Rising South Asia requires many updates to keep up with the changing economy. Millions get in line to avail opportunities in the economic market and establish their place in a country which has promised prosperity and dedicated itself to boasting about profits. However, there is that community that still likes to keep life simple. Their product is their children, their investment is their limbs.
Abdul’s eyes glow as he watches the blonde Punjabi woman take out that 100 rupee note.
Even though Abdul has made several like those during his day, perhaps, even more. But the look and feel
of that piece of cash, earned from ridicule and not from hard work, was all that he lived for.
He dresses himself in filthy clothes. He might or might not have a family. He might be a sex worker
or a part time drug dealer. He might be a kid who spends evenings on the streets to make
money for his education. All this becomes irrelevant when you see that arm cut off and those eyes
saddened by deprivation.
The mafia lurks around close by, watching with caution. They too, live only for that piece of cash
which the child has now managed to retrieve. Sometimes, Abdul may seem happy with his job. His mouth drools as he’s thinking of all the nice bubble gum and milk that can be purchased with those notes he hides in a secret pocket in his shalwar. While to that mafia, it may be just a drop in the ocean but being men with experience in their field, they know that each drop counts. So they keep their distance, but still keep an eye.
And then there are those affectionate mothers with their sleeping tiny toddlers. How much love
and respect does a woman deserve who won’t let the baby off her chest for one tiny second, carries him around in 48 degrees, dangling him in front of car windows. Certainly, they will take out money, it’s a baby for God’s sake. “Don’t you all have children?” he says to his friends as he hands out that 20 rupee note. She thanks him for his gesture and cries that now she “might” be able to feed her baby by the end of the day. She secretly puts the money in a stash sewed inside her clothes, which has more money than it should. None of that is going in the baby’s bottle which has been empty for more than half a day despite her earnings. The man was not her first customer. And why
would we call him a customer? Well, she ignited the human inside of him with her poor baby, the empty bottle and herself being a destitute mother, and he hands out that piece of money to satisfy his conscience by having accomplished at least one good deed. After a day of telling lies to his customers about the quality of his products, he owes the world that much.
She comes home, throws that child on the bed and prepares his beverage. According to her, he
has had enough milk for a baby his size, and with the mafia’s commission and the room for which she’s
saving her capital, she has no time or energy for the baby’s tantrums. “Hopefully this one won’t die
soon.” she says. As she allows him a sip of alcohol to help him sleep.
All is well in the land of mafia. They had amputated the children long ago and cut off some of their tongues who had attempted to run away. But they do have some freelancers as well . For instance, the trainee who can devise suitable masks for people to look burnt and bruised and teach them to act deformed. He walks by throwing his shoulders back and forming a claw with its hand in an awkward manner and acts mentally ill. At the peak of his career, he fulfills his long un-attained dream of becoming an actor.
And then there is this man who had always absorbed himself in mystery. He knows very well the difference between reality and hyper reality but refuses to conform. He uses his convictions as his talent. People put coins in his bucket for prayers. Children come from different muhallas to get a glimpse of him. He too, was maimed as a child but that did not stop him for pursuing his dreams of becoming a super star. He spends his days convincing himself that life is temporary and great men like him have a booked trip to heaven. Meanwhile, he drinks cheap booze and watches blue films in ice cream shops to pass the time. He considers himself a saint in a world of thieves and murderers, where the worst he does is beg for basic necessities, like chars and desi bottle.
The woman’s baby gave up and died on his bed. She doesn’t remember where she had taken him from, but could tell that he was a city child, as he couldn’t match the hot hours in the sun she was used to working in, considering her rural background.
All is still reasonably well in the world of Mafia and her next task is to find a baby within a few
days to protect the business from suffering and prevent the mafia from cutting off her limb. In the world that she chose for, herself a limb can cost a thousand unnamed children, sometimes thrown away out of disgust and sometimes snatched from their mother’s arms.
Written by: Ghanwa Mirza