The train slowly creaked into the station. I rubbed the sleep off my eyes and peeped outside the grilled window. Where was I? The sun wasn’t out and the darkness of the night still enveloped the lonely station. My eyes searched for the yellow boards of the Indian Railways that displayed the name of stations- sometimes unknown. A little boy not more than ten came near my window, holding the trademark aluminum kettle. ”Chai chahiye, madam (do you want tea)?” I nodded and asked, “Which station is this?” He said, “Kharagpur, and the train isn’t going to move from here for another hour. The tracks have a problem.” I sulked. The train was already running late and an hour’s delay more would mean I wouldn’t be reaching Kolkata before noon.
“How much for the tea?” I asked. “Re1.50”, he said. My eyes popped out for a moment. When had I last seen a 50paise coin? I dug into my wallet and fetched a 5 Rupee coin. The boy gleamed as he picked up the coin from my palm. That is when I noticed a white smart phone peeping out of his shirt pocket. I pointed towards it and asked,” Where did you get that from? Did you steal it from a passenger?” He quickly shot back a fierce glance, and threw the 5 Rupee coin back at me. “I don’t steal madam. I worked hard to buy this phone.
I was taken aback at his vociferous tone. I quickly apologized.
“Do you go to school?” I asked. Calmly he answered, “I go to school from 9 am to 1 pm. The rest of the day I stay in the station, selling “chai” in the morning and books and magazines in the evenings.”
“What about your family?” I prodded on. “My mother works as a domestic maid. I have a younger sister. My father used to clean the railway tracks, until last year, when he was run over by a train.” I think I saw a tear drop his eye as he said these words.
“So how much do you make?”
“I make 100 Rupees a day, and if I am lucky it could go up to 150. After giving my mother money for daily expenses, whatever remains, I save in my little tin box. It has been a year now, and last month with my savings, I bought this smart phone from my friend who is a second hand mobile phone dealer, for a few thousand Rupees.”
He continued, “This station is frequented by students from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology. I see them with their latest gadgets. I want to make my own phone someday. I often pass by the gates of the institute but never have the guts to enter it. Someday I shall……”
“So what do you do with your phone?” I asked.
Without thinking he blurted,”I surf on Google search”. “Whatever I learn in school I type it on Google and read them whenever I get time between passing trains. I am now saving money so that I could upgrade my phone. I want better data connectivity and speed. I heard Airtel is out with a 4 G connection at 3G cost. The data packs start from Rs. 25. With this new 4G pack I could get uninterrupted video streaming of videos and music. A 4G pack would mean I could quickly load what I want to read on my smart phone.”
At that moment, the sound from the train’s engine bellowed. I turned to leave. Before that, I pushed a crisp 100Rupee note into his palm. He stared at me, wondering if he should accept it or not. I walked away without looking back.
Here was one hell of an ambitious boy, with dreams big in his eyes.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Retrospectively Funny.”