“Not this the other one… you lazy bum… when would you ever learn! I wish my sister never married. Got married, fine. Why did she have to have a kid?! Had a kid, fine. But why a lazy kid?! And why suddenly want to go for a boat ride?! Boat ride, fine. But why let her duffer of a husband till the boat?! Dragged straight into the vortex and smashed on the rocks. What am I do with an orphan now? Am almost one myself, just getting by. How am I to be a mother to him when I have never known one for 20 years now. Poor bugger, doesn’t even realize his predicament. Childhood’s bliss. But for how long. What am…”
“Maama…. see I spannered all the nuts!”
Ajju could only smile a faint watery smile. Ga, as the kid called himself, had found all the nuts lying around the small cycle repair shop and tightened them around the bolts he could find. The kid was
dexterous but had no idea what to do with it. Ajju, was trying to teach him his of craft- repairing bicycles. But he was desperate. Ga was his only remaining family and in spite of all the cussing and ranting he loved him beyond the beyond.
Ga loved the spanners; the smallest in particular as it fit his tiny 4 year old hands. It was almost impossible to get it away from him when Ajju wanted to tighten the brakes of an old Atlas. He would throw the most vicious of tantrums, which would threaten to break Ajju’s short lasting calm. He would have to muster all his composure to not to hit out at Ga. The kid even slept with the spanner.
One day, business was especially good and the tiny workshop was almost bursting at the seams. Ajju was trying hard to set a failed brake of an old rickety Atlas which belonged to a student in a hurry for his exams. But Ga just wouldn’t let go of the spanner. First endearments, then cajoling, then bribing and finally an explosive snap. But Ga didn’t budge. He ran all over the workshop; ran out of it and into their shack behind. He then ran out of that too. With the student getting panicky and threatening, Ajju lost his final straw and slapped Ga across his face. The kid just sat down where he was standing. His fist opened itself and the spanner fell out.
It was time to close shop and Ajju had a good pocketful. Now that he was finally free for the day it suddenly bore heavily on him that he had hit Ga. He suddenly shuddered and ran into the shack. Ga was sitting in a corner, staring blankly out of the starry hole in the shack corner. Ajju was overcome with guilt. He ran back to the shop and got the spanner. He went and sat next to Ga and started cleaning the tool with his shirt corner. He buffed it to a shine and gently placed it in the kid’s palm and closed it into a fist. He lovingly combed his fingers through his curly hair. Ga, still sat as if in a shock. Ajju’s guts wrenched within him and he couldn’t help cursing himself. In his growing despair, Ajju ran back to the workshop and got the ‘spannered’ nut-bolts and hopefully put them in Ga’s other hand, but to no avail.
By now, Ajju could no longer hold back his tears. He was fighting to keep his sobs in check. He scooped up the kid and held him tight against himself. The sobs finally won and Ajju’s body heaved under their impact. He kept saying how sorry he was and that he would never hit Ga again. Holding the little boy in his arms Ajju swayed back and forth; exhaustion creeping over his sobbing frame. Just as Ajju’s emotions were ebbing, he felt two small, skinny arms slowly wrap themselves around his neck. A head full of curly hair rested on his shoulders. Ga’s breathing was now even and relaxed. Ajju’s relief slowly washed over him in waves of warm love. Suddenly, Ga pulled up his head and looked long into Ajju’s teary eyes. He brought his fists, still gripping the spanner to his face and wiped the tears with its back. Looking into Ajju’s eyes with a child’s innocence he said,
“Maama…. see I spannered all the nuts!”
Sambit Kumar Pradhan, Assistant Professor, School of Communication Design, Unitedworld Institute of Design (UID)
Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.