It was chilling dark, a crescent in the sky shone along with a few stars. I was hungry, rather famished without food for a week now. The only piece of fabric on my body, designated to provide warmth, was a sweater which hung loose from my shoulders now. The sweater was in its last days, perhaps after a pretty extensive tenure of servitude; threads torn, buttons missing and portions of it just gone! Yet I could not let go of it, because there was nothing underneath which could have helped me survive the bitterness of Nature. I kept wandering about the streets, just in case I find a loaf or half of bread somewhere so that I can relieve my stomach a little from making all the growling noises. I kept walking; the lights turned down. Everybody had gone to sleep. I passed by a group of three boys, all drunk with bottles in their hands. I wondered if I should ask them for some; but then dropped the idea because they too seemed homeless like me, jobless like me, helpless like me. But there was somewhere a difference between them and me for which I could not approve them to be totally like me; they were having fun, laughing aloud like lunatics, hitting each other for no reason, singing funny songs and taking a gulp of alcohol from their bottles after every sentence of their songs, and I was here, alone, loitering like a ghoul, dull and sore. I wondered if somebody could accompany me. The agony of solitude had begun stinging upon me sharper than my hunger. But I did not cry; a dehydrated girl cannot afford to waste further water from her body in useless tears.
I had to survive. “Should I go to the landfill? No, the last time I had eaten there, I had to go through persistent vomiting sessions. The cops had beaten me very hard for dirtying the park (although I had puked outside the park in the hedges only). Should I go steal? No, that’s immoral. I cannot be a thief. I would rather die hungry and thirsty. Should I go to the river side? I might get some dead fishes there. There’s no guarantee of getting food there; but there is no harm in giving a try too. Probably I should make an attempt and go and see.”
I proceeded towards the bridge. The sky was deep blue now, a signal that indicated that the dawn was near to crack. I walked faster; I could not catch fishes in the daytime because the cops might see me and then again take up their sticks upon me, accusing me of theft. Suddenly I heard somebody call, “Hey you! There!” I froze at an instant, the Cops! Did my thoughts tell them that I was here! I turned back slowly, getting prepared for “blows for no guilt at all”. And Phew! It wasn’t a cop! It was again somebody like me, clad in rags, messy hair and barefoot; but slightly better off than me as per the health was concerned. I remained silent and just stared at him. “Come here”, he said. I dared not; who knew, he could be the cops’ spy! He took a piece of fish in his hand and brought it out as an offer, “Take it. Have it.” I kept staring. A voice somewhere inside threatened me. “Should I go? What if he IS a spy? Is he trying a trick to trap me? No, I think he is kind. Or maybe he offered to share his food to get some company (quite like me). Selfish, yet a noble offer! What a world we live in!”
I went towards him and sat beside. My hunger had overpowered my threatened fear. I did not touch the fish at first because it could have given the impression that I was greedy and rude, although the sight of the fish made my tummy grumble. He tore a piece of the fish and stuffed it in my mouth; probably he heard the rumbling noise of my stomach. And I couldn’t say “NO”, I was too hungry for that, and I couldn’t say “YES” as well.
After we finished the fish, I thanked him. It was a huge fish which the fisherman had dropped inadvertently. And my host had picked it up and saved it for the night. It was really a giant fish. Bad day for the fisherman; he could have earned pretty well with this huge fish; and a good luck for me and my stranger-man! I was relieved of my hunger; my tummy was not empty at least. I bent forward and cupped my hands in the river for water. Ah! Finally I quenched my thirst! I talked to the man. He was a nice man, good at heart, good at making survival, better than me. The sky was bluer now. We were chatting, without any bound of time. Our stomachs were satisfied. Finally I got a company too. What else did we need? He was quite funny. He cracked jokes which made me laugh so loud that he had to hush me, lest the cops might have come. We were sleepy now. I did not want to stop talking. When a person gets an inch he tries to take a mile. I too was a human, and I wanted to make the most of my friendship with the man. But he was too sleepy. I lay down beside him, smiling to myself for the beautiful moments I had experienced. I turned around to look at him; he had already slept. “But what was his name? I don’t know the name of my savior! Within such a long duration of chatting I didn’t even ask his name! How could I be so mean! I will definitely ask him tomorrow morn.” And I turned against him. “He is adorable”, I said to myself.
I woke up as I felt the warm sunrays heating up my cheek. It was morning already and I could see people walking over the bridge, dressed in nice suits and ties, with nice bags in their hands. I turned around, to have a proper look at the man who had saved my life by offering his fish to me the previous night. But he wasn’t there! “Where could he go?” I recalled our conversation – everyday routines, free food, jokes, survival tactics; he had never mentioned the place he lived in. I went to the New Market Street near the vegetable vendor’s stall, where from he often got over-ripe fruits and vegetables that the other people declined. He wasn’t there too! I ran to the slaughter house, to the goldsmith, everywhere, but he was nowhere to be found. Nobody listens to people like us. I doubt if they even notice our faces; plus I didn’t even know his name. So enquiring the other people was out of the question. “Have I lost him? Will I never meet him? Will he not be my companion tonight?” Those beautiful, priceless moments began to haunt me. Thoughts began suffocating me. But then I had to let go of it, because there’s no place for emotions and feelings in this Battle of Survival.