|There is Enough for One
I was happy. The friends played with me all day, dogs chased us home when we stole mangoes from the orchard, and the camels farted while we danced to Hindi film songs in the afternoons narrating stories about our ancestral courage.
There were three of us: I, the jovial, black eyed, timid seven years old, Hobe, eight, brown eyed, strong, with a girlfriend, someone who all of us schoolmates loved as a hero, and perhaps a God even; and of course Anita, grey eyed, the plump girl, whose gums grew with such ambition over her teeth that we loved her smile. The trouble was, I was the only one who was poor; the other two of my friends were better off, living in cement houses, their fathers cycling to work, mothers making chicken biryani on Sundays after watching a movie with the family in the only theatre around which our small town grew like a ghost on fire, reds, blues and greens fading the sky and the earth to disappearance.
My dad was smart, I think, or maybe stupid. As a child I had no idea why he couldnt earn, why he drank so much alcohol, why my mother cried the way she did, and why he bought lottery tickets. One day, he made me buy one, and a day later came home looking for me my mother hid me under the cot but he found me and beat me for bringing bad luck. I hated him, but he hated me even more. When I saw my mothers stomach swell and she told me there was a baby brother I was to get, I danced with her.
I told Hobe and Anita. Hobe laughed, laughed, and laughed till he fainted. But Anita was kinder; she just smiled. I couldnt figure how, but I thought my kid brother needed food, so I asked my friends. It was on the next day and Hobes face was still red, I think, due to last evenings laughing. They gave me some money and I bought chapattis and curd for my mom. It went on for days; she told me I made her very happy, and that my brother was well. One day I got my friends home; they said my house looked bad and my mother sick, yet my mother smiled and held their hands, kissing them, tears running on her face.
Two months later, the midwife told all three of us that my baby brother was happy. But he still cried when he was born. Anita said he was healthy. But my mother died. The midwife said she was too weak.
Years later, I told my brother about the story of our lives: our parents, my friends. He cried. It felt sad to see our countrys boxing champion cry, but it felt good that he knew from where the food came.