Street Stories #4

She was like a dream, caged and killed.

Chotu was a boy who sat on the corner of the street and sold beedis.
I have always seen him either with his father or alone. Mostly, he sat there alone holding his or maybe his father’s smartphone.
I’ve never had even the tiniest need to visit his stall until then when I had this sudden need to know his story.

That boy, he fascinated me. He fascinated me not because of his circumstances but because of his dreams. Dreams that he might never have caressed with those hands which passed on beedis to greybeards and young boys.

And so, someday in winter, I stood across him and blurted a ‘hey’ which he responded with a nod. A confused nod. ‘Didi? Are you here to buy beedis?’ And that’s how we sat in a corner and talked.
Every time, I asked him a question, he would let out a gasp to show me that he wasn’t really ready to answer.
In the middle of winter, I got my answer. I got a story. A story, sometimes all of the people carry inside their jackets and never pull it out from there. A story, nobody asks. A story, anyone could hardly speak about.
And his was tough.

Chotu had a sister, a few years younger than him. She was sold.
For him, it was hard to push those syllables out of his mouth. Real hard.

“Didi, he sold behena to a man as if she was a beedi from his stall. And…and I do-don’t know if she is alive or not.
I don’t know why Baba sent her. For money.
Didi, women are not beedis, to be used and then killed so easily and then thrown and being stomped upon on some unknown street.
Women are more than that. I regret selling beedis. It kills me didi, and it kills a lot more like me who sell beedis because their story has this burnt page where the smell of ashes suffocate the very raging soul of theirs.”

And he broke into tears. I don’t know if he broke because of his sister or because of the thoughts that pricked him every hour of being useless.
I did not ask him anything from that day.

But one day, in spring, I saw him sit there, sell beedis, like old days.
This time he waved.
And yes, a little something dawned upon me. So many people with so many stories, and my pain, it can never stand against or surpass theirs.

“Like beedis, women get sold. Like its smoke, women disappear. A little used, a little killed and then buried.” -Chotu


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