Mushtaque B Barq

‘You are a traveller’

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Beloved halts communicate beautifully


Traffic at once stopped at Athwajan. The road emerged as a junk yard.  Life seemed blocked on the road, exhibiting interest and luxury on one hand and a need coupled with limitation at the other. Between two high end models, a car run of the mill fit to be dumped exposed the limitations of owner.

A tanker at T- point had jammed the flow of traffic. It seemed that someone had stopped the arms of clock, resulting the rubber and rubble to chat on mute mode. A complaint topped with abuses from every side. Everyone was in hurry, eager to move, curious to be on the front to proclaim heroism.

God knows how I trapped a boy at the far end of the jammed road. He was beating a stone. He didn’t stop like us. His hammer remained unaltered by traffic jam. His flow was extreme. His hammer was singing a pathetic song of his plight. I got out of my car and watched his extreme labor which he was applied to soften the rough surface of the stone.

Grievances, obscurity and dejection had carved his face out of a rough hill stone. Expressionless, he continued hammering the stone detained tightly under his feeble legs, bigger than his own size and weight. His grim face was oozing bitter looks as evident from his merciless strokes.

The music of the iron wedge on stone was something that peeped through my crippled ribcage. The scene encouraged my moist eyes to allow the salt to flow easily. He was in trouble. His softness, his tenderness and innocence was indubitably being tortured by limitations. His neck never exceed beyond chest. His head only drooped and his hands were frequently examining the surface of the stone. His serious look was enough to display his eagerness to earn. God knows what for he was earning. He should have been in the class taking down notes from his teacher. His books seemed long back snatched. His wish list like the stones lying around was frozen and dead. His pen was replaced by iron wedges and hammer, beating the harsh stones to earn.

Meanwhile, the turtle tanker attracted a flock. I couldn’t peep through the thick human wall. I was praying hard to prolong the jam. The sound of iron on stone kept hitting my drums. It was a blow to my being a spectator.  Before me a living soul was being deprived of basic amenities. And I was there to witness the drama of child labour. A little frame with strong will was on to challenge the theories and concepts of freedom. He was a living example of human hypocrisy.

His little but energetic strokes and my painful beats were synchronized by my unusual response. Nothing thrilling, a dull presentation ruled my entire kingdom. My head drooped in shame. He through his strokes was lifting up much condensed moans, but the hiss of his wishes was being crushed like a rough edge on the stone by his iron wedge. The strokes were brisk like his protest without audience accepts his own brittle bones and my watchful eyes. His strength seemed endless like his forlorn suffering.

There was indeed something magnetic in the boy that paralyzed me. I kept gazing at him. Mustering my courage, I moved a bit. He did not notice. I made one more attempt and almost touched the stone under his control.

“What is your name” I asked.

He didn’t respond. His hammer continued to beat the rough edges. He was trying hard to soften the roughness on the stone.

He tried to raise his head, but the burden dropped it.

“Hanief”, he replied.

His head lowered a bit and his shoulders were noticeable under the tattered shirt he had put on. He paused.

“Hanief Ahmad” he repeated.

“Why have you chosen this job”, I asked.

This time he raised his head, his eyes like red hot coal scrutinized my face. I felt as if entire hill in the backdrop is ready to crush me. His face softened a little. I passed a smile. He responded gently. After a while he dropped his hammer and the wedge. Examined his hands.  Bruises, cuts and stiffness all over.

“Where is your father, do you have any brother, where do you live”, I showered so many questions at him and that too at will. I realise my questions were bigger than his size.

He raised his hands. “These are my brothers, they earn for me”, he sighed. “And I am not an orphan, but a victim of hatred”

He raised the iron wedge, hammers and instantly dropped them and again lifted his hands to address them as his brothers.

He spoke in riddles.

I insisted to elaborate.

He took his hammer and iron wedge, examined its edges. He continued to beat the roughness, his strokes all of a sudden gained pace. He didn’t stop. But occasionally responded my presence by gentle smile. I kept gazing at him. He noticed my curiosity.

“You are a traveller, I have seen many, and they stop and go, no one stops for me” he informed.

“But I stopped for you”, I answered

He only laughed. “Sahab traffic is cleared, make way for others”, he informed.

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