Ouch! My eyes are watering. I should have expected that, because I’d just looked up at the sun. Quite a powerful character,he. Knows how to make me cry. In case you were wondering, I never cry.
I did not cry when I saw my daughter being stowed away on a stretcher, she was dead and pale, in that wretched hospital, what was its name? Oh, swell, I do not remember and do not intend to. I never cried when I saw my mother die, right under my nose. Point is, I did not really care and I did not cry. That should give you some picture about me, I guess. Otherwise, I am just another man on the streets, slightly old and extremely shabby.
I have come to realise, from my days so far, that life goes on. A tea at the local café, a cigarette and my day is made. I have a small job, not that I am entirely useless-I pick up rubbish and earn a few rupees from it. Fancy that, getting paid just because you have an eye for the dirty, the rotted and the useless. Life goes on, and on. I do not have the time or the inclination to worry about my ‘fate’, as I have heard people call it. Fate or no fate, life goes on.
I have come to my usual spot now. I come here everyday to pick up trash. Quite a nice place, I must add. There is a small lake nearby and on sunny mornings like today’s, you can see beautiful girls jogging around the place. Trying to lose weight, I reckon. As for me, I love them just the way they are, I prefer round women to those skinny weaklings. Look at me, telling you what kind of women I like! My own wife dumped for another man (been quite some time now) a few years ago, she found me too ugly to be living with. I never found a woman after that, never wanted to. I am happy looking at a pretty thing once in a while, thank you.
I have managed to fill my dirty bag. All I need to do is turn in my stuff to that bald idiot in the ‘raddi’ store, see how much I get, grab a tea and dinner at Rehmat snacks, and then, maybe, gaze at the stars. Somehow feel like doing that today, watch those little lights and go to sleep.
“You think this would fetch you anything?”
His angry voice jolts me out of my reverie about those dumb stars. I look at him helplessly. There is not much I can do, is there? I just pick up stuff.
“Just take whatever you want and let me out of here”, I snap back. He flings a thin book at me and thrusts a few soiled notes into my hand.
“Go”, he adds nonchalantly.
I am pretty used to this treatment. My ego died a natural death ever since I started this job. I take the money and the book. Hell, what am I supposed to do with a book? I dropped out of school, rather was kicked out of school halfway through my sixth class. I can manage to read a bit, which is clearly enough. I did not want to touch a book ever since. But I have a book with me now. I should just dump it in the next dustbin I see.
I am walking, the book still in my hand. Perhaps I sound silly, and I am mortified to admit it, the binding feels good to touch- a little soft, a little rough, slightly coming apart.. I guess I am going mad with age. I need to trash the book soon.
I wake up to the jarring noise of an ambulance at the end of the street. I realise I have been sleeping on the pavement for the past one hour and oh! Just look at those stars above, cute boys, shining and all that! I feel something poking my tummy. It is the dirty book, still tucked between my torn pants and stomach. I pull it out gingerly, why hadn’t I managed to trash it?
Maybe it is boredom, but I feel like opening the book and reading what it has. I rub my eyes and sitting under the stars, I strain to read the letters, one by one.
What is this? I find the word ‘star’ amongst all the other words that there are. I could recognize that word anywhere! Oh, I could, you bet I could!
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night..
Do you see stars in streams too? During the day? I see stars during the day too, not in the streams, but in my head! What could that possibly mean? Am I crazy or is this just a nutty book?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
I read the lines again and again, does not make any sense to me. How could it, I should have listened to my mother and gone to school. I put the book aside and gaze at the stars instead. Some weird book, wonder why they write such stuff.
Tomorrow I am going to look for these stupid stars in the stream.
Maybe I’ll find them.