Wednesday, August 15, 2007
dreams of freedom
The flag hung limply in the still afternoon heat. The rose petals that had fluttered to the ground as the tricolour unfurled now lay crushed and brown. He scanned the quadrangle, filled just a few hours earlier with singing and saluting children, the grand sounds of a band and shouts of 'Vande Mataram'. He jostled the sticks of his broom in to place before bending over and running them across the ground in sweeping strokes. The country was 60 years old they were saying. He wondered how old he was - a year or two over 60? He worked his way across the ground in straight lines, pausing every now and then to catch his breath and massage his aching knees. How much longer would he have to work like this? There was a daughter to get married and a son who wanted to go and work in Dubai . The latter alone needed a down payment of Rs.50,000. He had about Rs.15,000 in the bank and there was the peon in the headmaster's office who got him this job. That was another Rs.10,000 to think about. Sitting on his haunches, he allowed himself to think of the future. No debts, children married and supporting their parents, perhaps he could even go back to his village and buy a sari for their family deity. It was a long standing dream of his. His eyes swept the ground and came to rest on a small yellow object a few feet away. Crawling forward he picked it up. It was one of the sweets they had given the children. He brushed the dust off it it and opened the jewel like wrapper, staring at the treasure that lay inside. He looked around him, but the ground was empty. Smiling, he put the chocolate in his mouth and savoured the burst of intense sweetness. Picking up his broom, he continued sweeping the ground in precise straight lines, wondering when he would reach the end.