“Met by chance”

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Rabin Prasad Kalita

Both fell in love once again looking at its surroundings soon they entered its restricted camp. The serene locality which they left almost two decades from now got afresh their memory back.

Rabin, an Ex-Air Warrior, and his wife Gitu were walking through the curvy but slightly uphill lane of Subrato Park. Suddenly on the way, he discovered Biren, a puffy faced longtime friend who happened to be once one of his office colleagues there. On seeing him, Rabin hugged him exuberantly. Their bosom interaction ended with a forced invitation for lunch then and there.

“Rabin, am besieged to meet you after a long span of audio-visual separation! Hence, I won’t let the two of you go like this without visiting my service quarter? Please, don’t say me, no! I want to buy some time from your dear. Let me have this privilege to sit along with you!” Biren almost forced them emotionally to say eventually, ‘yes’.

They tried refusing Biren to visit his home as they were heading for AFWWA Thrift shop. However, his sentimental approach made both to rethink for an hour of stopover at his home forthwith for a palatable lunch. It’s also true that there is no certainty when and where one of the two retired, one still active air warrior, will meet again! The happiness of meeting two friends with each other suddenly after many years brought a great sense of fulfillment for them.

Both the ladies were busy cooking in the kitchen and in the drawing-room; the two young warriors were engaged in unplugging the cork of the Teacher’s highland. Lunch, two air warriors, meeting almost after one and half decades, not tossing off one or two tots before food, normally sounds a bit incomplete. Both sounded cheers and clinked by toasting up their mixed drink glasses for each other’s good health and friendship. And then, there were plenty of gleeful talks along with the roar of a loud laugh. They even didn’t know how that gifted afternoon passed so quickly.

Despite not wanting, both had to beg a bye from Biren and his wife Lata after a toothsome lunch. Straightway, the duo came to the magnificent shopping complex to buy some arts and crafts for home decors. Subsequently having finished their pick, decided to sit on the bench arranged inside the complex lawn. Being it was a sunny summer day, they wished to have some ice-cream cones to mitigate the heat for a while sitting with other compatriots around.

Took vanilla flavoured for him and a strawberry for Gitu as he knew her choice and both were busy lickings. While relishing ice-creams, they knitted a lot of talks especially compared to the eminence of the camp then and now.

All of a sudden, when Rabin turned his head and eyes, he saw three little cute kids possibly between four to six years of age. They stared at his frozen desert in the lure of the lick. Out of them, only one had worn a pair of torn out slippers and the rest two were barefoot even though the surface was too hot to walk on without footwear. Meanwhile, soon he saw them; they were chanting to and fro, thinking if he could have owed for them too.

“Uncle-uncle, could you please fetch an ice-cream bar for us too? The only one will do, and we shall share it turn wise among us. Please uncle”, appealed by one of them so placidly. Putting her tiny hand on Rabin’s right elbow, the pretty little baby among them lovingly said stuttering, which meant, ‘uncle, I too like to have one.’

Rabin’s flimsy mind got occupied with compassion. Handed over the remaining portion of his ice-cream to Gitu for a minute, he caught hold of their petite hands and fetched three more chocolate-coated ice-cream bars for them too.

Made all of them sit beside both, continued enjoying their ice-cream together with a cordial chat. He enquired many things about them such as, whether they go to school, what their parents do, etc.

Manoj the bucktoothed eldest amongst them introduced one by one patting on their backs wittily. Pushing his ice-cream bar on her face, said jeeringly, ‘uncle, she is Pankhuri but she doesn’t have Pankh (feather)’. She chews throughout the day like a goat.

He could not hold himself from cackling before he concluded the intro. And then, the other two babies also joined him and made a fare of laughter. Looked them so fresh like three full-bloomed roses. All three angels started dancing cheerfully all around, gazing at one another with ecstasy after having finished their ice-creams.

Seeing the three of them jostling with joy not only raised the contentment to an inexpressible height for the couple but also, attracted the attention of others sitting on the lawn.

On asking about their home, Manoj directed his fingers towards the massive gateway and said they stay across the big dingy sewage just outside the gate. It was also learned that their parents work as unskilled labourers at some construction sites inside the Air Force Base Camp. Sometimes they get work and sometimes don’t.

Probably, in this war of being alive, it was not destined to take care of the children well. Sending them to school is like building a castle in the air for their parents.

‘Uncle, my parents use to be inebriated almost all the days’, Manoj whispered in Rabin’s ears. In the cadence of talks, he also painfully said that he and his siblings get physically assaulted by them regularly. Hence, they roam stray.

“Uncle, I also get beaten up badly by my parents, Give nothing to eat sometimes and I have to sleep in our makeshift with an empty stomach”, said the other adorable small boy in a faintly audible voice.

They don’t go to school but wander around throughout the day and eat whatever could get from the people in the camp. Due to not having any good carers, perhaps, it was not possible for them to go to school.

Rabin was broken listening to them spoken by heart. What worth could he do, except to hear them mindfully?

Simultaneously, it baffled him for a while, thinking about their future prospects. Soon they grow up; it would be very difficult to know the direction of their life to start with. With the lack of proper education and upbringings of these children, there is a chance of getting exploited for sacrilegious activities by some of the perpetrators around.

These socially excluded children who have just learned how to walk are abandoned carefree. Growing up unhindered and uncultured, they are prone to addiction and many other unlawful activities.

That way many things jammed in Rabin’s mind and he lost in a different world for a moment. Gitu said by distracting him snapping her fingers, “hello, where are you mislaid, they are gone, wake up and let’s move”.

He got his sense back in a jerk. This unique incident has left an everlasting impression in his mind which leads him to take full care of education for two poor children on coming home.

The writer is an ex-air warrior and can be reached at rabin1966@gmail.com

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