On the sidewalk

The scorching heat burnt through the flimsy soles of my rubber slippers as I ran down the footpath, with my eyes on the traffic light.
“Please…turn…red… Please…turn…red,” I whispered to myself, as my breath came out in short gasps.

Ah, yes. The cars lurched to a stop, but the small motorbikes were still trying to make their way through the gaps. It would have been much easier if I could have simply gone to the center of the junction and spread my straw mat in the middle, but I figured that would be too much of a risk.
I could hear the small tinkle of bells as my sister ran behind me, trying to lug the sticks and hoops that I ordered her to carry.

It saddened me sometimes to think that she had to do this too. But as usual, I just brushed it aside. This is my life and I should be thankful to God for what he has given me. People were surely worse off than me, were they not? At least we weren’t scrounging through the garbage for a meal. At least we earned our money through our talent instead of blindly begging.

We had honor, did we not? But who would recognize our honor? Would that lady recognize it? She, who was sitting in the air conditioned car, laughing and smiling like she didn’t have even a single worry.

Let alone honor… Would she recognize my pain? The pain I had buried inside of me. The pain I carried with me as I cooked dinner at night under the single oil lamp that burnt in our hut. The pain I carried with me as I watched my mother come home from working an entire day at the construction site, carrying bulks of sand that her delicate frame could not possibly support. The pain I carried as twisted and turned in my sleep because the coldness of the floor, seeping in and freezing every bone in my body. The pain I carried as I woke up the next morning, every morning, to walk barefoot to the water pump, hoping that we would have water at least today.

Ah, yes, the pain would be there… Always. Through every single one of my actions. It was screaming to the world, “Help me…” but yet, everybody around me just failed to hear it. Even amidst the millions of people on the road watching my tricks, the scream was barely a whisper.

I signaled to my sister to stop right next to a shiny black car. A Benz, was it? Yes, I think that’s what it was. I heard the shop keeper talk bout the car the other day when it passed him on the road. He said that only very rich people could afford something like that, so maybe if I performed in front of them, I would get more money.

It was an absurd thought, because it was exactly those kind of people that scorned us away. They looked down upon us as if we were some sort of filthy creatures that shouldn’t even exist in this world. But I was determined, just the same. Maybe this time…

I took the mat from my sister and spread it across the sidewalk. I stepped backward and took glanced at my surroundings. I heaved a deep sigh and tried to swallow back the hot tears that were forming. Nobody was even paying the slightest attention. They were just waiting for the light to turn green so they could zoom past us, continue with their lives and leave us with nothing but dust.

Was that person in that expensive car paying attention? I couldn’t tell because the windows of the car were tinted black, hiding the passenger, a barrier that separated the rich from the poor.

I slipped off my rubber slippers and stood barefoot, ignoring the heat frying the soles of my feet. My bangles clinked against each other as I started sprinting toward the mat at full speed. As soon as my right foot landed on the mat, I pushed myself off the ground, while the straw from the mat dug into my heels.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the car rotating. Everything was turning. Upside down. I was making the world turn upside down, with the simple act of a cartwheel. Over and over again. With another cartwheel. And now a flip. And now a backward flip. I could feel the blood rush into my head, my fingers starting to turn numb, but I didn’t stop. Out of my blurry eyes, I could see that my sister was starting her balancing act on the thin rope. That was my cue to end with a bang. To flip perfectly, delicately and graciously onto the edge of the rope stand, so I could join my sister on the rope. And I succeeded.

I would be truly happy to tell you that everybody on the road started applauding. I would love to tell you that my little bag that day was filled with so many coins and notes that it wouldn’t even fit in our hands. But I would be lying. There was no applause. Nobody bothered to give us even a one rupee coin.

This was it… I had to spread out my palms in front of those people and beg. Beg for them to acknowledge what I had just done. Beg them to give me something that was worth the tricks I just performed. Beg.

And within seconds, the light turned green, they zoomed past us, continued with their lives and left us with twenty rupees…
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About Me!

To escape from the humdrum existence people call "life", I explore the jungle of my mind. A meandering path, with thoughts as my obstacles. I put aside the smiling face of my mother, snapshots of holidays with friends, lost memories of my childhood... All in an attempt to find answers to my branching questions.

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