Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Shameless Yet Innocent Boy

On my way back home from office, I felt hungry as usual. So I decided to go to a restaurant. Just before entering, I felt behind a soft touch and instantly looked back to find an innocent-looking boy of around 12 years. Before I managed to ask him anything, he shyly asked me to give him 10 taka so that he can buy a cup of curd.

"Why do you want to eat curd?", I asked being intrigued by the way he approached me.

"I saw people around me eating that and now I wish I could have had some also", he replied even more shyly.

"But a cup of curd costs at least 15 taka now. So what will you do with just 10 taka?"

"Then buy me a cup of curd from there", He pointed at a nearby restaurant.

Then I could realize his mind. This kind of wishes may spring up in children's mind but approaching strange unknown people for money is obviously unexpected. Immediately an eerie fear that this boy may fall victim of nefarious acts of wicked people while approaching money in this way in future came to my mind. So I told him that I would buy him a cup of curd but he had to promise me that he would not ask money in this way in the days to come because wicked people may take this opportunity of his childish wish and take him with them to a dark life - a life of a mutilated begger lying on the overbridge - a commonplace in Bangladesh. The boy agreed with me. I took him to the restaurant and started chatting while eating.

"Where do you live?", I asked.
"At T&T colony, building number 1"
"hmmm... What does your father do?"
"My father doesn't live with us."

I thought his parents had a divorce and so didn't want to further talk about his father.

"What does your mother do?"
"Nothing. We live with my maternal grandfather."

I thought his family isn't solvent enough to indulge his childish wish. I felt sad for him. This boy reminds me of my childhood when I used to do trivial daily market for my family and take 2 or 3 taka from my mother, as though I deserved this money for the job I used to do. When I wanted to eat or buy something for me, I bought that with my money. I thought this boy didn't have such opportunity.

"Okay. Then what class do you read in?"
"Class 5"
"Fine. Which school?"
"T&T high school"
"As far as I know, high school starts with class 6. But you read in class 5!"
"yes. I read in class 5. The name of the school is T&T uccho biddalay."

I was confused as to whether this little boy was deceiving me or not by providing wrong information.

"What's your roll number?"
"Study hard. If you study hard, then you'll get a good job and lead a happly life. Otherwise you won't be able to make both ends meet." I tried to make him envisage a life of that much simple!

A hiatus of silence in the insipid conversation.

"Have you come back from abroad?" Suddenly the boy asked with his eyes glowing.
"No. What has made you think so?" I asked with a skeptical voice.
"Nothing. My father has been living in Saudi Arabia."

I heaved a heavy sigh recalling the hazardous condition the expatriates of our country had to cope with over there. May be his father had not been able to send money to Bangladesh for a long period of time and lots of crises beset his family living here. The possibility of divorce of his parents didn't come up this time around in my mind.

"My father had been in Australia before going to Saudi Arabia." He told with an air of pride. I couldn't figure out why he made it a point of pride. I felt intrigued about his expatriate father but resisted myself from making further queries because I thought this little boy would not know much regarding this kind of matters.

The boy finished eating a cup of curd and I was almost done with mine. It was time to say him good-bye. Just before leaving, to my astonishment, he asked for 5 taka for buying an ice-cream. I was speechless at his request! For the moment, it seemed to me that this boy has an incorrigible inherent instinct of asking anything from unknown persons! I chided him saying that for his this kind of behavior his parents would be humiliated in the society since he was doing something that is very very bad and asked him if he wanted this and if he would like his family humiliated. He replied negatively. I told the boy to leave. I intended to ask his name at the end of conversation but he spoiled my mood.

While walking from the restaurant to home, I thought about this and felt I was lucky that I didn't have to pass my childhood in a time of recession and inflation. The way children of today are being forced to inhibit their small petty wishes due to their parents' poor financial condition, this kind of incident may no longer remain rare.

I pray the tough days will be over soon and we'll be able to indulge children to fulfill their little wishes.