“700 rupees”, counted the 12 year old as he delighted at his accomplishment for that day. Aadhi checked the coins and notes for one last time and secured them in his half torn wallet, finally tucking them in his pocket. As he sat down and snacked on the left over samosas and gulping a cup of tea amidst the crazy crowd, he lip-synched the slogan that kept iterating in the crowd- “Get well soon, Purachi thalaivi”. At 9.35 p.m., the place looked nothing like a hospital entrance with groups of disarrayed people holding their party’s flags; cameras, media vans camping at the exact place for days together; scattered police personnel waiting for a calmer situation; tea, snack vendors doing their bit of contribution to the chaos.
Suddenly, Aadhi could hear noises building up and people screeching from the other side of the hospital gate. “CM is no more!” yelled voices and instantly cameras rushed to the gate to get the first capture of the horrific faces. Police men ran hurriedly from all directions to save the situation. Tension intensified followed by commotion all over. A perplexed Aadhi stood up as he watched “Tamil Nadu’s CM passes away” flashing on a large TV outside the hospital. A tear dripped down his eyes. He was not depressed for losing a majestic leader, instead, about his failing future.
Three months ago the scene was very different. Having been an orphan, Aadhi had to seek and find something to feed on. The tea shop where he worked as a helper all the years was removed abruptly one day. He lost his job for the sake of thousands others who would get jobs in the tall buildings that were about to spring up in few a months’ time. While people craved for money, fame and power, Aadhi craved for a day’s meal. His neighbor sometimes fed him whenever there was anything additional. Sometimes, he prepared tea from his neighbour’s kitchen and sold them but that was barely any money. Only things left out were unfilled stomach, faded dreams and last cluster of money.
While he was about to give up, he came across a bustling crowd at the hospital entrance. Tamil Nadu’s CM was admitted because of serious ailment is all he knew. There were people surrounded all over the place not willing to move out.
With whatever money he had, bought some milk, tea powder and sugar. He borrowed his neighbor’s kitchen for a while to prepare some tea. In no time, tea that he brought to the hospital gate was sold. Next day he prepared more tea and everything got sold very swiftly. By the end of three months, he had made quite a business by selling tea and samosas.A happy Aadhi was able to afford three meals a day.
Now standing there looking at the TV screen, Aadhi mourned the death as he shattered the tea glass on the road. A meal a day is all he could afford.
- Varshini Ravindran