Blogging, Blogging Challenge, Fiction, Kids, Mumbai, School days, Story-telling, Such is life

My Life Around Books #StoryTellersBlogHop

“Chetan Bhagat ka book ekdum superhit hai Sir! Aur bhi hain, dekhoge?” I urged to the suited man before he disinterestedly rolled up his car window and sped off. I chided myself for deserting my father’s book stall and following the usual herd to the traffic signal in hope of some quick sale. He would be so livid if he found out that I had walked away with the books! But then, when is he ever happy?

Hi, I’m Arjun, an 11 year old boy coerced into entering adulthood much before time. My Dad has a works in a book stall in the famous Churchgate area of Mumbai. Although he’s in-charge of keeping accounts and maintaining records I’m inclined to believe that he doesn’t know mathematics. Why else would a person bring five children in this world when he was the sole bread-earner? I’m told that our family migrated here few years ago in search of livelihood. It’s obvious that we haven’t made any real headway on that front yet.

I’m the eldest one and only after three more boys did God grant my mother’s wish of a daughter. Our neighbours’ excuse to have four daughters preceding a son is the same. Funny, isn’t it? My father assumes that my two tiny hands are big enough to help feed the seven mouths in the house. Their eldest daughter, and my friend, too works as a nanny at some family’s place nearby. She comes home late and exhausted. Our moms are overworked house-helps and get paid a pittance.

my life around books_avibrantpalette

I had to leave school midway to assist my father in the book stall. Apparently, his laidback attitude and afternoon snoozes had consistently resulted in theft and loss of opportunity. An alarming discrepancy in the inventory wildly shook things up. Thankfully, my innocent face managed to calm down the owner, albeit temporarily. With a heavy heart, but willingly, I traded my school books for the books whose covers I couldn’t yet read.

Our book stall is on a pavement, one amongst many makeshift ones that keep springing up around here. There’s stiff competition and we don’t live in denial of it. Interestingly, people have a meaningless habit of inquiring rates of the same books at every stall. It took me a while to realise that we sell cheap reprinted versions. I also found it curious that our customer base ranges from college kids to old Uncles and Aunties too. By the way, did you know that school kids of my age receive weekly allowance? I’m not even aware if and what I’m paid to work.

Please don’t misapprehend that I’m sharing my story with you to gain any sympathy. Believe it or not, I like what I do. Unlike many other kids I sometimes play with, I respect Vidya (knowledge) and Saraswati Mataji. I remember telling my second grade teacher that I wanted to make Chacha Chaudhary and Sabu comics like Pran. Their comic book that I had acquired with a sleight of hand from a raddiwala was in tatters but is my priced possession nevertheless.

Luckily, now I’m surrounded by many of them and read in my spare time. We keep both new and used books in various languages. As of now I can read Hindi, Marathi and broken English. How and where my father learnt to read, I wouldn’t know. He often loses focus but is updated on titles and always seems to know what sells. He’s reticent and distant yet his pitches are rarely fruitless.

When I see books with torn pages or broken spines it leaves me heartbroken. Once when I was carefully putting together a half-torn Sidney Sheldon book page with cello tape a sweet Didi approached and asked my father for the latest CAT preparation books. Within the time he fetched them she had extracted enough information from me to write a book on my life! Even while she selected and paid for them her smiling eyes never left me. “Study!” she said as she lovingly ruffled my hair and sashayed away.

I love observing people; the college girl walking hurriedly and missing an open manhole by a whisker, the teenage boy who browses or reads for free for 15 minutes and doesn’t buy any book, the office-goer Uncle who munches on a wada pav under the shade of an umbrella or the heavily-wrinkled oblivious beggar lady sleeping on the roadside. Mumbai is a bustling city and every person seems to carry a story within him. Don’t people like these become characters in books? I wish I could articulate what I felt. Sigh!

Suddenly though, a big thing happened with me. The sweet Didi I told you about earlier works with some NGO for kids. She visited yesterday along with a couple of her friends (didn’t buy anything!) and told my father about some RTE Act which gives me the right to study in the best schools in Mumbai. Seemingly, I fulfill their eligibility criteria but some paperwork is required.

My father, ever the spirit dampener, created a huge hue and cry over it. So much so that few inquisitive onlookers quickly got transformed into a small crowd. The hapless Didi fought tooth and nail with him while my stone-hearted father heedlessly barked unnecessary orders at me. Through stolen glances I detected her determined expression turn into hurt and then resigned. Who will bear his expenses? How will I feed my family? What if he can’t cope up? She had no answers to the questions he belligerently badgered her with.

I was reminded of the scene from Harry Potter in which his wicked Uncle and Aunty pull all stops to keep him from going to Hogwarts. Watching the dubbed version in Hindi on television had triggered my imagination like never before. Who knew some day it would be my reality? He was an orphan and I feel like one, that’s the only difference. How much I craved to immerse myself in his books every time I laid my eyes on them. If only wishes had wings!

Hopefully there’s a Dumbledore out there to save the day for me. Tears rolled down my eyes. Magic, I have seen it happen. What if it’s just a story? Some day I will read and experience it too!

Used two prompts in the post: Tears rolled down and Magic, I have seen it happen.

This post is written for StorytellersBlogHop FEB 2021 by Ujjwal & MeenalSonal

67 thoughts on “My Life Around Books #StoryTellersBlogHop

  1. There are so many such kids who love to study and with the responsibilities they lack the opportunities…happy to see the way you have written simple and sweet story

  2. What a beauty Varsha! Lovely narrative from the boy’s perspective, I couldn’t stop but visualize the Churchgate book stalls with younger kids fluttering around selling odd things. Their dreams, ambitions, and wish to live a normal life is so heartfelt. Love the post, V.

    1. D, you made my day! Hope is a word that’s created for kids like them. They want and need so much yet aren’t unhappy as we would presume. The boy could be anyone we see on the streets.

  3. Beautifully brought out with lovely images. I liked the tone of the story and the your vivid way of describing the scenery. The little boy’s father, may have wanted to send him to school but he needed helping hand too. A dilemma faced by many such families. Loved the story.
    Deepika Sharma

  4. II could not stop visualising myself as I was reading your story. The situation you have written is faced by so many in our country. Money is the main thing! Bookstalls with boys and also sometimes girls who hardly get a chance to study, the narration was absolutely great.

  5. Hope the child gets to study…. But I also hope that they find a way to feed themselves first! As the questions do remain unanswered which that father character asks….. Can Dumbledore solve them!

  6. We come across lads on traffic signals selling things and your story is a sad reality of our society. Early childhood is ripped off due to responsibilities of family n poverty. Inspirational n it touched me.

  7. Nice story Varsha. There are kids indeed who have llost their childhood and taken the burden to run their families. But yes magic happens, sometime.
    Enjoyed reading it.

  8. First I like the concept of story story so much. indeed in our country, there are many kids ( from lower socio economic background) who are truly brilliant and talented. But did not get enough opportunity to explore world more due to many boundaries. your story present this scenario so beautifully. narrations were too good. love reading it.

  9. Beautifully weaved and narrated Varsha. You have beautifully captured the emotions of the young boy who have a strong desire to study. His father’s dilemma wasn’t completely wrong. He had some practical issues in front of him.

    1. True, Alpana. Life isn’t black and white, right? If only life gave us what we wanted without making us slog for it. Glad you liked the narration! 🙂

  10. The story reminded me of the large bunch of kids selling stuff at the crossings. It’s nice to see that you’ve weaved an inspiring story out of it.

  11. Beautiful vivid description of the storyline. there is always new words to learn in your posts. The story of a poor boy is actually the reality of many kids who have burnt their dreams and working to meet their family ends.

  12. You made the story come to life. It was as if I was at one of those corner book shops and seeing this story myself. You narrative was crystal clear and had very little confusion. You planned it out so nicely with all the descriptions of the characters and the surroundings. Every event is picked and placed wonderfully people not buying books after browsing, kids working, number if children.. Super

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Urvashi! I’m glad that my narration brought the story to life for you. As a writer that’s a huge compliment for me! 🙂

  13. Touching story, Varsh.
    Sadly, this is a reality for many children.
    Hope this RTE Act is properly implemented and such wishes & dreams of kids come true.

  14. I really liked your simple yet impactful style of writing. I could actually imagine the scenes before me as I was reading your story.

  15. Loved this Varsha, reading you after a long time! Wonderful narration. I hope kids like him finds a Dumbledore waiting for them and help them swing their magic wand changing their life forever.

  16. Loved the simple yet realistic narrative, Varsh! I could actually feel Arjun’s helplessness all through. I also loved how you struck off “has a” to “works” in one of the initial paragraphs. I’m definitely going to use something like this in the future.

    1. Thank you, Nitisha! I wrote this in first person so Arjun could express himself. 🙂 Do use the strike off thing. It makes an impact without wasting a word.

  17. That is a vibrant vision of mumbai and the many roadside book stalls that we see. I agree there could be so many who might not study because of circumstances. I hope magic truly happens for them

  18. A lovely narration and the tone is also of a small boy, in line with the character. The story touches upon many important issues such as RTE, Daily Wages, Child Labour etc. Hope Arjun remembers Dumbledore’s quote and it keeps him motivated. “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light”.

  19. What a beautiful fictional story on reality Varsha. I absolutely loved your perspective on how you penned Arjun’s feelings and love for books. Unfortunately, children like Arjun suffer a lot because of family burdens, situations, etc. & despite their love for books and education, they have no options but to start working at an early age.

  20. half of our india goes through this I guess.. there are many street kids who love to study bit have to start earning for living.. the story is a harsh reality and you have again narrated it so well

  21. Beautiful narration. Though this is a work of fiction, it still felt like I was reading a true story of a boy who sells books on the roadside. It just breaks my heart to think about the life they are forced to live despite many dreams and aspirations which never get fulfilled.

  22. Wow Varsha. Churchgate has been my spot for buying books from a very long time and I’ve often seen young kids sitting there to sell books and now ur story smewer made me think of those kids that despite being amidst so many books, these kids are left uneducated and cant read or write. Such is life.

  23. This is one of the best fictional story I have read do far. I really appreciate how beautifully you have portrayed the feelings of Arjun and his love for books .

  24. Loved this fiction and how you have penned Arjun’s feelings. There are so many kids who crave to study but never get a chance to do so. I felt as if I was one of the onlookers of that corner book shop. Beautiful piece.

  25. Touching story. Well written. I really do hope magic happens in this boy’s life and he is able to study. My crystal ball says that his life of observing people helps him become a great writer one day!

  26. What a beautiful simple delectable tale of a young lad who wishes for success and magic despite his destitution. Isn’t this Hope a thing with wings, that helps us stay afloat and persistent!! Well written 👏

  27. Yes, I believe in magic. Life is full of magic. It’s just your perspective and you get what you are eyeing on for a long time. This universe does listen to silent wishes.

  28. What a beautiful story Varsha! Many such kids belong to Mumbai with dreams that never seem to be fulfilled die to the pressure their families put on them for earning. I hope such kids do get a chance to learn to read and write atleast.

  29. What a read. Fabulous. I loved the narrative style of writing. A lot more emotions can be expressed when you right in this style. Great job done.

  30. This is such a heart warming post ! You have highlighted a very important topic where young kids inspite of having interest in studies feel helpless due to responsibilities at home . I imagined many young boys and their eyes filled with dreams, when I used visit second hand book stores . Lovely write up !

  31. Beautiful story Varsh! The story telling style kept me engaged with the little boy. I am inclined to believe he doesn’t know mathematics, so true one sole-bread winner for 5. Afternoon snoozes ha ha!! A story filled with hope.

  32. You have chosen a lovely subject for the story. I also really liked the descriptions of people he observes. I would love to see this story be fleshed out and reach its fruition!

  33. That is such a lovely yet little saddening story. Yes I am reminded of the many kids working on streets.. and Stanley Ka dabba somehow.. You have written very nicely.

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