpless to see Binoy’s plight, he was furious at Bablu and his friends. He decided it was not the time to mind his beeswax and sit tight. He had to do something.
In the Roy household Arunima was sitting on the edge of the bed with her head in her hands as Arnab sifted through the house to make sure nothing was missing.
“He took nothing. He went empty-handed.” Arnab told Arunima, and she looked away.
“I already told you Arnab; he wasn’t a thief. He must have felt your apathy towards him and taken it as a sign to leave.” Arunima cited Arnab as he stood on the threshold, leaning on the doorframe with crossed arms.
Arnab hadn’t told Arunima that he had seen Binoy let three boys get into the house and had left with them willingly. He didn’t want to break her heart, even if he had to take the blame for it. He wanted her to remain kind and helpful. Her goodness was her essence, and he didn’t want it to be lost to the chicanery of the world. Though the fact that Binoy took nothing with him left him amazed. He was sure Binoy had stolen something, but he was getting late for office.
“Arunima happened is happened. Let’s go to work. We will talk about this at night.” Arnab tried to distract her.
Arunima looked at Arnab stunned and spat, “A kid is missing, and all you can think about is to go to work?” She questioned his intentions.
Arnab sighed with open palms and shrugged his shoulder, giving up.
“You can go where you want, but I am going to look for Binoy, find him and bring him back,” Arunima said determinedly. Arnab knew she was stubborn and he let her have her way. Maybe she will come across the truth and then come to terms with the facts.