Kappu – Why Unkind?
Every morning, they go to school, the sunlight warm on their necks, their hair tied in two neat pigtails, their white blouses and blue skirts creaseless, their bags on their shoulders, ringing the bells of their cycles. The road is a long and winding one. It goes through campuses with tall trees and overgrowing weeds. On one side of the road, a new housing colony is being built, one with many buildings tall as the clouds. But the only building I look at is the white one.
It has been newly painted; its walls are now white with the window parapets and grill a dark blue. Above the main entrance, they’ve put a new clock, easy for everyone to see. Every time the big hand reaches the number 12, a bell rings from inside. Sometimes, the girls and boys come out into the empty ground in front. They bring balls and bats and play. The girls play on one side, the boys on the other. Sometimes, they play together.
Outside the gate, two men stand guard. The one with the curly moustache and thick beard always sleeps for thirty minutes in the afternoon, while the other one, with no hair; he goes around the ground to the room where some of the boys and girls go to eat. It is the time that I can slip through the gap in the fence and go to the nearest window.
From near the wall, no one sees me look inside. There’s an old woman writing on the black board with white chalk pieces. Careful not to let the guards or children see me, I write in my old, yellowed sheets of paper what she writes too; but slowly because I keep checking if I have written it right. Also, I don’t want to tear the paper. I’ve scrounged it from Appa’s satchel without him knowing. He’ll hit me if he knows. The woman’s voice comes through the window. I try to repeat after her. Then the bell rings, and before the guard sees, I slip back through the fence.
The guard with no hair sees me near the fence, and runs after me, waving his big stick. He is not kind, like the other guard. But not many are kind to my kind. Even the boys and girls, if they see me, call me names. They look at me with fear, not kindness. Even I want to learn, just like them.
But no one comes near this girl who smells like the old milk packets and plastic bottles that she collects. No one hears me if I tell something. And no one looks at this dark skinned girl, with unwashed hair that the wind blows the dust into. If they say anything, it’ll be after I’ve turned the corner. Their voices, sometimes loud, sometimes a whisper, still reach my ears.
“Kappu,” they tell, giving me, this dark skinned ragamuffin, a name.
~ Continued in Part 2 ~
(© 13th April 2015)