Pushpa was the resident raconteur of Surajkund colony in the ‘(un)holy’ city they call Gorakhpur,
the city that also played host to another storyteller they called ‘Munshi’ the spinner of such yarn as ‘Godan’ and ‘Mazdoor’,
She used to gather all the little ones near the ‘Bargad ka paid’ under the crimson sky,
Her tales used to span ‘Parees’, ‘Djinns’, midgets and monsters and as far as her imagination could fly;
One day the bubbly little angel came home to mother dear pale and complaining of nausea and breathlessness,
Her precious little body was soon febrile and rocked by seizures to be caressed and cradled by only a mother’s helplessness;
The weary father returned with his rickshaw after nightfall to find the frail little body of his sweetest little flower shriveled up and unresponsive,
His wife waiting for him and doing the best she could fanning the flies away, sponging the body frantically praying her little angel would live;
The spent slender drooping frame of the ‘Rickshawalla’ got back on his seat to pull the the limp body sprawled out on the mothers lap on the back seat,
He pedaled like a madman, his nostrils exhaling blistering steam, every muscle in the body on fire but his resolve in that moment would not be beat;
They carried her in beseeching everyone they saw in the hallway to help their little princess who was slipping away,
She needed oxygen to keep her heart pumping and keep the Grim Reaper at bay;
Instead, they were told there were no oxygen cylinders and were given an ‘ambu-bag’ with the onus on them to keep her alive,
the powerless couple took turns and kept pumping ‘hope’ for 4 hours straight to resuscitate her with every ounce of energy they could derive;
As day broke they couldn’t physically do it any longer but the smell of death was already hanging thick in the air in that corridor and yonder,
There she lay on the floor lifeless, mute as a stone and her soul ready to be ‘returned to the sender’;
They sat there speechless staring at the grand procession of death make its way through the hospital,
their dearest ‘Bacchi’ got up and joined the 59 others who were ready to return to Valhalla – God’s capital;
Their last chore was to now take her mortal remains to the ghat so it may be consumed by fire,
They were used to losing and now had lost their greatest battle and yet nobody was the object of their ire;
The next morning the ‘Rickshawalla’ will awaken at the break of dawn and pull his rickshaw out for yet another back breaking day,
there is no time to dwell and mourn as he still has two mouths to feed and the realities of his life haven’t changed in any material way;
I do not know how a poor Rickshawalla must mourn the loss of his only child; Does he hide the ‘stream of tears’ in the ‘rivulets of sweat’ that run down his brows?,
He had oft day-dreamt about his little girls’ future while he pulled his ride under the cruel sun as ‘any doting father would do’ but greed and apathy the evil henchmen waylaid him to turn it into a nightmare as heartlessly as their master man only knows.
I think I heard greed talking to apathy and rubbing its hands in glee, He asked, “When will the next ‘bacchi’ arrive as I can’t wait to take her soul on a celestial soiree?!”.
The petite hands that used to wreak havoc around the house will never ever break another earthen pot,
The indefatigable legs that used to measure every square inch of that tiny hutment will never ever set foot again,
That laughter that reverberated from daybreak to nightfall across the 4 walls will never ever he heard again,
The enchantress of Gorakhpur will not regale the colony with her magical stories ever again.
P.S. The politicians will trade barbs and a few heads will roll, the media will hyperventilate until the next story bell tolls, but greed and apathy will continue to take their unending and insufferable toll.