“Sale! Each ten rupees! “, Bhola shouted hoarse. Crowds milled. Today is the final day of the Immaculate Mary Chariot Festival. Hundreds passed by. Many peeked at his wares. None bought.
Bhola stole a painful glance at his till. Sixty rupees. Forty more needed. The Hindu Vidyalaya Principal was strict about the last date for school fees payment. ‘Will my son lose it all?’ Bhola’s heart bled.
He did not notice Akhtar first. He was brought to his senses only when Akhtar thrust a fifty bill at his face and said “Char dena bhai”.
The fever singed his whole body. Delirium enveloped him. Patterns alternated inside his head. White. Black. White. Black. Floating above the silky white clouds. Through the black void of space. Powdery white peaks. Bottomless black hole.
“Go to Rahim bhai and get his potion. Only he can save you,” his co-beggar warned. He hauled himself up the steps of the mosque. Did he see the patterns again? White. Black. White. Black.
He spotted the silhouette of Rahim bhai yonder. A wave of relief engulfed him before he passed out, content that he would live to see dawn again.
Same spot. Same time. Same rag-tag khaki trousers and white shirt. Dripping nose. Intent face.
Gazing straight ahead at the ocean, he could see a few catamarans riding the waves and struggling to cross over to the placid deep. No returning boat. Two hours passed. He turned back and started walking away.
He knew that his father would return some day. Till then, the brandy bottle he emptied and threw away before he sailed off would remain on the same spot. No wave would touch it, nor would any beach urchin.
That day would come. He would wait..