By Tarushi Aswani,
Sarvan was sent on a vacation that he could possibly never forget. Along with his uncle’s son Raman, Sarvan was lured into a visit to a big city, far away from the sleepy village of Siljori in Bihar’s Banka district. In his uncle’s words, the city was so big that even the moon seemed closer from there. Tucked in the berth of a sleeper class train with a steel trunk clasped to his chest, he started his journey to Delhi, the Promised Land.
I happened to meet Sarvan at a local confectionary shop, where a woman was asking him to fetch a box of cereal kept on one of the highest racks. After she left, I walked up to Sarvan to start a conversation. He agreed to respond to my enquiries in return for a packet of chips.
I followed him through the store and we settled on the staircase behind the shop. “Do you like working here?” I asked ambiguously.
“Here? I love working here!” he exclaimed, gorging the packet of chips. “There are so many new, colourful items here that I’ve never seen before and the owner is also nice to me!” he continued.
“Were you brought here against your will?” I asked as he continued to eat. “It isn’t too bad you know, at least I’m free from people who think of me as a burden. Here, I’m earning for myself and spending on myself.”, he said looking down at the stairs.
As I continued with my questions, Sarvan explained how he lived with his uncle’s friend in Delhi, paying for his accommodation and making his own living. “But Sarvan, why did you start working here?” I asked in anticipation of a more detailed response. He picked up the broom lying nearby and began to sweep the staircase in order to avoid eye contact.
“My kaka brought me to Delhi on a ‘vacation’ to the big city. For a couple of days, my cousin Raman and I moved around exploring the city. After two days, Raman suddenly packed up his things and told me he was leaving. I was cross with him for not telling me that we were returning to Siljori. However, it wasn’t long before Raman informed me that I was to stay in Delhi.”
He further went on to explain how he was perceived to be burden on his uncle post his parents’ death. “Bhuvan kaka could not afford me. Raman told me how kaka had sold off a healthy cow to bear my expenses.”
“Sarvan, do you want to go back to Siljori?” I questioned hesitantly. “Do you miss Raman and the others?”
“No! I’m happy here, I’m the master of my own whims now. Sometimes, I thank kaka in my heart. Not just for letting me ‘visit’ Delhi, but for making me understand how things of worldly importance like money can make relationships transient. I don’t know how and under what conditions Kaka accepted my responsibility. But, whatever his troubles were, he did something that no other man could possibly do – he forced a man out of an 11 year-old boy.”
As Sarvan stopped sweeping and looked up at me, his eyes echoed a profundity that had escaped his heart and run into the isolated valley of his memories.