Sweat trickled down her forehead as Kasturi caught her breath at the bus stop…
She had come running to be on time at the pick-up point of all the school buses of the colony. One by one, the buses came and the crowd dispersed. As the last bus left, she was all alone, eager for her breakfast, that one of the kids always left on the bench.
She ate it quickly and then started cleaning the roads with her long broom. Soon her ragged bag was almost full. Dragging it to the other side of the road, she emptied it at the overflowing dump at the corner. Behind it was the small shanty where she lived.
“I dropped baba at the school,” informed the rickshaw-puller standing nearby when he saw Kasturi entering the compound. She waved at him in acknowledgement.
Her baba used to work as a peon at a private school but was removed from his job after he permanently lost his leg in an accident. Their household ran on the meagre earnings of her mother who worked as a sweeper with the municipality on contractual basis. Destiny had reared its ugly head when she too, suffered a fatal electric shock from an open cable dangling on the road.
The municipality allowed them to keep her job for the remaining period provided someone performed the task on her behalf. Ten-year-old Kasturi had to step up while her father tried to find a sitting job at the school. Their survival was in danger as time was ticking.
Next day at the bus stop, she didn’t find anyone. “No breakfast today,” she sighed and turned to start her work. Just then, she heard a voice from behind.
“Hello, is it me you are looking for?”
She turned and saw a woman pointing at a brown bag in her hand. “I brought your breakfast,” she said. Kasturi had never seen her before but the scrumptious aroma of the fresh food brought a sparkle to her eyes and she took it.
“Today is Eid and the schools are closed. But I knew you’d come. I see you everyday from my balcony,” she pointed at the nearby apartments. “My son brings you the breakfast usually,” she continued affectionately.
Kasturi was now barely listening, as she munched on the food hungrily. Sunaina watched her work and leave as usual.
When Kasturi didn’t turn up after a few days, Sunaina ventured towards the slum. With some help, she found her house. Kasturi’s father was surprised that a rich lady was looking for his daughter.
When Sunaina expressed her desire to take responsibility of Kasturi’s education, he couldn’t believe her. After quelling all his doubts, Sunaina left the place contented. She had come to know about Kasturi from her husband who worked at the municipality.
‘Sometimes kindness is the easiest way to connect with a lost soul,’ Sunaina remembered her daughter whom she had lost in a similar accident.
Kasturi was never seen cleaning the streets again.
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