Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dead Branches

He was sitting on a pile of bricks in a corner, while the others were busy making arrangements for the night. Today, this was their home. A thin wall divided their world from the noisy railway station behind. The make-shift tent with two staffs and a large black plastic sheet was now put up. The woman dragged a small portable stove and some utensils under the tent and began to prepare dinner. A man joined her under the tent and began stitching a tear in his pant.

Trains kept passing by, ruffling the plastic sheet. It created a huge racket but nobody seemed to notice it. He sat on the pile of bricks because every time a local train passed, it made the wind rush over him. It made his long brown curls fly back. It thrilled him. There was a pile of dead branches that lay ahead. He noticed that if he could get on top of those branches he would almost be able to touch the trains that pass by. He jumped off his seat and walked towards the branches. The tar road under his bare feet was hot in the afternoon sun. Nobody saw him walk up to the branches. He made sure he did not catch their attention.

He gripped the nearest branch and shook it. Satisfied with its strength, he reached out for another branch a little further up. He looked towards the man and the woman. They were not looking. He gingerly placed a foot on a thick twig. It bent a little under the weight of his leg but he didn’t notice. He picked up the other leg and was about to place it on one of the branches, when suddenly the twig gave way and his leg got caught among the branches. In a state of panic he let both his hands go and fell backwards on the ground. He felt the twig cut open his skin and he saw the blood oozing out. Before the sense of pain could set in, he felt a cold chill run up his spine. He couldn’t open his eyes because of the sun blazing above him and the searing pain from his leg made it difficult to breathe. Both his legs were up in the air. One stuck between the branches and the other dangling over another branch.

It wasn’t until the woman came to examine the scene that he realized that he was screaming his lungs out. He had never felt such pain in all of his five years of life. He held his hands up hoping his mother would taking him into her arms and make the pain go away. Instead she pulled him up by one hand and disentangled his leg from the twigs with the other. Once he was on his feet, she slapped him hard across his face and yelled at him for making mischief. She then left him to tend to his wound and went back under the plastic sheet.

The child learnt an important lesson that day: Never cry for help if you get in to trouble.