4| Hide and Seek

“Remove your hand from there, harami! It looks disgusting!” the lady surrounded by balloons yelled at the boy next to her. The boy surrounded by flies merely stared at her and desperately wished that his head would stop itching.

The lady grunted in disgust and turned to stare at the road in front of her. She wouldn’t know any of his woes. After all, she’d had a bath two weeks back while he was left to guard their money bowl. He wondered why he even had to do that when it barely had any money.

“Raja, make sure you’re ready for when the signal turns red okay? I don’t want to lose out on any money,” the lady said. Her son simply scrunched up his face and continued to stare at the grocery store across the road.

Unfortunately, the day was a Wednesday. The poor boy, quite literally, was blissfully unaware that no one would stop at the signal that day. They were either too busy in their offices or were in a hurry to reach there.

Raja sighed and stared at the lone biscuit in the bowl. He was hungry, no doubt, but he could not be disrespectful and gulp it down.

“Do you want this?” he asked.

The lady looked at him and gave a small smile. She was aware of the boy’s antics and simply said, “No. You have it. I have money, we can buy a new packet.”

Raja first gulped the biscuit down, then her words. An annoyed look graced his features as he realised that he had to eat the disgusting biscuit yet again. Raja despised the biscuit. He’d been eating it for years now, and he was simply tired of it all. He wanted to eat a new one. Preferably the one in the purple wrapper.

A lady in a pretty saree had once offered him that one and he had instantly fallen in love with it. His tongue had played games with the chocolate and his eyes had a good time visualising euphoria. He had wished to eat the same biscuit for long. He had even hidden the wrapper of the biscuit under his pillow, but one unfortunate day it was thrown away.

“What are you looking at now? Go throw the wrapper and buy a new one,” his companion said, derailing his train of thoughts. Snatching the ten rupees note from his mother, he pushed himself up and started walking across the road. He looked down at the dustbin near the grocery shop and realised how less his country men cared about cleanliness.

Wrappers he had discarded from months ago still lay in the dustbin. He’d heard the prime minister talk about cleanliness, but he only wondered when the people would start working towards the cleaner nation.

He’d heard his friends talk about cleanliness being godliness. Ever since he’d first heard it, he had made sure to discard all waste in the dustbin.

He looked around, and saw how much filth lay in the roads. He wished people would help each other clean the country. He wanted, no he needed, cleaner roads to beg on. At least that way the flies would stay away from him.

Shaking his head, he turned around and walked towards the shop. As if it was all planned by the universe, Raja’s eye was caught by a falling note. He looked up and saw the man who had become ten rupees poorer, and the cogs of his brain started working.

The note cascaded down in the slowest of speeds, leaving Raja with a bated breath. The note, as if teasing him, moved away from him and fell further. After what seemed like hours, it touched the ground with a sense of finality.

With as much stealth as he could muster, Raja shuffled towards the note. With eyes on the note, he pushed aside a small crowd of children and bent down to “itch his leg”. He scanned the area around him and right at the moment when no one was looking he snatched the note off the ground.

Huffing, he finally reached the store and scanned the place for what he wanted.

“Can you give me the purple wrapper biscuit?” he said, a little out of breath. The shopkeeper looked at him as if scrutinising him and questioned back, “Hide and Seek?”

Not knowing what to do, Raja simply nodded along. A hand outstretched in front of him, and Raja thrust the two ten rupees notes into the shopkeeper’s hand.

Raja thought of the shaded tree near his usual place and wondered how it would be to be able to eat the biscuit there. He could give a couple to his friends as well. Raja’s mouth watered at the mere thought of eating the biscuits and he finally felt at peace. He was the happiest man on earth. Nothing could bring his spirits down now.

“Ten more rupees, please. It’s for thirty.”

And that did it.

Thank you very much for reading this! Do let me know your thoughts about it through your comments!

For my longer works, please visit Wattpad. My username is “s_huddar”.

Hope you have a good day! 🙂

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