By SAVITRI NARAYANAN
“Just for a week,” said dadaji as he raked the dry leaves, “If only I could get five thousand rupees for a week!”
The whole morning he had been digging out onions in their backyard after which he had started raking in the dry leaves.
“What’s the matter? Why are you talking to yourself?” said dadiji, who squatted nearby sorting the onions into two heaps of large and small ones.
“Pyare’s bahu is hospitalised, the bill is Rs 5,000 to be paid tomorrow,” dadaji said as he continued to rake the leaves. Wish I could help out but my pension will come only by fifth i.e. next Monday….”
“Borrow from somebody, return it when the pension comes,” said dadiji, “We often do that, what’s the big deal?” Dadaji had served in the military at one time so every month he got pension.
“Dadaji, ask Pitaji, of course he will give you,” said Raju as he assisted dadiji with sorting the onions.
“Good children don’t interfere when elders talk,” dadaji chided him and then added, “Raju beta, you don’t know how expensive everything is. So many mouths to feed!”
Dadiji said kindly, “When you grow up, you will understand. Poor Pyarebhai, Arvind hasn’t got his pay for two months and now bahu is in the hospital- must be hard on them…..”
“At least I get the pension, which is such a relief,” said dadaji, putting down the rake and squatting beside them, “Pyare was a watchman in that kothi for 20 years, today he is left with nothing….”
Raju, too, felt sorry for their neighbour Pyare uncle. Imagine a son with no job and hospital bills to be paid! If only dadaji could get Rs,5,000…
“I could check with Mala ki bahu, she is a good soul,” said dadiji, “Will definitely spare if she has.”
Dadaji ignored her and got up, “Let’s go in, it’s getting hot.”
Sleep evaded Raju. Mummyji was kind. She cooked for Anoop’s family. She also packed food in the tiffin carrier and filled bottles with boiled water to be taken to the hospital. Also, along with Raju, she made sure Anoop attended his online classes. If only they could get Rs 5,000 just for a week!
“Raju beta, how come you are early today?”
Ismail kaka was just opening his shop. He owned a cycle repair shop at the street corner near the vegetable market. He also had four bicycles which he rented out to the children. Every morning, on the way to school, Raju would reach early to clean them. He loved bicycles, enjoyed washing and wiping them clean. In return, he could ride for half an hour at no charge.
“What happened, beta? What’s the matter?” Ismail kaka was curious. After cleaning the bicycles, usually Raju would hop on to one and go for a ride around the village, return the bicycle and go back home. Instead, here he was squatting down on the ground on the boulder under the tamarind tree!
“Any problem?” Ismail kaka asked again.
“Any way to get Rs 5,000? Just for a week?” Raju said.
Ismail kaka sipped his tea and looked at Raju in amusement. “It’s a lot of money and nobody lends to children, anyway,” he said, “You can borrow money only when you earn to pay back.”
“My dadaji will pay back, his pension comes by 5th, he will surely pay back,” Raju explained. “It is rather urgent. Anoop’s mother is in the hospital and they have to pay the bills today…and his father hasn’t been paid for two months.”
“hhotey moonh se badi baat! Let grown-ups sort out these money matters. You go home now,” said Ismail kaka as people started walking into rent bicycles, or have them repaired.
Soon, it was lunchtime. Mummyji laid out the thalis and dadiji sat down in her usual place. The kitchen was large enough for all to sit around as mummyji made hot phulkas for them.
“Guess what happened this morning!” said dadaji as he walked in to join, “I was coming back from the bazaar. As I passed his cycle shop Ismail kaka called out and I stopped by to chat. There I met his neighbour, Hasanka, who it seems couldn’t return to Dubai due to lockdown. I happened to mention Pyarelal’s situation and you won’t believe it, Hasanka pulled out the cash and said, “Here, pay the hospital bills. Allah is kind to me; in Dubai my shop earns enough. It is my duty to do this much to help someone from my own village!”
There was a sense of relief, of thankfulness, as the family continued to eat quietly.
“Bhagwan ki nazar sab ke oopar hai,” said dadiji.
“Nobody like you, Ismail kaIka,” joy rose in Raju’s heart, I’ll wash the bicycles sparkling clean tomorrow!” He felt like dancing around the kitchen.