The Peacock Feather

Pic Courtsey: Manish Sabnis

Tuesday 6:15 hrs

Immortal iridescent eyes, shimmering opalescence, blue green hues …. The reminiscent of his jeweled heart and grandeur peep from underneath the pillow. Was it a dream?

Monday 23:50 hrs

I felt lightheaded, my eyes were heavy despite several cups of black coffee. I had been working relentlessly since afternoon. “Time to crash” I told myself and hit the sack.

“Didi! Didi!” a voice kept disturbing me as I stood talking to my client on phone in the middle of a market. It was an important call that I’d been waiting for since morning. The kid’s babble irritated me, I turned and signalled him to keep quiet. For next 15 minutes I spoke without disturbance but the moment I hung up, “Didi” I heard again.

Tattered clothes, worn out slippers, untidy hair, blue eyes, tanned complexion, tiny fingers, dirty yet an adorable face. Must be around 6-7 years.     

“Ábhi bolun?”  (Can I say now?) he asked and before he could utter the next word, I rebuked him. “Tum logon ko koi kaam nahi, bas raaston par bheek mangte ho aur chori karte ho. School kyun nahi jate?” (Do you guys have no other work, you beg on roads and steal. Why don’t you go to school?) I was angry.

“Main joote polish karta hun, aap ka heel wala jhoota chamka dun? Phir khana khayunga”. (I polish shoes. Can I polish your heels? I will eat with that money earned”) he responded politely.

I glanced at him again and this time noticed the shoe polish kit in this left hand. Embarrassed, I bend down to greet him.” Tumhara naam ya hai?” (What’s your name?)

“Mayur”, he said feebly.

I allowed him to polish but told him, I would not pay him. Instead would buy him something to eat, a deal he readily agreed to. I held his little yet coarse hand firmly as we crossed the busy street to the café across the road. Why was I being so protective? I wondered.

As we entered the café, his excitement had no bounds. His eyes darted around, relished every detail as if he had entered a fantasy world. I watched him savor all that was laid on the table. I had never felt so satisfied for a very long time. He spoke about his family, poverty, how he had to quit school to earn a living. When he mentioned that he wanted to go back to school, I promised to meet his parents and arrange for his schooling once I was back from my work tour. The gratitude in his eyes, was unforgettable.

For the next few days, I visited him every day. We tried new food, went for a movie and I even bought him some new clothes. But then, my busy work schedule kept me away for some time.

After almost a fortnight, I packed sweets and drove down to the marketplace to meet him. I was excited .I strolled through the entire market, checking every corner anticipating his smiling face running toward me from the crowd, but he was nowhere to be found. For the next couple of days I tried locating him in the market and also the streets adjoining but was in vain. Where was he? Hope he was okay? I was restless! Suddenly I see this boy in the market one day. I had seen him with Mayur couple of times in the past. Without wasting time, I reach out to him inquiring about Mayur. What I heard next devastated me. The slum area where he stayed was cleared, all left for their villages or moved to other parts of the city.

Feeling miserable and broken hearted , I drove back. Days and months passed and with every passing day I realized that the chances of bumping into him again in this gigantic city was bleak to say the least. I missed his twinkling eyes, his soft chatter and his tiny fingers holding my hand as if I was his guardian angel.

Tuesday 6:15 hrs

I wake up feeling a prick on my hand. The peacock feather which I had been using as a bookmark had slipped off the book and nestled itself near my pillow. I sit up with a jerk, find my pillow damp and my eyes moist. Was I dreaming? Was I crying?  Soft morning rays peep through the curtains, falling directly on the feather lying on the ruffled sheet.

Mayur!!

PC- Manish Sabnis

The feather was just like him… iridescent blue eyes with shimmering opalescence and radiating vibrancy.

 

It was not a dream, he was real!