Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The story of Muniya… the beggar boy.

My Mom had finished cooking a delicious breakfast for all of us and was now busy washing clothes. I was sitting nearby studying for my exams, when a pathetic voice called “Ammmaaaaa………………..”. The tone was so irritating that it made me forget what I was studying. After sometime the voice called out in more pathetic and worse voice which killed Kannada mercilessly, “I am very hungry. I haven’t eaten anything since morning. Give me some food”. My Mom told the person to move on but the voice kept irritating us. Finally I opened the door and found very dirty, smelly and ugly bucktoothed boy standing there with an old milk powder tin box which was as dirty as his clothes, begging for food. He must have been around 11-12 yrs old. My mom as usual felt sad for the kid and told me to hand over whatever was left of the morning breakfast for the boy. I was not the one to put down the book under normal condition, but his pathetic irritating voice had me run inside to do whatever to get rid of him. I did not feel like dropping the food into the dirty tin box so wrapped it in a newspaper and handed it out to him. He immediately sat on our steps and started to gobble down the food. When finished he asked for some more. Mom told me to give him previous night’s leftovers too. So I was serving this boy instead of studying for my exams. I kept cursing him but something about him was sad and it had me serving him rice and sambhar again. In no time he finished all the food and thanked my Mom, though I was the one who had served him.
Time kept ticking away and for some silly reason we found him standing there, without budging or going away on his begging mission. My mom asked him what he wanted and he said he was still hungry. I almost fell out my chair. He had eaten food enough for three men and was still hungry. My mom felt sad for him and asked him if he would work for his food. He said yes. She then had a lengthy chat with him asking him about his parents etc. We were never interested in his story and for short got to know that his parents were both drunkards and took away all his money when he went home. She told him to go home and tell them that he will not be coming home frequently hereafter, but will pay them some money at the end of the month. He went away happily. He was back in the evening. I could not imagine having this boy inside our home and for once everyone shared my feelings. Mom shut all of us by saying that everything turned absolutely clean if you put water on it by reciting “kaleema” and so he was sent into the bathroom with a bar of soap. He had his bath and came out looking as dirty as he was earlier. He was sent back in there again and now was handed coconut coir to scrub himself with. He came back again looking a bit cleaner and was sent back again to clean himself. Finally we saw he was not brown but a very black kid with jet black hair and yellow teeth. Finally mom poured water on him reciting Kaleema and brought him in. He looked totally different in clothes my Mom had given him.
He came from very low caste and people were not happy that my mother was keeping him in our house. But Mom said a person is a person no matter what caste they belonged to and it is the society that made them into lesser human beings than us. My dad was not happy with this decision mom had made but ended up surrendering to Mom’s wishes as usual.
We got to know his name to be Muniya. No one mingled with him much. I was preparing for my 6th std examination and had no time for anyone. My brother and younger sister were sort of scared of a beggar boy who had all of sudden become Mommy’s pet. My elder sister was always busy chatting away with her friends. Unknown to any one of us slowly Muniya had made for himself a special place in my mom’s heart and he turned out to be a very caring person when it came to my Mom. He would always eat dinner making sure my mom had enough to eat. We never knew that at times mom would feed everyone and if nothing was left would go to bed on empty stomach. No one ever checked out how much food she had cooked. At times we would eat more and nothing would be left but sometimes no one ate properly so lot of food was left over. Mom had trouble measuring out tummies and if dad found out that food was being wasted he wound make a huge fuss of it. So mom usually went to bed without food if everything was finished instead of cooking for herself again. It was Muniya who started checking out if she had something left for dinner or not and if not he would not eat his share too. It was time for all of us to hang our heads in shame. We did.
The stray dogs in our locality began to lose some weight, because the ever hungry Muniya would finish up anything that was left in the night. Mom did not have to face the wrath of dad for throwing away food anymore.
All the day he would run around my mom helping her with the work. Slowly we forgot he was a dirty beggar boy and started to treat him with some respect. My brother taught him to ride bicycle. I started to teach him Kannada alphabets. Soon he became a part of our family. Once in a month he would take his salary. We did not know how much Mom paid him but it was good enough to keep his parents quite and happy. They never ever bothered to check out on him. He would have a bath before coming in after handing over his salary.
When the touring studio came to our town he wanted to take few pictures of him. Mom dressed him up very neatly and sent him with my brother and sister to have his photograph taken. He looked very funny posing on the motorbike, standing with a tie etc. Even to this day I wonder what a great bond had formed between my mom and Muniya. She would feed him and take care of him like she took care of us and he in turn cared for her as though he was her own son. Not once did anyone find him cheating on us in any way.
My dad did not appreciate him to the end. Muniya would take food for my brother and sister during lunch period. It was then that my younger sister would pester him to bring her back home with her. She would sit on the cycle carrier and refuse to get down. Many times she would come back home during lunch period. Teachers informed my dad about this and he was furious. My sister got mild punishment and Muniya a bit harsher. He was warned that he should not listen to my sister. Few days went by with my sister staying back in school without fuss. But after a few months she started pestering him again. He was terrified of my dad and firmly refused her. Few days later she won the battle with him and came back home after lunch. Muniya handed over the cycle, and went away never to be seen by us again. My mom was very sad and sent someone to fetch him back from home but they informed us that he had come home and told them that he is not working in our home anymore and they should not bother my Mom asking about his whereabouts but had gone away after that. Days went by and we stopped expecting him to come back. My mom would think of him very often and wonder where he was.
One day when I was going to college a lorry suddenly stopped in front of me and a young man jumped down and rushed towards me. I was very scared at first but then I saw the bucktoothed smile and realized it was Muniya. He told me to tell my mom that he was very sorry and ashamed that he had left home in this manner. He could not go back to his begging ways and so had found himself a job as a cleaner for lorry and was travelling all over India. I asked him whether he stopped reading. He said he continued to read Kannada and could read better than the driver. I asked him to come over and meet mom but he said he could not do that after leaving home abruptly.
Mom was very happy to know he was doing good. Much later when I was taking my son for a walk I met him again. He was driving the lorry now. He did come over finally to meet my mom. She did not ask him why he had left abruptly neither he told her why. He told her about his job etc and went his way after getting her blessing and his childhood photos. We never saw him again because we changed house and he may never have got our new address.
Whenever people talk about my Mom, they mention her wisdom, her generosity, her extravagance ways, her sweet talk which made people do silly things and at times her cunning ways too. What we all have forgotten is how much love she had for children. Even the beggars or street children could make her heart melt.
I had seen this side of her in my younger days and even to this day I feel so proud thinking of the good deed my Mom had done back then. She had, silently, in a small way washed away the stigma of untouchable from the life of a boy and given him a new identity. Back in those days it was very brave thing to do.
Hats off to you mommy. I am so proud of you... 


Rayyan Lost in Laptop

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