Kappu – Mangoes and a Silver Lining
The burn on my hand is yet to heal, but a ragamuffin girl can’t rest. There are milk packets and bottles and whatever else people throw away waiting for me to scrounge. Before appa wakes up, I leave our tent. But I know he will not wake up soon today. He has warned me not to go near “that cursed white building”. I am afraid of him, but I have to. My feet know that too, for they turn on their own to the long winding road even as I think not to.
From far away, I can see that the guard without the hair has come back. He does not see me. But I have to wait before I can jump the fence and check. Opposite the big white building is a garden. I see a mango tree there. Its branches are sturdy and covered with dark green leaves. Leaving my tattering satchel at its base, I climb up and sit on a high branch. No one can tell me to come down. From here, I can see the rooms, but too far to know what the woman is telling or showing.
I think the guard without the hair has been told to be careful. He does not move from the gate. If I go ask him for the pieces of my yellowed paper, will I go to jail? I am scared of this guard. I cannot see the friendly guard uncle today. I have to wait. I pluck a mango and bite into it. It is still raw. Like me. Like my burn.
The guard leaves the gate only when the bell rings and all the children come out and goes inside the big white building. I am about to climb down when I hear someone call my name from below.
“Kappu, we are climbing up.”
Before I can tell anything, three children climb and sit on branches near me. Their faces are friendly. I look down and I see the friendly guard uncle look up at me. He’s smiling. The three are smiling too. Each of them pluck a mango, and taking their bottles out, washes it before biting into it. I sit silently, ready to jump if they make fun me.
“I am Malini,” says the girl nearest to me. She has short hair which she has left untied, but put a black plastic band on it.
“She is Nalini, my sister,” she says, pointing to the other girl, who looks like her only. Even the hair is just as short, but her plastic band is white.
“And he is Prannoy, our friend,” she says, pointing to the boy, who is shorter than them. He wore thick spectacles, but when he smiled, his eyes smiled too.
“And this, this is yours,” says Prannoy, taking something from his bag.
I laugh and almost jump out of the branch. In his hand are pieces of yellowed paper. It has been stuck with some tape, but I can see that it is mine.
~ Continued in Part 4 ~
(© 15th April 2015)