Anil opened the little parcel he had taken from the store. I use ‘taken’ instead of ‘stolen’ because I mean to. His small town had not seen much turbulence but the recent ruling party had encroached on their land for benefits. As a result, protests, police, lathi charges had become common. This was the time when parents asked their children to stay inside from imminent danger. To venture out only when town would be calm again.
For Anil, the world was different, and without parents. He would definitely not miss the violent hours of the day. The lesser privileged had started indulging in looting and destroying shops also. Anil would quietly stand behind the shops and pick up something from here and there. Learning to live on his own his collection of items had grown systematically.
He looked around with sparkling eyes. On his left was a toaster, which was brand new. He had trouble lifting the big square box to his shelter. He did not know why it had a window. But the pictures on it seemed like food. He had many flower vases, crockery, glasses. It would appear to be a shop, his shelter.
Today’s prize was peculiar though. It was small but the wrapping is what caught his eyes. He did not want to open it or spoil the beauty, he just stared at it.
Just then his door blew open.
“You thief you steal from us! That gift you hold now was for my daughter”
“I am not a thief, I am small and I collect from what is already plundered.”
“You maybe small but you are a devil, look at this place, Oh my God even I don’t own a microwave oven”
He slapped him but the boy didn’t shake.
“You don’t have micro because you don’t have the brains to get one. ”
He grew red. “You little rascal I do not steal like you do”
He slapped him again.
The boy sat upright, his hands in tension.
“Even a dozen other people who actually loot the place, do you have the balls to hit them? And I know why you have come here. To take the stuff I took from the market. And all this drama you are doing is to subdue your own conscience. You are more lowly than a thief because you steal from the small and the weak. You don’t even have the guts to steal first hand. You are a parasite”
He returned to his normal colour. He had not expected such a rebuttal from this small kid.
Suddenly a small girl came running. “Papa thanks for the gift”
The man stared shocked. He was accusing the small boy of something which he had not done.
The time had come and the boy had gone
What remained was nothing much
Little fragments of memory
Battered childhood territory