Kappu – The Nice Children and a Happy Night
“We can tell you what we know, Kappu,” says Nalini, “You don’t have to come get shouted at by Ahyaz sir.”
“Or Ramu uncle too,” adds Malini, looking through the branches at the guard without the hair.
“Wait wait. Her name is not Kappu. We shouldn’t call her that,” says Prannoy.
“Her name is Suma,” shouts the friendly guard uncle from below.
I smile. I cannot think these children are helpful like this. But they might get beaten by their appa if they help me. So I say no. They cannot help me. They tell me their appa will not beat them, but I do not know if that is true. Many whispers of many men have reached my ears after they think I cannot hear them. They tell their children to stay away from the likes of me; that I am bad and cannot be helped. I have seen through shadows in windows of big houses, appas beating their girls. But like they cannot help me, I cannot help them.
“Okay. Tomorrow is holiday, Suma,” says Nalini, “You come here. We will find a way. You will not be afraid please. We will find a way to teach you without our appas beating us.”
They climb down and leave with the guard uncle. I wait for the guard uncle to make the guard without hair go away, and then I climb down too. The sun is setting behind the big white building. I put my yellowed paper inside the satchel, and head to my tent. I think I will get a beating today too. Waiting for the yellowed paper, I have not collected any empty milk packets or bottles today. Appa will be angry.
He is not there when I reach our tent. Even after night falls, he does not return. But I am not afraid. Many days, he does not come home. He stays at that place, drinking and singing terrible songs. Some days, he fights with others. I know because there is blood near his nose and mouth when he returns. I wipe it with a wet dirty cloth when he falls asleep.
Waiting for him, I take the yellowed pieces of paper out and look at them. I remember the woman as I wrote on them. I remember the doll in the picture, and the other pictures too. I think of what the children will do tomorrow when I go.
I do not sleep in the night. I sit, reading those papers I have written on. There are other papers from before yesterday that I had put away secretly. They have letters and numbers. I am happy to not sleep for reading them. I am careful to hear for my appa’s footsteps or grunts.
But appa does not come home. I leave the tent and reach the big white building. The three children are there with their bicycles. But near them is the woman from the window. I turn around to go back, but I hear them calling me, so I slowly go near them.
“So, you are Suma,” she asks me, smiling. “Yes, we will help you to learn.”
“Suma, this is Nayana madam, our teacher,” say all three of them together.
But my luck never lasts. Just as I am about to say thank you to the woman, a shout makes me jump and shiver. There, coming from the other side of the long winding road, is my appa.
~ Continued in Part 5 ~
(© 16th April 2015)