Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The boy I named B

I saw him sitting hunched, his head bent downwards, his clothes bedraggled and shoes slovenly. The curly black mass of hair had now turned disheveled and tangled. He made no effort to look up when I first tried speaking to him. When he did, he looked bleak and barren oblivious of me talking to him. I did not keep a count of days but it must have been more than a week that I had been seeing this boy, barely in his teens, sitting in a dusty corner of hustling Kalkaji's Foot Over Bridge.

As I walk from the metro station onto the FOB everyday amidst a hoard of hurried passerbys I come across sundry occupants who proffer unflappable and unfluctuating banality to the muted green pathway. Conspicuous among them is a toothless old lady wishing me a husband in return for the paltry currency I drop in her bowl till I noticed a  pack of crass bidis peeping from under her mat. I suddenly felt impetuously guilty for having measurably sponsoring her supply of tobacco all this while. The first time I saw this boy whom I am going to call B is when he was climbing up the stairs. Compared to his condition now he had then seemed rustic, cleaner and was smiling. There was nothing flaky and peculiar about him for me to notice or admonish. However I saw him walking around the stairs again the next day. In the dust of pedestrian humdrum B, the old lady, the saffron clad astrologers and passerbys, all got painted in the single monochrome of  unrelieved dullness.

It was only after about a week that I started noticing his immutable presence. The next day when I drew a blank as I tried speaking to him I did not read on the way back home as I generally do while leaning on a pillar and was instead contemplating on what could have possibly made a teenaged boy sit on a grubby unswept  FOB for days. Does he have parents or relatives? What does he eat? Does he get up to have water from somewhere?.

Was it a coincidence but the next day in metro there were big posters screaming the number 1098 to call incase you are to see a child in distress. I saw B undeviated from the same place and made up my mind to call that number once I reach my shared working space. I found a quiet corner and got little edgy that you do when you ascertain that a chain of events you are about to start will impinge on someone's life. The call was picked up in Mumbai and the lady told me she would pass the message in Delhi office and they would get back back to me. In half an hour I got a call from someone in Delhi. She took the address and confirmed the authenticity of the call . She made it apparent that they do not indulge beggars and drug addicts and wanted me to validate that he was neither. I had never seen him beg but I was precarious of B being on drugs. The flabbergast look could have been ordeal of being on roads or could have been predicament of drugs too. If anyone is to judge him on his appearance and bearing there is not much to discern him from a junkie. I was forthright with her and assured her that he did need help and badly at that.

On the way to lunch with my co-workers I got a call from childline(1098) worker. He was at the FOB and wanted me to identify B. Again it could be a co incidence because we were driving right under that FOB at that very moment. I fervently apprised the events to my co workers and they were more than ready to halt and help in any way they could. As we climbed up the stairs I saw a person with an id card dangling from his neck trying to engage B in a conversation. He did not seem to have much luck. We introduced ourselves and he assured me it was a legitimate call for help as it was not safe for B to be on streets. He made a call to another colleague for help because B was unresponsive and apathetic. He feared B might get aggressive if he tries too hard. In the meanwhile he had called the police  to help him take to a hospital and get necessary tests done. He assured us that now we should just trust him to take charge of the situation as its all in a day's work for him

Now that its all done and I felt it was all destiny as I saw the number 1098 calling out to me. I sometimes think about him. Who is B, how did he end up on streets? Was he a survivor, a petty delinquent or lost. Where must have he been now? Was he better off under the open sky with swarm of people walking past him? Did I help send him to some impervious sanctuary or some disparaging disease infected hole in a wall we read about in books. The very idea makes me shudder and immerse in trepidation. I know I changed the course of his life but I hope for better. In my head I had made an assumption of knowing what is good for him. Would the facts change from a  different vantage point? That is something that perturbs me. I deal with the vexation of not taking the numbers to inquire after him. Maybe I should have foregone my lunch and accompanied  the childline workers to make sure B was in good hands. What I do make sure is that I think of him in prayers. Does anybody know of 1098 helpline in detail and how they function?

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