RedPaper.in – Short Story
By: Mercy Sangma | RedPaper.in
“It’s been two days I haven’t eaten anything”. Ganesh told Mannu. Mannu did not reply. He put his right hand in the right pocket of his trouser and checked if he still had the money he earned by working two days continuously at the nearby construction site. “Did you also not have food tonight?” Ganesh asked. Mannu was silent. “Did you at least work today? I searched for a job whole day. I couldn’t find anything.”
Suddenly a car came and stopped near the footpath where Ganesh and Mannu were sleeping along with a few other people who worked on daily wages and shared the footpath as their sleeping place. People on the footpath were fungible. Every now and then there are new faces who come from faraway villages looking for work and leave after a few days in search of better work elsewhere.
Vijay and Mohan stood up as the refulgent headlight of the car blinded them. “They don’t even let hungry people sleep.” Mannu mumbled disconcertedly. He was shivering as the weather had turned cold after the evening downpour. He neither had a blanket nor a pair of shoes. All he had was a white vest and navy blue pants. His vest color had turned charcoal grey and his pants were too short for him. It was hard for him to fight this cat-and-dog weather with an empty stomach. He checked his pocket again. Ganesh noticed it and asked, “Do you have some money in that pocket?”
Mannu didn’t reply for some time. “I can give you money but I’d need the shirt you are wearing.” Mannu asked for the shirt Ganesh was wearing in lieu of money he had. Ganesh didn’t think for a second and gave his shirt to Mannu. Ganesh was elated as he got the better end of the deal, according to him. He went to a nearby roadside Dhaba and had food. When he returned, Mannu had already fallen asleep.
“I’m starving.” Ganesh told Mannu the next night. Mannu turned his head to other side. “Did you work today?” Ganesh asked again. Mannu was still silent. Ganesh told Mannu what he ate last night and thinking about last night’sdinner was making him hungrier. Mannu knew that Ganesh did not work that day again. “I will give you all my money if you give me your shoes.” Mannu said. Ganesh agreed instantly as he was not able to control his hunger.
Next night, Mannu didn’t come to sleep at that footpath. Ganesh worked that day in the same skyscraper where Mannu was working earlier. When Ganesh enquired about Mannu, he discovered that Mannu had got the job of a waiter in a restaurant. He could eat anything there. He could also sleep there. Mannu didn’t eat for days as he was planning for a life where he didn’t have to sleep outside and that too without food. He knew what he needed to get a job in a restaurant. He had to sleep without food for 2 more days but he made sure that he gets all the things he needed to get a job in that restaurant – Shirt, Trouser and Shoes.
Ganesh was trying to sleep that night but the lesson he learnt that night kept him awake. He had the money that night but he still didn’t go to eat. He was just thinking about Mannu when the person sleeping next to him said, “It’s been 2 days, I have not eaten anything.” Ganesh looked at him and replied instantly, “If you can give me your shirt, I’ll give you all the money I have”.