With turmoil in his head, Binoy walked back to his Aru didi’s home. But, he was so lost that he didn’t realize that he had gone in the wrong direction.
Arunima woke up by the noise coming from the kitchen. Arnab was making tea. He had thought to talk to Arunima with a cool mind.
“Good morning”, he said. She smiled at him and said, “Yeah! Good morning!”
They sat down over tea in the porch and told their stories to each other. Both of them were in shock.
“Why didn’t you tell this to me ever before?” Arnab asked Arunima.
“For the same reason you didn’t tell me your story.” Arunima replied.
“I completely understand Aru what you have gone through, but, you can’t make him stay here. We can fund his studies, his living, but staying here is out of question.” Arnab said.
“He needs a home Arnab.” Arunima emphasized.
“I know honey, but, we can send him to a hostel or somewhere. You are not getting my point.” Arnab took Arunima’s hand in his and said, “What if after a couple of years we have a baby of our own? What will happen then?”
Arunima stay quiet. Arnab had a valid point. She was so perplexed that she didn’t know what to stay.
“I need time to think Arnab”, she replied. “I will go and check Binoy is awake or not.”
She went inside the house with the tea cups to place them in the kitchen sink. She went to the room where Binoy was sleeping. She knocked twice, but opened the door when she didn’t hear any response.
“Binoy, Binoy”, she called out loud. The bathroom door was not bolted either. “He must have gone to the terrace,” she said to herself and hurriedly climbed up the stairs.
Binoy was not on the terrace either. Arunima got worried now. She ran out and shouted to Arnab, “He…he…” her voice was trembling, “He has gone, he’s not in the house.”
Arunima and Arnav both were lying on their respective side of the bed pretending to be asleep but actually lost in their own thoughts. Both were re-living their past and planning how to tell the other about it. These were such old bittersweet memories buried so deep inside their hearts that they had not shared it with their spouses also. Bringing them up had caused a huge upheaval in their minds. Arnav wanted to settle his mind first before being in a position to talk to Arunima and face the argument which he was sure was going to follow.
Arunima on the other hand was also thinking with those similar thoughts in her mind. She wanted to tell Arnav all about how her life changed when she was just 4 years old. But now she was a bit wary of Arnav, from last couple of days she was seeing a totally different side of Arnav, one she did not even know existed. It seemed that he was filled up with hatred on the sight of Binoy. There was a certain look on Arnav’s face when he was around Binoy which she did not understand. She felt that she did not know her husband as thoroughly as she thought she did.
“Anyways it was time to go to sleep, the way things are tomorrow also would be a long weary day” thought Arnav.
In the adjacent guest bedroom there was another person who was having difficulty sleeping. Binoy was standing at the window looking at the stars. During his life on the street also watching the stars was very soothing for him. He used to lie on the footpath and gaze at the stars. He knew it was a silly kiddish thought but he always felt his mother was there somewhere in the stars watching him. He felt connected with her under the star lit sky.
Today again he wanted to reach out to his mother. Just a couple of days back when Aru Di had brought him to this house he was ecstatic. This house was such a heavenly place. The bed he was sleeping in was so comfortable. This room was full of books which he always wanted to read. The almirah had so many clothes in it for him. He had never in his life owned so many pairs of trousers. Aru Di had made sure he had everything he required and more. He had a full meal after ages. He had actually forgotten what the feeling of a full stomach was. He had so much to be thankful for.
“But still I can never call this place my own.” thought Binoy. He remembered the conversation between that man Arnav and his sweet Aru Di. “He doesn’t like me. He won’t let me stay here. Why is it that such a sweet Aru Di has such a hard hearted husband” thought Binoy, “Why does he hate me? I have not done anything wrong to him.” All these thoughts were racing in his mind. But so many years on the street had taught him that people did not need a reason to hate street children. “They just did. People always believed the worst about us. Just because we are living on the street and begging or selling things at the traffic signal doesn’t mean we are thieves or cheats. We are also children we too need love!”
All three went to sleep fighting the demons within them. Next day was Sunday morning. A lazy morning. But Binoy was up early and he went out for a walk he wanted to clear his head. He had to make some tough decisions. He did not want the only person on this earth who had shown unconditional love to him to suffer. Aru Di should not suffer because of him.
While walking he didn’t realise how he reached the same streets where he used to sell flowers. It was quiet early in the morning the street was deserted. Suddenly a big grubby hand hit him on his back. “Oh! Look who is here! Our Binoy has become a total gentleman.” This was Bablu he knew even before he turned around. The two boys hugged each other. One in a smart jeans and T shirt and the other in dirty grubby clothes. But it didn’t matter to them.
Bablu was his buddy. They had slept on the streets together and talked about their dreams, they had shared their meals and on many days went to sleep empty stomachs. Bablu was the street smart guy. He behaved like a big brother to the naïve Binoy and kept him out of trouble on the street. But Bablu himself was always involved in some or the other street brawl.
They sat down near the lamp post and talked for a long time. After hearing Binoy’s story Bablu suddenly said something that took Binoy by surprise.
“They are all the same. Don’t ever trust them. They take us away from the street trying to show how noble they are and how they will love us and make us a part of their family.” Spat out Bablu. “But you know what the truth is? They can never accept us as their own. Look at that guy Arnav. He will convince his wife. Your Aru Di. She will listen to him. After all he is her husband, and throw you out one day” “No this is not true” cried out Binoy. But Bablu kept on speaking “Even if they keep you then you will be a glorified servant in their house. You will end up doing all the house work and they will not even pay you for it.” “Believe me it’s true I have been on the streets for more years than you. I have seen it happen.”
“If I were you I would go back to the house and at night pick up all the valuables and run away. Make a life for myself. Why shouldn’t we think like this if they are going to treat us like servants anyway?”
Binoy was aghast. He got up and started running away from there. Didn’t stop even when Bablu called out to him. “No this wasn’t true. Bablu is mad. He doesn’t know.”
And suddenly he stopped in his tracks “What if Bablu is right??”
Later that night, Arnab was pretty grave! He didn’t come out from his study even though it was past eleven. Arunima on the other hand was tossing and turning in bed. She was not at peace. Arnab’s behavior was very disturbing. “How is my darling honey bun? Come on see what I have got for you”, this was repeatedly ringing in Arunima’s ears. She recalled how lovingly Arnab calls out to Pihu, his best friend’s daughter. “Arnab has always loved children”, she thought aloud. “But then why this behavior?? Binoy doesn’t seem to be the kind to pester him. What, then is so disturbing for him?? He is not even discussing stuff with me. . . we have always sorted our differences. But..!!” “I don’t think that I can blame Arnab. After all, he doesn’t know what it feels like when a homeless gets a home! He had had the luxury of residing with his parents and siblings, but not many are that fortunate.”
Arunima was almost in tears as she recalled the first time she was brought home by Dr. Raman Kumar. Dr. Raman was a renowned English professor of IND University. Twenty-years back, a super cyclone had left Arunima homeless. She was only four then! Life seemed dark and cruel to her. One day she had wandered off from the relief camp and landed up in a nearby tea stall where Dr. Raman was happily sipping his tea. Arunima went beside him and pulled his kurta. Dr. Raman was about to ignore but the innocent look on Arunima’s face entangled him and he could not help but start interacting with her.
Arunima was in deep trauma as she had lost everything – her parents, her house, her toys, everything was swept off!! She was unable to verbally interact with the professor. All she could do was point out towards the relief camp with a teary face. Dr. Raman followed her direction and he learned that she had wandered from the relief camp. He immediately went to the officers-in-charge and handed over little Arunima to them. Then he turned to leave. But he could not leave, he kept staring at Arunima who stared back with teary eyes.
Dr. Raman didn’t know till then that Arunima had lost her parents. He met those officers again and enquired of her parents with the intent of offering some financial help. But he was dumbfounded to learn that the little girl was now an orphan. Without a second thought he proposed that he wanted to take Arunima with him. But the officers were reluctant. After some discussion, it was agreed that Dr. Raman needed to complete certain legal formalities for adopting the little girl. Only then could he have her.
The next morning, Dr. Raman along with his wife and lawyer arrived at the camp with the required documents and brought Arunima to his home! It was Professor Raman who had named the little girl as Arunima. The Professor and his wife had no children. When Arunima entered their lives, their joy knew no bounds. They gave her their very best in every way. Arunima was equally grateful and thanked God for blessing her with such a wonderful family. “Whatever I am today is because of Papa and Mumma. But Arnab doesn’t even know this. I think I should tell him. I don’t know how he will react. But yes I will tell Arnab, maybe he will have a change of heart. Maybe he wont be hostile towards Binoy.” With much anticipation, Arunima decided to discuss the matter with Arnab.
Arnab was fuming in his study! “How will I make her understand?? What sort of a dumb woman is she?? There are many homeless children in the world. Does that mean we will bring them home?? There are orphanages, NGOs, many schemes of the Government – let them handle!! But no! She wants to be a savior for everyone! But, its not her fault actually!! How will she know how dangerous they are?? She has such a wonderful family, its beyond her understanding. She has no idea about their cruel and evil intentions.”
Arnab took a walk down the memory lane with a heavy heart. Those days when Arnab was studying in boarding school, his dad Lt. Col. Abhijeet Singh Retired from the Army. Arnab was the only child. Without him, house was completely empty. So his father had brought home Vicky, his martyred friend’s son. When Arnab finally finished his 12th, he returned home and was greeted by Vicky. Although he didn’t like him initially, but later he liked to have a friend and a partner in every fun and crime. But who knew the evil intentions of Vicky!
Soon after Arnab returned home, Vicky began his tantrums, which was a huge surprise for Arnab’s parents. But no one objected and thought that may be it was normal for his age. One day they had been to play cricket and on the way to the playground Vicky pushed Arnab and he fell rolling down the cliff. Few friends saw this and immediately called their coach. When they went down, Arnab was nowhere to be found. They immediately called his parents. Arnab’s parents arrived and were shocked to learn the truth. They didn’t know how to react. With much difficulty Arnab was retrieved from a nearby bush, lying in a pool of blood and was rushed to a hospital.
Meanwhile Vicky, was nowhere to be found. They searched for him but he was not to be found. Doctors hesitated to take up Arnab’s case as it was a case of accident and they wanted police intervention. Arnab’s dad contacted police and also some army officers to get hold of Vicky. Meanwhile the doctor announced that Arnab was in coma!! Arnab’s parents were shocked!! They were traumatized. How could Vicky do this? He was only seventeen. “We gave so much love but this is what he gave in return”, thought Arnab’s father.
In a while, Arnab’s dad got the message that Vicky was found and he had told in his statement that he wanted the entire property of Arnab’s parents and since Arnab was an obstruction in his way, he wanted to remove him!! His own statement landed him in trouble and he was sent to juvenile home!! Arnab recovered from coma after forty-eight days. It took quite some time for him to recover completely as he was severely injured.
Arnab recalled these, while staring at his scar on the right knee. He balled his hands into his fists, in anger. He never really wanted to recall all this, but the very sight of Binoy reminded him of Vicky. He wanted to convey his feelings to Arunima. Without a second thought he threw his pen and rushed towards their bedroom.
Arunima was also on her way towards Arnab’s study. Both were moving hastily with a sense of urgency. “Ooouucchhh, my head!!!” shrieked Arnab. It was followed by a thud sound which startled Arnab to the core!! “My goodness, is it a thief??”, muttered Arnab in a mysterious tone. He quietly switched on the torch and flashed the light on the other person’s face to get hold of him/her. “Aaaahhhhhh!!!”, screamed Arunima and shoved off his hand, “get off my feet” she groaned!!
Arnab was even more startled to find it was Arunima and not a thief. Arunima was equally taken aback to find Arnab flashing the torch at her. Both realized that they had awkwardly dashed into each other. They were trying hard to control their smiles and focus on their bruised head and feet. Arnab settled himself and switched on the lights. “What were you doing here??”, he asked Arunima in a sharp tone. “I…I wanted to speak to you”, fumbled Arunima, still caressing her feet. Without replying anything, he helped Arunima get on feet and turned to leave. Arunima grabbed his hands and asked, “and what were you doing here??” Arnab didn’t make any eye contact. But before he could reply, Arunima said, “finish up your work and get some sleep. Remember you have an important meeting tomorrow.”
Arunima retired to bed thinking how to approach Arnab and Arnab was on the other hand was also thinking the same.
Arnab was less than pleased to come home and find a teen now residing in his house. Granted, he was much cleaner now than when he first arrived and it looked as if his hair had been trimmed as well. He was wearing clean clothing that actually fit him and a pair of new tennis shoes. The boy, Binoy was now nose deep in a book his eyes dancing over the words he was reading.
He went in search of his wife to find her in the kitchen starting dinner and seemingly talking to herself quietly. It took him a moment to realize she was praying.
Father in Heaven, You taught us to be kind to those less fortunate than ourselves, to show them love and understanding. I see something in this young boy, something good and true. I feel you brought this boy to my attention because he asked You for help. Please guide me in this and help my husband to understand as well. Your will be done.
Arnab left the kitchen without saying a word and went into his small office. He had become so obsessed with work and succeeding at his job that he had forgotten the simple but profound truths that his parents had raised him on. “Show those less fortunate than you, love and understanding Arnab. Always be grateful for the blessing you have and, if it’s within your power to raise up even one person in life, do so with humility.”
Arunima had heard his office door close and went to let him know that dinner was ready. She braced herself for more of her husband’s displeasure but he was unusually quiet as the three of them enjoyed the simple meal she had made.
“Binoy, do you have any questions about what you read today in your history book,” she asked, the teacher in her coming out.
“No ma’am…not yet anyway,” he said with a sweet smile.
“Why the hell such people are made to live in our country?“, shrieked Arnav who had already been tensed for a reason. “Why do you do this”, he asked a boy whom he encounters every morning scrounging for gold in the garbage dump at the outskirts of a big city. The city where Binoy, the boy and his friends, an army of barefoot boys appear like morning birds and disappear at noon.
“That’s all I have to do after selling off these brightly coloured rose bushes“, mutters Binoy looking away from the man who had been busy scrolling over his phone.
Unaware of what one full meal feels like his voice drained with joy and enlightened his eyes hope of finding more and more from the heap of garbage collected around. While his dream loomed like a mirage amidst the dust of streets that fills out his big city. Moreover, those stinking lanes choked with garbage, past homes that remain hovels with crumbling walls and wobbly doors are the places he walks every day. But today, ill-fitting tennis shoes add to his looks that looks strange over his discoloured shirt and shorts as if they had been discarded by a precious boy from the elite class of the city who threw a tantrum to wear them owing to the reason they got discoloured. However, it doesn’t bother him. Afterall for the one who has walked barefoot even shoes with a hole is a dream come true.
And there! There this poor little boy is planned to live in a house of these reasonably rich people. Yes, wealthy they are indeed. Afterall Arnav and his sweet and kindhearted wife Arunima could make that easy for their own child. But Arnav being too practical and a hard-headed man making out for someone else and that also for a poor little stranger is what hit Arunima at four in the morning, the time she headed out to bring him home.
Binoy desired to study and become a better person in life encouraged Arunima to take such an awkward step like this. She knew that a person like Arnav would never like it as the boy was at a tough age. He can be notorious for being an adolescent. But she trusted on her gut feeling about that boy and what she read on his innocent eyes.
She brought him their home finally and lavished him with all the books that she could buy for him to study thoroughly and be a better person, ignoring her husband’s displeasure.
Arunima was hurrying to work that day. She had taken half the day off from work as she had been quite unwell the previous day. Now she had to reach school before the recess time was over.
‘Mumbai is so different from Kolkata’, sighed Arunima to herself, applying the brakes of her car, as the traffic light turned red. She was blessed enough to find this job just a month after shifting to Mumbai. But, the hustle and bustle of the tinseltown soon started wearing her off.
As she was going over the events of the last few months, she thanked God to have gifted Arnab as her husband. His transfer orders came suddenly and they had only a week’s time to pack up and leave. Arunima had never been to any city outside her home state before. Though she was a smart young woman of the day, she was quite apprehensive. Afterall, so much is heard about big cities being unsafe. Moreover, she would be so far from her family, friends and the surroundings in which she had spent her life till then. But, Arnab had been so very supportive in preparing her to embrace the change.
A faint smile spread across her lips as she remembered how loving Arnab was. It was then, just then, that her eyes caught this thin young boy moving from car to car with a few bunches of red roses, apparently trying to sell them. Immediately her friend’s words came to her mind – “Don’t entertain any strangers and don’t get swayed by any seemingly poor person in Mumbai. There are big rackets operating there. They know how to identify gullible people like you.”
As the boy approached her car, she quickly raised the glasses of her car window. The boy knocked for sometime on the window, trying to draw her attention. But, Arunima didn’t even look in that direction. After a few seconds, the lad turned away and walked to the car next to hers.
Arunima gazed at the boy’s retreating figure without any emotion. Just then the traffic light turned green and she sped away to her workplace without a second thought.
The next day, Arunima saw the boy again at the same traffic junction – the same red and blue chequered shirt and loose black trousers with bunches of red roses in his hands. The way he was approaching the people stuck in traffic was so different. Arunima observed from a distance, that the boy didn’t make a pitiable face. His demeanour was one of confidence, yet with a child-like innocence writ on his face.
He approached Arunima’s car. Today, she did not raise the glasses. ‘Ma’am would you like a bunch of roses for any loved one?’, the boy asked in chaste Marathi. Arunima had started picking up the nuances of the language of the city, a little. She looked at the boy and shook her head. Her eyes met his innocent eyes for a minute as he smiled understandingly and turned away.
That day, Arunima couldn’t take the boy out of her mind. Those innocent eyes, that dry smile pounded her heart.
Each day as Arunima left home for work, she would have the boy in her mind, hoping in her heart that he would be there at that traffic point. Even though she had not yet bought flowers from him and shook her head each day when he approached her car, the sight of him somewhat relieved her.
She grew curious about the boy with each passing day and thought of discussing with Arnab.
“Is it necessary for you to bring that lad here and keep inside our house?” Arnab asked his wife as they were sitting in the living room with their respective coffee mugs in the morning.
“Now don’t start again this morning Arnab…” Retorted Arunima.
“I am not starting anything Jaan… I am just asking you a simple question.” Arnab said looking at her with his head raised from reading the newspaper.
“You have asked me that question for the third time from yesterday. Don’t you think we should sometimes consider people and give them a chance to live again respectfully?” Arunima tried to make her husband understand something which she had thought about in her mind since she brought Binoy to their house.
“I don’t know what you are thinking Aru… but remember I don’t approve this idea of yours.” This was Arnab’s last statement before he went off to get ready for his work leaving Arunima in a bit of haze.
Arunima is a beautiful young woman of 29 and Arnav is a 33 years old man. They have been married for only two years and have shifted to Mumbai for last three months. Arnav is an IT professional, and Arunima is a high school teacher.
Later, when both the husband and wife left the house Binoy went to the balcony and sat on the chair looking at the busying traffic rushing through the roads down there. He was feeling ecstatic when he was picked up from the street yesterday by the most beautiful woman in his life, a saviour but he was disturbed since morning when he overheard the conversation between the couple concerning him.
His mind took him back to his 8th birthday. He was absolutely delighted when his mother gifted him a wristwatch. He wrapped his arms around his mom and wept in joy. But his joy was short lived as his ruthless father sold that watch off before beating his mother mercilessly for spending so much money for buying that gift instead of giving him money for a bottle of beer. He hated his father the most that day…not because he sold the watch but for beating his mother so badly. He had seen his father hitting his mother many times, but that day it was extreme. He had given a push to his father and was beaten in return by his father. He had seen how his mother suffered all of her life till she died when he was just 10 years old. He had no alternative but to stay with him and his new found wife. He suffered more beatings and scolding every day from both his father and his stepmom. He used to cry when he was alone or sleeping on the floor alone. And when he turned fourteen, he left his house forever to be on the street. He was good in studies and he could study till 5th standard in an English medium school…all because of his mother. But after her he was not allowed to go out to school but work at his own home as a servant without any pay except just two meals a day. He started selling flowers on the road for a living. With that little money he bought some books to learn on his own as much as he can. For last three months sky was his roof, footpath was his living room, bedroom and street light was the lamp under which he used to study till he was discovered by Arunima.
Binoy thought God listened to his prayers seeing his plight and he will be happy hereafter. But he is troubled thinking whether he should stay here or not now… Will he be allowed or has to leave this place as well? He is just 14, but he understands everything at a very tender age because of the situations that he had to go through. He could make out from Arnav’s face that he doesn’t like a young lad to be there in their house. He might be the cause of a problem between both the husband and wife. So he decided he will leave the house quietly after waiting for a week or so.