It was rush hour traffic. People were streaming past. Cars honked on the road and two-wheelers tried their crazy stunts to squeeze themselves into non-existing gaps. Life was chaotic, as chaotic as it get in any bustling city.
A young mother lifted her toddler and tried cutting across the road. Traffic refused to give way. She waited on the divider narrowly, perilously balancing her life.
College girls joined hands together and started skirting around the zooming cars that ground to a halt. They reached the other side of the road, giggling.
On the far corner of this chaotic melee where the platform seemed to be non-existent two small boys walked, bent over with the burden they carried. They supported each other to the wall that formed the compound of a newly constructed building, each shouldering a heavy load.
They should have been in school, returning home tired after a long day at school, burdened under their school bags.
Instead here they were walking ever so slowly towards the compound wall.
The metal trunks they carried was balanced precariously on their tiny heads.
Finally they made it to the wall.
The first boy held on to his load with the right hand and used his left to stead his friend, who was now trying to unburden himself.
The second boy bent a little to allow his friend’s left hand steady him. He bent even further supporting himself on the wall. The trunk was ready to fall but the friend’s hand held steady. He bent some more and almost touched the ground. His trunk slowly eased off his head and slipped on to the ground.
He shrugged his shoulder, turned his head left and right in one quick swing and extended his hand to ease his friend’s burden.
He was shorter than his friend and his hands were not quite as steady.
The trunk fell with a thud.
The first boy keeled down, hand between his legs and tears streaming from his eyes.
He turned around quickly to hide the tears.
There was no one to see, no one to wipe the tears.
The mother with her toddler crossed to the other side of the road, oblivious.
I sat there in my cab waiting for the signal to turn green. A zillion thoughts running in my head, but the one that stayed on long after my cab passed the signal was the back turned to me, a small face perhaps, twisted in pain.
I learnt dignity. I felt shame. I was helpless.