The boy’s eyes wrinkled to squeeze out his angry tears. The black and blue marks on his thigh were burning as if in shame. His father was very angry at him that evening.
It being a Saturday, Chottu woke up late that morning. Lying on his back and dragging his feet up, he planned out rest of his day. Meet friends in the ground to play cricket, steal the honey-oozing mangoes from the orchard and then more cricket. “Perfect!”, he thought to himself. If only he could coax his father to take him to the beach…
Now Chottu loved the beach. with the myriad of colors contributed extensively by the local women and girls, it always managed to transfix him on the spot for the first 5 minutes of entering it. He would greedily look around and take in the twisted, animal shaped balloons, merry-go-rounds, fire spitting on the corn on the cobe, ubiquitous white plastic covers half hiding in the sand, bhajji stalls gaudily displaying BIG green chilies strung together and all the dogs drooling around ‘Meena’s Fried Fish Stall’. And how he wished he were a puppy in the beach; just to smell out all the smells around him, chase the escaping balloons and to dig and roll on his back in the sand.
Chottu felt hunger pangs and dragged himself towards the kitchen. As he passed the modest furniture in the hall and crossed the threshold of the kitchen, his drowsy eyes caught sight of a piece of paper. It was hiding between the furthest leg of the table and the floor. His 10-year-old brain whirred crazily as he reached for it and held it before his eyes. His eyes shone at the prospect of buying all those balloons, ice creams and comic books he could buy. His smile broadened and the day was rosy all of a sudden.
“What are you grinning like an idiot for? Wash up and have breakfast!” scolded his ever-busy mother. “And try not to get in your father’s way. He is upset that he lost some money”, she added. Chottu hung his head thoughtfully and went to wash.
No sooner had he got home that evening that his elder brother shouted “Thief!”. His father swung angrily towards him and what followed had presented him with an empty stomach and the telltale blue marks on his thigh. Oh how he hated his brother and his father! He wished they never existed. He wished they would just get trapped in the bottom of the dry well like Mohan’s cow and died without water or food. Why couldn’t his father be rich too? That Ravi, the brat that he is, shows off new shoes, watch and comic books every other day. How could God do this to him? Now he wanted God also trapped in the bottom of the dry well.
Suddenly he heard muffled voice outside his door. He quickly fell on the bed, turned sideways and faked sleep. His father tiptoed into the room. Chottu could smell the soap from his bath on his father. He stooped over Chottu and gazed at his sleeping son. Then he took out some chocolate bars and placed it on his study table. Gingerly walking to a side, he shut a window which was blowing cold air inside. Picking up the old razai from the floor, he gently covered Chottu and tiptoed out of the room. As the moon slowly rose in the horizon, a tear trickled down the corner of Chottu’s eye and got hungrily absorbed by the cotton pillow.