His name was Raju, dark deep eyes lashed with dust and cement and sleepless days and nights in the chawls at Borivali where Martie and I helped at the shacks by the beach.
Pinkie the girl with the amputated leg grinned at my face, I must’ve have been utter poetry in the madness therebetween lunch hour and Poja’s tea shop by the corner.
Am I not confusing you ? This was Metro-social work at its best, I was recovering from an illness and needed the exposure to life, but no one had prepared me for the
need in Raju’s eyes, his ache for books and paint brushes. No one liked the way Raju grabbed at hands, begging for the ability to read. We are used to people begging for food, not books. I showed Raju the little I know about Art. He was Art itself, the face of young India, burned with at least ten West coast summers and hunger.
Do we really know hunger? Eye hunger ? ” Didi, you live in a real house ? You have a real bed?Uh ? Pukka roof ? Toilet? Water? Oh didi, take me to your house , na ? I want to eat in your house.”
I never forgot Raju, even after the small shack was demolished and the books thrown away. Raju and the others were kids of construction workers. Pinki, the girl with the amputated leg, died in the weeks that followed. I was blest to meet them, at small school for construction workers’ kids, though it hurts that I could never do much for Raju. They left to another site, and Pinki we heard later, smiled till the end. Her grandmother said she was the happiest child she had ever seen.
That child taught me about laughter. And Raju opened my eyes.