You and I

“Oh Madam, one rupee please. One, just one. My brother hasn't had a drop of milk since two days. Please Madam, please.” Seven-year-old Chunni tapped on the fast rolling window of a shiny car. She was instructed to keep tapping incessantly until they budge. She adjusted the infant in her arms, balancing him on his hip. He was fast asleep due to the sleep-inducing medicines that they had slipped in his milk.  *Tap*Tap-tap-tap*Tap-tap*  Finally the window rolled down and out came a long, alabaster arm, with painted nails and adorned with delicate tinkling bracelets.  Chunni had never seen such clean, flawless hands. The bracelets jingled impatiently, drawing her attention to the ten rupee note extended between the bony fingers.  She quickly snatched the note, shivering slightly at the faintest touch.  Ten rupees! She fondly gazed at the smiling, bespectacled man.  A hairy, grubby hand cut her reverie short, as it snatched the note away.  “Don’t dawdle, the signal is about to go red.” The man barked at Chunni, shoving her away. She angled her body slightly ensuring that the sleeping baby in her arm doesn’t bear the brunt of the push or impact of the fall.  “Shh, aww don’t cry. It’s okay. You are fine.” Chunni tried to pacify the unnamed baby, who was startled awake by the fall.  She pulled a thin strap of worn fabric from the edge of her tattered frock. A broken biscuit emerged out of it, and she placed it against the hungry mouth. The baby nibbled at it, ceasing it’s cries.  Her stomach rumbled in protest as the faint smell of the biscuit reached her nose. She struggled for a moment, almost tasting the sweetness in her mouth. But just then the tiny, empty fingers grabbed her hand. She smothered her hunger pangs and placed the other half in the waiting hands.  Chunni had known the baby, but for a few weeks now. Just around the corner, when her handlers felt she was not a baby anymore. His bleary eyes and desperate cries had called to her and Chunni had taken him under her tiny, clipped wings.  Drinking gulps of cold, hard water from a nearby hand-pump she assuaged her hunger and thirst in one go.  Hours later, Chunni trudged and the baby tottered back to their shared space under the bridge. After some hasty morsels of gooey rice and dal, they stretched their worn little bodies under a coarse blankets made of rags and sacks.  “Ma?” cried the little one with a quivering lower lip. Chunni held him close, her little arms protecting him from the demons of past, present and future.  “Shhh.. Hush baby. I’m here.” She crooned, pulling the blanket snugly over him, whilst her feet curled up, bare and cold.  As the world slept in a cocoon of comfort, two little souls slept peacefully, ensconced together.  Life had been unkind, but when her tiny hand held his tinier one, a bud of love bloomed through the murky darkness.    Penmancy gets a small share of every purchase you make through these links, and every little helps us continue bringing you the reads you love!