Had you known this was your last day, you might have done things differently. 

If you knew you would never see your mother’s withered face ever again, you wouldn’t have rebuked her for adding extra water to the already watery chai. You knew, the last few days of the month were always the toughest one to tide over, and yet, you screamed at her. Ignoring the tears swimming in her eyes, you gulped the bland concoction. You were not surprised when it didn’t douse the fury simmering inside you. 

Had you known you would never hear your younger sister’s laughter, you would have given her the last biscuit without a second thought. Even though Munni said nothing, her eyes conveyed everything. You knew she was hungry. But so were you! Unfortunately, the sugary delight wasn’t enough to satisfy your hunger then, and now the tiny piece fuels the guilt smouldering within you.

You left home in a hurry. Unbothered by the pebbles poking your calloused feet, you walked and walked until you reached your workplace. 

You dug through the mound; searching and picking. Unruffled by the pain scorching your arms and back, you kept at it till your bag was full of plastic bottles and other discarded items.

Your throat burned when a barky cough rattled your insides. Unperturbed by the flaming odour smothering you, you inspected the contents of the bag. Only when you were satisfied with the haul did you leave the dumping ground. 

You shuffled on your feet while the master grumbled and frowned inspecting the contents of your bag. Your shoulders slumped. You regretted not collecting more garbage. But the moment he thrust a soiled 100-rupee note in your palm, your heart leaped with joy. You knew you would be able to buy half a kilo of atta, a few potatoes, and tomatoes, and probably a small biscuit packet for Munni. 

Whistling a happy tune, you ran to the shop and left lugging two heavy packets.  

Your fingers burned but you didn’t want to slow down. You were lost in your dreams and failed to notice the dark shadows following you. 

Catch him, someone screamed. A rough hand grabbed you and snatched the packets you had paid dearly for. Someone turned the contents upside down. The potatoes and tomatoes rolled away from you and your eyes turned blurry.

Waving the cream-biscuit packet in the air, a towering man spat on your face and yelled ‘Bloody thief.’

I am not a thief, you screamed, but your muffled cries went unheard. 

Your scrawny arms were no match against the deluge of hard slaps, angry kicks, and fierce punches coming your way. Soon, the crowd disappeared, satisfied. 

Every part of you burned with shame, guilt, and fury. Squirming in a pool of blood and waste, you begged your sister and mother for forgiveness. Even though you never thought of abandoning them, you always wanted to escape this pathetic life. 

And now, you have escaped it. 


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Chandra Sundeep
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