Manacled Childhood

Under the scorching  heat of daylight, he stands dutifully, yet again. It’s a routine to which his childhood is bound mercilessly. In an age, when the only thing on the mind of children at the end of a tiring day is a cool icecream, or a cartoon program to cheer up after a tight scolding, or a game with the neighbourhood chums, to laugh and enjoy the life. But here stands a kid, oblivious to all fantasies of childhood, or rather, trying to be oblivious, searching for a car to be cleaned. There are loads of shimmering cars that need cleaning, but their owners mistake him for a beggar. He is not. In one hand, he clutches a bucket full of muddy water; he can’t afford clean water to even drink, let alone for cleaning cars. The other fingers are wrapped around a towel, which hangs carelessly on his shoulders, it was off-white & now has turn to the same color as his hair. His eyes are blue, full of melancholia, his skin tone rose-white, his cheeks blushed permanently as pink. His hair are mousy brown, with twigs and sand clearly visible, here and there. His lips are red, which is a surprise, as he seems hungry and thirsty to the core. His fingernails and toenails are outlined brown, it seems he hasn’t showered since days. He is watching the cars go by intently, specially a van full of children screaming, shouting & laughing joyously. He smiles himself, by seeing them happy. He imagines himself along with them, rushing home after school, with his buddies, hanging out from the window, feeling as if they’re all flying. As he scratches his hair, messing them up even more, he watches a lady shouting at another boy, of almost his age, who was trying to sell her flowers. A sudden thought crosses his mind as he makes his way to her gleaming car; maybe she wants someone to clean her car. As he reaches her window and is about to knock it, a lot of things happen at once. A loud horn by his side plunge him out of his reverie, he moves his head to glance at it and suddenly the car driven by the lady rushes past him, narrowly missing his small feet. He realizes he is stopping the traffic and bustles off to the other side. No one wants their cars cleaned. No one wants the flowers. No one is there to help the old beggar. So what is going to happen to us, he thinks, as he passes by a shop selling candies. Only one thought keeps running through his mind as he watches the traffic zooming by: He is bound to this bucket and cloth for an eternity. He is shackled to this job till the end of this life. His childhood is manacled for now and he is a prisoner forever.

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