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November 14, 2010

Chotu

Drenched in November rains, this morning appeared much colder than it usually is, that walking out in the streets without a sweater was implausible, at least an over coat is inevitable. I was in no mood to move out of my bed. But my belly would never agree. As always, I again 'deliberately' missed my breakfast today. I always believed that on holidays, ten in the morning is too early to rise from bed, but unfortunately, after ten, you can't find breakfast in any nearby restaurants. So, even though the clock had just ticked twelve, I decided that an early lunch would solve my belly's outcry. At half past twelve, I walked out of my apartment with my black khakis and a grey t-shirt that has been demanding a clean up for past few days. But thanks to my deodorants and perfumes, I completely suppressed the ever longing hope of my fabric.



I walked to the restaurant across the street. Being a bachelor employed far away from home, the only respite in life for me was the sumptuous lunch and dinner that I have from the nearby restaurant at weekends that pampered my native tastes, even though it emptied my pockets. At times, I felt I worked five days a week just in hope for having those feasts at the weekends. I entered the restaurant and ordered my usual rice and fish curry. My memory has wiped out any traces of that moment when I ordered something different. Since I am a usual visitor in that hub, I had developed a warm acquaintance with the restaurant staff. Since my eyes had already been accustomed with those faces, I never kept an inquisitive view until I saw this boy who was a shade darker than a wheat flake and stood four feet from the ground. He cleaned the table, served me water and brought the dishes I had ordered. I looked at his face and instantly, I guessed, had he been in school, he must have been in fifth grade.

I was having a peaceful rendezvous with my food when I noticed a family, a middle aged looking couple with a ten year old boy, caught my attention. One of the restaurant staff called out, "Chotu...(kid)" and the four feet tall sprung onto action. He cleaned the table, served water and continued with his designated task. I knew "Chotu" was not his real name, but probably they renamed him for convenience. While serving, Chotu's eyes were locked on the wrist watch the boy was wearing. In midst, the boy looked up at his father, "Papa, that new ferrari you got for me seems to have some problem. The remote control is not working..". The gentleman gave him a consoling pat on the back and advised him to concentrate on his food. Chotu who was still serving seemed amused and perplexed. I think he found it hard to figure out what "ferrari" meant. The family got engaged in finishing their plates and at times I found, the boy was virtually spoon fed. I could see 'chotu' looking at the boy with envy and sadness in his eyes, standing besides the kitchen door.

Its not that I have not witnessed stark dichotomies before, but never been a part of such a touching one. All at once, I realised that my half dried hands required to be cleaned and I moved to wash room. Once I paid the bill, I called 'chotu' and gave him a ten rupee note. He was happy and confused at the same moment since no customer at the restaurant used to pay tips, at least I never saw anyone doing that which includes me. I came out of the restaurant and I saw a big banner smiling at my face which read, "Happy Children's Day". I turned back, and saw 'chotu' busy with his task. New customers, new faces, but his task is cut out; cleaning the table, serving dishes.. It must have been a coincidence that I witnessed these chain of events on Children's Day. A ten rupee note doesn't change his life. I felt may be I washed my hands off from my responsibility (I find it hard to define what that word means in this context). The 'generous' donation of ten rupee note was a mere act to satisfy my conscience. But what more could I do. I felt I shouldn't spoil my day with an empathy for bitter realities and took my mind for a stroll into the insignificant activities of lust world around me , may be movies, may be gaming.. As my steps took me away from the restaurant, I could hear a faint yell from behind, "Chotu....".

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