The school bell started ringing and the entire class stood up for the teacher to leave. As soon as the teacher left the class, the students whipped out their Tiffin and raced out of the class. One confused 8-year-old looked at all this hullabaloo in amazement and then reached for his Tiffin from his bag. He walked out of the class looking for the boys who were sitting with him on his first day in his new school, but he couldn’t find anyone. He walked to the playground hoping to see a familiar face but only saw a cloud of red sand rising from the ground and students running through the cloud in their white shirts and blue shorts. He sat down outside the ground on the bench and opened the Tiffin while his eyes kept looking for any classmate of his. He started eating his lunch when he smelt a weird smell; he turned around and saw an old man with a beedi in between his fingers. “You should not be doing that”, said the boy, “it causes cancher” he continued. “Haha its not cancher, its cancer”, said the old man with a smile on his face. The smile seemed to double his wrinkles and his tobacco stained teeth gave his face a comical finish, “and yes you are right, but what do I do, this is all I can afford to buy with the wages that I get”, he continued. “Why can’t you buy something to eat? This is lunch break”, said the boy. “Because this beedi is cheaper than a vada”, replied the old man. The boy looked at him for some time and then asked, “Do you want a parantha?” The old man stood up from the ground and came out in the sunlight to get a better look at the boy whom he was talking to and asked, “What is your name boy?” “My name is Deepak Kumar, I study in class 3B”, said Deepak. “Thanks for the offer Deepak but I am not hungry, now I have to sweep here, so you have to move to your class”, said the old man. “But I have to finish one more parantha”, replied Deepak. “Eat it on your way to the class“, said the old man sternly. Deepak closed his Tiffin and walked to the class with his head hanging and muttered, “I hate this school”.
The next day, Deepak went and sat on the same bench during the lunch break and saw the same old man sitting in the shade smoking a beedi. “I have got two paranthas, want one?” asked Deepak. “Your mother made it for you, why should I have it?” asked the old man. “Mom always makes extra because she wants me to become fat, so I want you to have this parantha”, said Deepak pointing at his Tiffin. “What have you put inside the parantha? Why is it red?” asked the old man. “It’s jam, okay”, said Deepak. “Haha no wonder you wanted to share it so badly” said the old man picking up a parantha from the Tiffin. “So now that we are friends, can I know your name?” asked Deepak. “We are not friends, I am a sweeper and you are a student in this school and I am Hari, people call me Bade Miyaan” said Hari. “Why?” asked Deepak. “Maybe because I am tall, you didn’t notice that, did you?” asked Hari. “My papa is taller”, replied Deepak. “Why don’t you sit with your friends and eat, Deepak?” asked Hari. “I don’t have any friends till now because I am new here, plus nobody wants a share of my paranthas, so here I am in the shade with you”, replied Deepak. “Where does your papa work?” asked Hari. The school bell rings and all the children in the ground start running back to their classes, Deepak closes his Tiffin and says, “In the bank” and runs back to his class.
Deepak was sitting in the class and looking outside through the window. He wasn’t looking at anything in particular but was thinking about getting more paranthas so that he could give more to Hari who was frail and smoked beedi all day. Just then a drop of water hit the railings of the window and splashed on his eye and he could smell the water on the ground outside. He raised his head and looked out of the window and saw a slight drizzle and the dark clouds hovering over the sky. Immediately, a chalk piece hit his head and he turned his head to look at the teacher stare at him. “The class is inside not outside”, said the teacher in an irritating tone and continued teaching. When the class got over after 5 minutes the drizzle had turned into a shower and by the time the school got over the shower had become a downpour and the roads were flooded. Deepak didn’t know what to do as he had to walk to the bus stop and the roads were flooded knee high, so he asked his bench-mate the best way to get to the bus stop. “Why don’t you come with me in the van, half of the boys go in the van, and we will drop you near your house and you can walk it up from there”, said his friend. The idea of saving 5 rupees brought a smile on Deepak’s face. He took this as the perfect moment to bond with his classmates. So Deepak got into a van with 10 other boys from his class and fought for the meager supply of oxygen in the van as all the windows were closed and the heater was on due to the rain.
Initially, the hot topic was obviously Deepak and his family and his old school and his address, but gradually the topic deviated towards the teachers, the girls, and the private jokes that Deepak didn’t get. He had stopped paying attention to the group and was staring at the window covered with water droplets when the van stopped. “What happened?” he asked. “This is where you get down Deepak; your house is walking distance from here”, said one of the boys. “But I don’t know how to reach my house from here”, said Deepak. “Just ask that traffic policeman”, said the van driver pointing towards the middle of the road. “Deepak, you have to get down fast, we all are getting late”, said his bench-mate. So, red with anger and completely drenched, Deepak crossed the road and walked towards the traffic policeman, watching the van speed away. “How do I reach Hemming Road from here?” asked Deepak. The startled policeman turned around and saw Deepak completely drenched. “Where do you want to go, son?” asked the policeman. “SDA Lane, house P-101″ said Deepak.
The policeman saw a man walking on the sidewalk covered in a raincoat and called him, “Aye! Come here.” “Yes sir! What happened?” asked the man. “Which way are you going?” asked the policeman. “I am going towards the High Court” replied the man. Deepak recognized the voice and said, “Hari? Is that you?” The man turned around and saw Deepak and said to the policeman, “I know this boy sir. I will leave him till his house. I think he is lost as he is new in town.” “Okay okay! You take him! Thank you”, said the policeman. Deepak and Hari started walking together towards Deepak’s house. “What are you doing here all alone?” asked Hari. “One of my classmates told me he would drop me near my house so I came with him”, said Deepak. “Why are you walking like that?” asked Deepak. Hari unzipped his raincoat a little bit and let Deepak have a peek inside and Deepak saw a pup curled up inside Hari’s raincoat. “Is that a puppy?” asked Deepak. “Yes it is, I found him in the school one day and have been taking care of him since then” said Hari. “Can I hold him?” asked Deepak. “I don’t want him to get wet but you can hold him tomorrow” said Hari. “What’s his name?” asked Deepak. “I call him Jogi”, said Hari. “What do you feed him?” asked Deepak. “I normally buy vada or milk sometimes for him from the school canteen but this is the first time I am taking him home” said Hari.
“He would have surely drowned in the flood at the schoo”, said Deepak. “So this is why you don’t have money to eat because you keep on feeding Jogi”, said Deepak chuckling to himself. “I am trying to make a few amends and this is helping me a little bit”, said Hari. “What do you mean?” asked Deepak. “I have a wife and a son who don’t live with me anymore, I don’t blame them for it though”, replied Hari. “Why don’t they live with you?” asked Deepak. “You won’t understand boy, let’s just say that I was never a good husband or a good father”, replied Hari. “And when you have money to enjoy a luxurious life why would you waste it on my treatment and live a life of poverty?” continued Hari. “I don’t understand anything that you are saying, but I know you are a good man because that is why you are my only friend in school”, said Deepak. Hari stared at Deepak for some time and then shifted his gaze to the road and smiled to himself. “This is Hemming Road, hope you know your way from here”, announced Hari. Deepak nodded his head and hugged Hari and said, “Thank you so much.” “its okay” said Hari shyly, “Friends help each other right?” he asked. “Yes we do”, said Deepak with a broad smile. “See you tomorrow”, he said before turning around and crossing the road.
The school bell rang and all the students waited patiently for the teacher to leave the class. As soon as the teacher left everyone whipped out their Tiffin and ran out of the class. Deepak was left alone as usual but he wasn’t dejected as he was on the first day, he was cheerful and walked happily to meet his friend. When he reached the bench outside the ground he didn’t see Hari. Though he felt something awkward, Deepak decided to wait for Hari to come. A sweeper walked past Deepak and thinking him to be Hari, he shouted, “Hari! I am here.” “I am the new sweeper”, said the man turning back, “Hari died last night”, he continued. Deepak froze on the bench and started crying. He looked at the parantha and started crying even louder. A small crowd gathered around him and the sweeper asked him, “Did you know him?” “Yes, he was my friend”, Deepak replied. “Where is Jogi?” Deepak asked. “I don’t know whom you are talking about but I know that today is his funeral”, the new sweeper said. “Can you take me there?” asked Deepak. “There will be a big procession there”, the sweeper replied. Deepak pleaded with him till he agreed to take him on his cycle to Hari’s house.
After the funeral was over, the sweeper and Deepak left Hari’s house and were going to Deepak’s house to drop him off. “You didn’t get to see Hari even once”, said the sweeper. “It’s okay, I did get something from there and I think this is exactly what Hari wanted me to do”, said Deepak sitting behind on the sweeper’s cycle and rubbing Jogi’s back. “Is this your house?” the sweeper asked. “Yes this is the one, thank you so much”, said Deepak getting down from the cycle, holding Jogi with one hand. “See you tomorrow Deepak”, the new sweeper said, turning his cycle and crossing the road. “Yeah, see you tomorrow” muttered Deepak, looking lovingly at Jogi.