“Father, here it is. Take it and don’t miss any one these this time. Last time you forgot one of them. Next week is my tenth birthday and these are the birthday gifts that I want” said Sonu handing over a piece of paper to his father, who was getting ready for a visit to Mumbai.
Sonu lives in an industrial town, far away from Mumbai. His father works as a manager in an electrical plant. This visits to corporate head office is part of the job responsibility and in a way, Sonu gets to fulfil his small materialistic wishes. Every time his father goes to Mumbai, Sonu hands him over a list of items that he wants his father to bring while coming back. He is not only concerned about himself and to prove it, sometimes he adds one or two items that his mother might need in the list.
His father tries to fulfil these demands as far as he can. It is not possible to keep up with these expenditures now a day. Also, these lists are never ending and expenditures are exponentially increasing rather than his income. His father looked at the list. It was hand written note on a diary page. His father started reading loudly looking at the list.
- Box of oil colour (Sets of 48).
- Video game console.
- A box of Ferrero Rocher white chocolate.
- New set of comic books.
- Jasmine perfume for mother.
Sonu’s mother entered the room with her husbands’ tie. She tied the tie on her husbands’ collar and reminded him of the list. Sonu’s father nodded and left for Mumbai that afternoon.
In the evening, Sonu’s friends came over to his house and they decided to attend the annual fare hosted near their town. They rode their bikes and went to the fare. They parked their bike at one place and locked them together on a row with a long chain avoid theft. They entered the fare ground and started looking at the shops from one side of the fare. Some local stalls were there selling handicrafts, jewellery made of inexpensive metals. Some of the shop owners came from a town nearby selling goods ranging from plastic materials of daily use to simple electronic gadgets for kids. These shops formed a circle around the perimeter of the ground leaving a large void in the centre. In the centre, they could see some moving food stalls, sweet shops and also many hawkers roaming around to sell their goods.
Suddenly they could hear people shouting and some of them were running towards the centre of the ground. They also ran towards the centre without realizing what the matter was. Reaching there, they could see a man in his mid-fifties, lying on the ground, facing the earth. He was selling peanuts. His almost empty box was lying beside him and peanuts scattered all around in the dusty fare ground. It would be a big loss for this poor man, they thought. Some young men came together and pulled him upright by his arms and made him sit on the ground. He was unconscious. One lady opened a bottle of water and sprinkled a bit on the man’s eyes. They young men pulled him again and took him under a mango tree on one corner of the ground. While they were taking the man to the tree shed, Sonu saw a folded paper falling off the ground from the man’s chest pocket. He took the paper up from the ground and went with the crowd.
People easily suspected that it was due to dehydration and overwork. The man was trying to sell his goods roaming all day in the mid-summer scorching heat. People like them come from poor villages to these types of fares to sell either their home grown foods or homemade handicrafts. Someone fetched water from the nearby tube well and poured on the unconscious face and head. The man was breathing slowly. After some time he opened his eyes. Someone brought him his box. Almost all peanuts were grounded and cannot be sold. The man looked into the box and closed his eyes looking at the sky and leaned against the tree to rest. People started to get back to their lives again. The man stayed there sitting under the tree. His box lied in front of him with handful of peanuts.
Sonu could not resist himself opening the piece of folded paper that he picked up from the ground. He opened it up. His friends came closer to him to have a look into the paper. They all have noticed while he picked it up. It was a list. All of them read the list in silence.
- Blue ink Pen for my school.
- Doll for sister.
- Jalebi for all of us.
Sonu folded the paper back and left it inside the peanut box. The man was sitting there still closing his eyes. He did not notice. Sonu also put a ten rupee note that his mother gave him while coming here, to eat Jalebi.