“All maintain a line! Everyone should be visible.”, shouted the pot-bellied, khakhi knickered policeman.
Another policeman came forward and read out:
“As per the new City Clean up policy, all homeless people have to be rounded off. Those willing and capable of doing some specialised work will be allowed to stay in the City. They will be given quarters to stay and food. Rest will be conducted out of the City premises and would not be allowed to return back.”
“Do you have a speciality?”, asked Mandhir’s neighbour in the line to him.
“I don’t need one”, replied the confident Mandhir.
Mandhir was confident because the prediction by the village Pandit had been true until now. He had predicted that Mandhir does not need to worry about his future. Things will always fall in place and he will never go hungry. Hearing the prediction and troubled by the possibility of working in the fields, as directed by his strict father; Mandhir decided to leave his village. He left abandoning his parents, his wife and his new born daughter.
Life had not been difficult since then, as predicted by Panditji. He walked away from the viilage in the direction of the rising sun. He walked and ate what he found on the way, he slept and then he walked more. When he arrived at the City his luck had brought him in contact with a homeless who taught him how to catch rats for food effortlessly. The homeless man had also wanted to teach Mandhir how to read and write so that Mandhir could read the secret messages that other homeless people left in different City lanes. Messages like “Friendly dog” or “Don’t piss on the pavement it will flow back”. But Mandhir need not learn how to read he concluded. He was the blessed one.
Mandhir lost the count of of years he had spent in the City as a homeless. Nothing bothered him much except for the lice. For which he would just lie down in the sun and he will be free of them. He smelled urine and faeces, but that only helped keep the dogs away.
Now as he stood in the line, he was informed by his neighbour that the lady behind the policemen was in charge of the cleanup operation. She stood in front of her car where there was another woman, of his age. He thought he had seen her earlier. He recalled- she was the woman he had abandoned. And the woman in-charge, who resembled his wife’s younger self, was his daughter.
He realised his luck had favoured him again. He was always the smooth talker and will be able to convince his old wife that he had run into bad luck and hence could not return. He had not abandoned her but got caught in the tides of misfortune. He had made up the plan in his mind and moved hurriedly in the direction of the car, smiling his rotten teeth.
Mandhir woke up in a hospital bed. He tried to recall what had happened, he realised his folly. In his excitement, he had acted in haste and was struck on the head by the policeman maintaining order. But no damage was done. He explained it to the nurse. He tried to speak out his sad tale, but no voice came from his mouth.
The nurse told him that the blow on his head had taken away his speech and damaged his brain and tied him with chains. The nurse informed him that he had done a serious crime and tried to harm the lady officer. He would have to hence do hard labour for a very long time as penance for his crime. The nurse left Mandhir with a grumpy policeman.