The Business Of Living
Shyam was reluctant to leave his mother and go to work today. Her body felt hot to him. She was vomiting blood. She was too weak to beg with him today.
"You will have to go alone today and bring enough for me to buy some fever powder from the tent at the other side of the road," said Kusum.
"How much will it cost?" Shyam.
"10 rupees, but I'm sure I can bargain it to 8 rupees," said Kusum.
"I'm scared to leave you," Shyam.
"I'll be fine. Just remember, don't come near me if you hear a siren coming along this way. You'll be much safer on the streets," said Kusum.
It took Shyam over two hours to collect 8 rupees today as his mind was not on his work.
Shyam ran as fast as he could to their meagre shelter on the pavement under a gulmohar tree.
He found her sprawled on the pavement, her yellow sari with a bright red border, bunched up to her knees. A faded old bundle of blue was pillowed under her head. Her hands spread out away from her body. Eyes closed. Tobacco stained teeth peeked through her open mouth. Flies flitted busily between her teeth. Shyam stared in horror and fascination.
An ambulance screaming its song could be heard in the distance. Shyam sobbed and ran. He had no choice. He knew his mother was right. It would be hard, but it would be safer to live on the streets.