CROSSROADS

There he was, standing remorsefully, surrounded by a number of such similar children. It was the “Bal Vihar” the house for destitute runaway children. His eyes were filled with tears, yet there was a ray of hope he was clinging on to. Confusion reigned on his entire disposition, yet he knew he may not have to go back to where he came from. Veeran was barely 16. Yonder, he looked and he could see that there were many like him. Some, who had lost the innocence of childhood & were meandering in an uncertain world. Then, there were some who were too innocent to know that they were destitute. Yet, he perfectly knew where he was. He had reached there yesterday night. Running as he was from the policemen, only to be found by another authority. The ladies from the “Bal Vihar” who found him brought him to the old, shackled building & asked him a number of questions, yet he never answered any. He knew very well that if he revealed his identity & from where he came from, he might have to go back there again. So, he lied that he was from Raichur and he never said his actual parent’s names. Today, was the day when they would actually question his identity & he was confused whether to reveal it or not. Whether to reveal that he had been sold by his parents as a young boy of 14 to an affluent family of Gulbarga who were his new masters. He had seen the bundle of notes change hands & his mother walk away, with a glint in her eyes & not a tear down her cheeks. All of the tears of that day were on his face only. He then did not know his future which was nothing but tucked away in the dark realms of his destiny. If it was not for cleaning of the floors, then it was the utensils. If that was over, the cars were next. His day was an endless stream of incessant cleaning coupled with constant rebukes & rants from his new masters & their family. He did not know for what he was working for neither did he know why he was there at all. As all of this work occupied his time, he soon lost count of the years & months & relentlessly continued as if there was no other road ahead. As time passed, he soon lost hope. The day his mother left him was the last he saw of either of his parents. He actually was from a small village called Perunal, a few kms. from Coimbatore called Kovaipuram by them & his parents were definitely better off without him as it left them with one less mouth to feed. At the “Bal-Vihar” now, he was not sure whether he should reveal from where he was or who his parents were, for he knew for sure that if his parents were informed & his mother came to take him, she would resell him to another place. He had this running in his mind when he ran from his master’s house the night before when the master’s family had gone to their native place for a day. He was wondering about the expression on his master’s wife’s face when she must have come & seen him gone the night before. It did make him smile a bit now thinking about it. Surely, the master’s wife would not have expected this. But, then about a week back itself, Veeran knew that he had to flee as early as possible because soon his masters were planning to move from this city & then fleeing away from a new nascent place would be that much more difficult. So, he had made up his mind & fled & now he was at the crossroads of his life. In came the mustachioed policemen & called him & asked him what his name was. The grim look of the policeman & the crowded room made him jittery & all his resolve left him as he told his story in full, his real name, and his actual parent’s names. Yet, he had the sense to hide the master’s name lest the master who was a well known man traced him there &he knew that the “Bal Vihar” authorities would surely hand him over to the master. Soon the “Bal Vihar” Manager was on the phone trying to locate his parents. He knew now that his masters would soon be joining in the search for him.

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