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A Toddler at the Police Station

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By Savitri Narayanan

Shambhu left for work early. Vaishali had cuddled little Vipul and gone back to sleep. There was nothing much to do anyway except walk around keeping an eye on Vipul!

It was just a week ago that Vaishali arrived in Goa by train. A month ago, Shambhu had boarded the same train from Patna along with a few others, looking for work.

‘Lots of construction work happening here in Goa,’ Ramu kaka had told them. A labour contractor, Ramu kaka was kind at heart and reached out to the youth in the village. Once Shambhu found a job, Vaishali with their young son Vipul too had reached Goa. She didn’t go to work like Shambhu, but the toddler kept her on her toes! Full of energy, Vipul roamed all over the labour colony with his mother following him around!

During the monsoons both were more or less homebound. Once in a while, the rain stopped and Vaishali explored the area and did the errands.

‘Bright sunny day, let me do the washing!’ thought Vaishali as she came out into the bright morning. With the washing soap and the soiled clothes in a bucket, followed by Vipul, Vaishali headed for the public water tap.

A few women sat there chitchatting under the banyan tree, waiting for their turn at the tap. Vaishali was only too happy to join them. As they chatted, no one noticed that Vipul had wandered off!

xxx

‘What a relief!’ thought Husain as he drove his auto-rickshaw out of the traffic jam. After about twenty minutes of inching through the Chogm Road, it was relaxing to turn the curve to a smaller lane, a clear road ahead. Husain moved off to the left, parked the auto and stepped out for a cup of tea at the roadside stall.

It was then he noticed the little boy roaming near the paddy fields. The toddler was crying, looking around and walking with unsteady steps.

‘Looks like he’s lost,’ was the thought as he approached the boy, “Tuchem naum kitai?”

The boy ignored him and continued to look around, crying aloud.

Toojhaa naav kai aahe?”

Tumharaa naam kya hai?”

‘Wonder where he comes from,’ he thought.

“Must be looking for his parents,” said the owner of the teashop, “There are many labourers living around there!”

A couple of customers at the teashop too joined in the conversation as they sipped their tea.

“We must help the child! His parents too must be looking for him!”

“How to find his parents?”

The shopkeeper passed on a biscuit packet to the child.

“We must seek police help!”

“I know the police station,” said Husain, “I’ll hand him over to the police!”

“I have an idea! Let’s take his photo and spread the word in all our WhatsApp groups!”

“Good idea,” said the shopkeeper, “We’ll use technology for a good purpose!”

“I need to go!” said Husain, “Have to pick up a passenger in twenty minutes, will drop him at the police station on the way!”

“Say thank you to unclejis! Soon your mother will come to take you home,” said Husain as he fondly picked up the toddler, “You’ll get a free ride in my auto too!”

With those words he drove away.

x x x

“Where’s my Vipul?” Vaishali looked around in panic. As far as their eyes could reach, there was no sign of the child!

“There he was a while ago, near the tap!”

“Could he have fallen into the ditch?”

“Could he have drowned in the pond beyond?”

“Could he have walked to the road and met with an accident?”

“Could he have been kidnapped?”

“It’s all my fault,” Vaishali burst into tears, “Instead of chatting with you, if only I’d kept my eyes on my Guddu!”

The news spread and many neighbours got together under the banyan tree. ‘How to find Guddu?’ was everyone’s thought.

x x x

At the police station, they were very co-operative and encouraging.

“Trust our systems and network,” said the police inspector who got a report written and took charge of the toddler. He shook hands with Husain and smiled, “The credit goes to good people like you who genuinely care for and help the community!”

‘I hope the child meets his parents,’ thought Husain as he drove out of the police station.

x x x

The women continued to sit under the banyan tree with Vaishali. Usually this was the time for their household chores. Some of them had sewing machines at home supplied by an NGO who gave them work like stitching school uniforms. Some others did some knitting and embroidery work for the NGO.  But that particular morning, the only thought was how to find Vipul.

It was then that one of the women’s cell phones beeped.

“Isn’t this your son?”

“Vipul, my Vipul,” screamed Vaishali, “It’s my Vipul! Where’s he?”

“The message says he’s safe, waiting for his parents at the Chiroli police station!”

“I know where it is! My uncle’s cousin’s family stays very close to the police station!”

The owner of the teashop walked over from the main road.

“A little boy is waiting for his parents at the railway station,” he said, “Have any of your children gone missing by any chance?”

By then several phones got the same message with Vipul’s photo.

“Let’s go, what are we waiting for?” said Vaishali, getting up. Sunita and a couple of others went along, too.

“Run, sisters, run! There’s an auto at the teashop; he’ll happily give you a ride to the police station!”

 

(Savitri Narayanan is a retired educationist at present in Bangaluru. A mother and grandmother, loves reading, writing and
travelling.)