He must be 6 years old, tanned and untidy. Snot dripping down his scratched nose, shirt half buttoned and a pair of shorts he’s most probably been in since he was 4. I’ve seen him many times, zipping around on his little bicycle with his younger sister on the top tube. It has no brakes, he rides barefoot, but he likes to go fast. Its a treat I tell you, to watch his patchy face crack into this huge grin, his sister squealing with delight and fear, shouting “Anna! Anna!” every time a pedestrian chances upon their wayward trail. But the brave young boy fearlessly plants his little foot on the cement road, the rear wheel softly hops off the ground. The little girl holds on to the handlebars for dear life, wide eyed and open mouthed. And as he pulls of the perfect stop, he lets out this chuckle, drops his bike and runs after his sobbing sister who is now halfway to their mother.
Every weekend, when I head to the Mallu bakery for a quick breakfast, he tails me. I don’t know how he remembers me, but I know he does, just like I remember him. He tugs on my shirt and says “Anna one rupee please, only one rupee.” I’ve always marveled at his diction. Sometimes his sentence includes the word chocolate. Sometimes he stretches his hand out. Always, I refuse. I wish I knew why, I wish he’d understand. I wish I hadn’t bought him candy once. I wish I could help him jump over that cliff of poverty and into an ocean of prosperity, an emancipating pied piper.
But most of all, I wish he’d grow up to read this. And may that chuckle never fade.