4 July 2008

The Touchable Boy

Once there was a little boy from a village. He came to the city to work in a Juice Shop. Labour laws can’t apply to little boys working in juice shops. He lived with The Juice Shop Family, in their home. This was allowed because he was a touchable Brahmin. Fortunate boy, one might say. As the years rolled, we got used to having him around.

We played cricket with him, he joined us in festive meals and happy times… he even wore the sacred thread, which was like his swipe card to everything in my sizable Brahmin family.

Being a Brahmin didn’t solve all of the boy’s problems. The Boy had a Master, and the Master had Family and Friends, who, by association, became Masters in their own capacity. And there were Rules. The Rules were never broken, so nothing was ever said. The Boy volunteered to do any work he can before one of his Masters did. If there is a letter to be posted, if someone knocks on the door when everyone’s asleep, if the dishes demand work… The Boy will volunteer, out of instinct. He never needed to be told, never disagreed with anything. In every point of choice, he would naturally take the worst. The worst apple, the worst seat…

When I entered teenage, I’d steal five or ten rupees every now and then. The Boy would always give with a smile, like it amused him to give (in a round-about sense) my money back to me. The Boy stole some more for himself, and perhaps for others like me. The money, which was black to start with, got darker.

One day The Masters discovered the leak in their pockets. The Boy was beaten up and put in jail, where he confessed. Maybe my contribution to the leak was negligible, but The Boy never mentioned my name. In the Masters’ story, he was buried while still alive. Nobody speaks about him, like the episodes featuring the boy were lost in a fire. If they met him on the street in some impossible coincidence, they’d treat him like an irritating ghost from their past. An ungrateful dog, they might say in Tamil.

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