Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Brother in Arms

It was a late evening when a sharp cry made everyone aware that the newborn was here. It was not a fancy hospital, no nurses or doctors to attend but a cold night with bright twinkling stars. Mary saw her baby and smiled within. It was her first born and she was delighted to see the little one. Meanwhile as she looked at the baby she was also aware of the tough life he awaits as he grows up but then wasn’t everyone in the ghetto was destined for it. Maybe this one will have something better in his hand when he grows up.
Time lost its importance as I grew up from a little baby to a young handsome lad called Fred . Every now and then I used to see my reflection in the puddle of muddy rain water and realize that I was fast losing my childhood. No longer did I jump with joy and showed affection to my step brothers who were born after my father died and our mother moved to another neighborhood with her new husband leaving all her kids to her old sister who limped across the alley to manage me and my half brothers.
One night I noticed that another young boy sitting across the alley with nothing but a bag and a big rod which was almost inside the big head of rubbish that lied on the corner. He must be looking for something which he lost I thought knowing that seldom did young boys came to the dirty alley adjoining the ghetto of the most livable city in the world. After sometime I saw the boy leave with a grin on his face and he vanished into the lights on the other side of the street. I often sat on the dark end of the alley as my eyes shone seeing all the fancy stores with cakes and breads and clothes and shiny objects kept in a very eccentric manner across the glass barriers with all the light being focused on the cherries at the top.
As the evening grew dark I realized that a shadow appeared in the almost dark alley. The sole lamp at one end glowed as I realized it was the boy I saw earlier. He held a big loaf of sweet bread which looked fresh and savory. "He must be a rag picker who sold his collection for the day", I thought. He sat down on an old box under the lamp as he saw me and the twinkle in my eyes as I stared the bread. I hadn’t eaten since last night and I would have loved to devour that loaf. As he started eating, I sat there controlling the saliva in my otherwise dehydrated mouth. He saw me and offered me the last bite as he gobbled the rest of it without any haste. I was glad that I could snap the last piece before he would have changed his mind. Rarely does it happen that a stranger would share his food with you and today was my lucky day.  
An acknowledgement came up from my side as we shook hands after the meal. He introduced himself as John from a distant hill town who came to the city in search of a job. He looked barely fourteen with his thin stature and freckled face. He showed me his stick which had a loadstone at one end to capture any metal pieces. He used to sell them to the scrap dealer and buy his meals from the local deli. He slept in one of the big water pipes abandoned long ago by the municipal board. He had made all arrangements already to ensure a cozy night after. I told him about myself and introduced him to my half brothers who were busy playing regardless of the time. John moved back as he took off to his den and promised to meet the next day.
We met the next day and moved around the ghetto to collect some scrap, I wasn’t of much utility to him though we talked the entire day about our past lives. I told him about how I ended up being nothing more than an urchin despite repetitive efforts to break the clutter and move on to a greener pasture. By the time he ended his day, we had walked a couple of miles from the Ghetto and incidentally crossed over to a rival gang’s area. Though it was still daylight but one of the boys there saw us and gave a loud cry to his gang. Before we realized we were surrounded by them and in our defense we had little more than a loadstone stick and some pebbles. I don’t know whether it was the adrenaline in my brain or the debt of the sweet bread a night before, I gathered courage and before they mustered courage to attack I had taken two of them down while I shouted a war cry. John ran towards the pole which marked the beginning of a new block which was marked as out of bounds for the gang here. While I was not aware of the blows and wounds I received, all I knew was that I had passed out and could hear only faint voices around. I felt like I have died and am on my way to the world beyond. When I opened my eyes I realized that I am not dead but was lying in a shanty with John looking over me. There was another couple of young boys standing beside him. I realized that somehow John managed to bring me out of the brawl and save me.
“You almost passed out when I shouted for help and these two boys helped me to send back those guys away from you. These boys here are the real heroes, they knew how to tackle them.”, John told me as I found my way to a cup of some warm milk. Instead of me being the savior it appeared that he became the savior. The two boys were armed with sticks and bats and were known for their animosity with the alley gang. Though they were no friends of us but they did save our lives this time.
After the incident, John and I became almost the best of friends, though both of us knew that in the ghetto no friendship can last beyond hunger and the desire to outlive each other. Our case was a bit different, we fought for each other and soon enough others in the alley knew that we cannot be separated. One fine day John invited me to share his water pipe house with me and I agreed with utmost pleasure. That winter was perhaps the most comfortable winter of my short life, though I was not yet so old but occasionally I did feel a jerk in my legs when I ran too fast or for too long.
With the cold weather giving way to spring, life was at its usual pace, brawls in the alley, food hunting till late evenings, daily hustle and bustle with my half brothers for whom I had no regard earlier. Slowly I developed a sort of respect for John as we lived together. Sometimes even despite us being so different I felt that he was more than a friend and even much more than a brother to me.
Slowly days passed and it was almost a year since I met John. Amongst all the fights we had, today we had something which was pretty nasty. He was angry with me and simply walked off as I tried to explain him about my point of view but to my resolve he was not ready to listen. He walked alone too far and I could not make sense of which direction he went. I was tired with my ailing leg which got a nasty nip when I tripped over some broken glass pieces. I even had a little limp in my walk. The day passed and as the sun started to set I heard a loud cry. It was Alfred the eldest of my half brothers. He ran as if there was no tomorrow. He came to the opening of the pipe where I stood. He told me that John was surrounded in the other alley and the gang was in no mood to let him go today. I lost all sense, did not think twice as I started running. With each leap I felt the pain but I ignored it, for the first time I saw Alfred running besides me. I never thought he would but there he was. As we reached the alley we saw John on the road, lying down surrounded by the gang boys who were ferocious with their weapons and teased the injured boy. I asked Alfred to pull John to the side as I distract the gang. It was my time to repay for all the brotherly love and save him. With a big leap I jumped on the old trash cans which lied at the end of the dark endless alley, I saw a couple of them distracted, no matter the time lapsed between our last fight they still had the grudge against me. Leaving John aside they started crouching towards me. I was scared but I stood there with a slight limp. I stood as I was surrounded; I knew it would be almost impossible for me to get out of this time. The last I remembered I had beaten two of them down to the floor which the other two got me by my neck. Before I closed my eyes for the last time I saw that Alfred had pulled John to a side well towards a safe block. He stood up and shouted with a stone being hurled towards the gang but I knew that this time it was too late. The pain in my leg and in my life was about to end. I took a deep breath, thanked god for the swiftness and closed my eyes.
After some time John called for help and Alfred brought all my step brothers to fetch my body. All of them surrounded me. John lifted me up as I lied in the pool of my blood. I was lifeless but he kept holding me in his arms. I wish I could tell him how happy I was. He never treated me like a man treats his dog. Alfred and the pack started howling as tears came down John’s eyes. He moved slowly towards the sunset. I felt comfortable even as I knew that I will miss those days of brotherhood. A couple of street urchins across the street shouted and asked John – “What happened?” “My brother died.” , he replied   

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The posts are chaotic in nature and reflect the moods of the author who is an eccentric person.