Boy in the Bylane

Satyarth Pandita
“Men are angels born without wings, nothing could be nicer than to be born without wings and to make them grow. ” -Jose Saramago
“Don’t forget the coriander” shouted my mother from inside the kitchen as soon as I stepped outside the house to go and buy the groceries. It was a hot day, just like any other day of June. The sky, blue, with beautifully puffed clouds, betrayed exquisite designs. The sunlight was so bright that everything around sprang up to life, and the sunshine traced the contours of the trees, the houses, the shops and everything that came in its way. Street dogs dodged the scorching heat of the sun by laying under the cool shade of trees. I moved along to the end of the street. My hand unintentionally neared a leaf to be plucked when my eyes caught the sight of a boy. Sitting on his haunches, he was at one corner busy with some used and now useless articles. As I stood there, he lifted his chin to look at me but went back immediately to his job as if i was not there. On closer inspection, I figured out the articles which included some plastic bottles, broken toys, dirty thermocol sheets, gunny bags and empty beer cans. Beside him lay several rusted iron nails of varying sizes and some wire pieces. I took him for a rag picker and without paying any much thought marched forward to get the groceries. After half an hour when I returned from the market, I saw the boy still busy with his task. He had now changed his position in a more comfortable cross-legged position. His head was bent forward and down with his arms resting on both his knees. Dressed in a torn undershirt and tattered shorts, his skin was dark and tanned from sitting under direct sunlight, and he was all soaked in sweat. The sweat trickled down his forehead and reflected the gaze of the sun, which for a moment, lit his dark face with a queer sort of beauty and innocence. The blazing heat of the sun had turned his ears red, but it felt pleasing to him as if the sun had infused in him a sense of power to create something. He seemed to be wholly absorbed in his work, no longer distracted by anything external. He had separated the bottle caps from various plastic bottles and arranged them based on their size.
Leaving the boy busy with his chore, I headed home. As I walked towards the verandah of my home, I noticed the flower pot that I had kept there along with several others. I had bought the young plant for ten bucks that had small pink flowers at that time, but when I planted it in the pot and had kept it on the verandah, there were no flowers to be seen. It seemed as if the bloomed flowers had traced a step back into their bud phase. It had been five or six days since I had bought the plant with pink flowers, but now the flowers refused to bloom. The thing irked me. I wondered what might have been the reason for them not blooming. Then I spent some time surfing online to know what kind of plant it was. I had bought it from a roadside vendor, and hence he did not know much about that plant, so neither did I. Some moments later, I finally managed to gather information about that plant. It was Portulaca grandiflora, better known by names like ross moss, sun rose, rock rose and eleven o’clock. It was a small but fast-growing plant which required sunlight and well-drained soils. It would bloom only when it got sufficient sunlight. However, under shade or on days when the clouds veiled the sun, the plant failed to produce any flowers and remained dormant. The moment I got to know about the plant, I lifted the pot and placed it at a spot under direct sunlight. Doing that, I returned to my room.
The next morning, at around 10.30, when I was busy reading a book, I heard some noise outside the window. Sound as if someone was scratching sandpaper on a rough surface. To check it out I went outside and saw the same boy from the previous day pulling a beer can, carton box and other stuff with wheels underneath them. It was a toy trolley car. The boy had made himself a toy, a gift, and he seemed glad. He possessed the power of infusing meaning in the refuse. He held it in his hands, and his enthusiasm and excitement surpassed the dazzle of the sun. I called the boy and asked what his name was?
“Ganesh”, he replied.
“Do you study?” I questioned.
“No” he replied.
“Where do you live?” I inquired.
“There”, he pointed out towards a plot of land with kutcha houses of daily wage workers.
I asked him how much time did it take him to make this toy trolley car.
“45 minutes” he replied.
He did not talk much. He kept answering in monosyllables.
“Did you go to school before?” I asked.
“Then why don’t you attend school anymore?”
“My mother got me unenrolled” he replied dejectedly.
I then asked him to hold his design in his hands so that I could take a picture of him. He got excited and posed with his toy in his hand. I was amazed as to how a boy of his age with no schooling managed to build himself a source for his happiness. An empty beer can, dirty and used thermocol sheet, a discarded carton box; rusted iron nails and several plastic bottle caps had come together in an assembly by virtue of the boy’s genius to give meaning to their newly acquired form. The way Ganesh had sewn together these elements with iron nails and steel wires, the way he had perfectly aligned and oriented the axle of his trolley car, the way he had architectured the design of his creativity reflected the genius of all those children out there who are just like the sun rose who if received the right amount of sunlight could bloom in full bloom but alas all they get in their life is shade. Rewarding the boy for his achievement, I handed him some money. A smile of happiness lingered on his lips, more akin to triumph and he picked up the string attached to the front part of the trolley car and left dragging the toy behind him. I entered my house, closed the gate, and walked past the spot where I had shifted the flower pot the previous day. The pot greeted me with an exotic bloom.
I retired back to read my book. I picked up at the point I had dog eared the page and read, “The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.”
And I asked myself, “Does it?”