by Younis Kaloo

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Near the marble-topped stairs of a metro station in Delhi, 10 year-old Gaurav sets his makeshift stall in the early morning.  With an urgency to reach their respective destinations on time, commuters hardly look at his books comprising various titles, mostly novels spread on a tarpaulin.  In the first hours, he sits in various postures and waits for the customers. Only a few stop by and have a look without saying a word or asking for a title they are looking for, as all the books lying on the tarpaulin have their names exposed.

Representational Image

As morning gives way to afternoon, his childish desperation to sell some books and handover the money to his mother in the evening grows fiercer which he reflects by visiting a nearby urinal and weeps with his head tucked in the crook of his arm.  On a return after one such instance, he finds a man with a satchel hanging by his right shoulder struggling with both his bag and finding the right title. As Gaurav takes his seller’s position, the man asks him if he has any book authored by Paulo Coelho. The boy suggests the man to be at ease first with his bag and assures him that the author he is looking for must be among the books on display. Paying heeds to the boy’s suggestion and a glance to his left lands him on Paulo Coelho.  He finds two books in a row by the same author—The Alchemist and By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept.

The man asks the boy if he has read the alchemist, who replies in negative. He begins to narrate the story and likens Gaurav with the book’s protagonist, Santiago. He tells him how Santiago suffers and sacrifices throughout his journey to realize his dream. The boy listens patiently to the adventures narrated by the man and begins to feel like Santiago. But, as the man comes close to the conclusion, the boy, all of a sudden, requests him if he can buy both the books, and breaks down telling him he has sold not a single book since morning.

Holding both the titles in his hand, the man asks the boy as to why he chose to sell books on a footpath with too young an age to handle the job. With his head down and eyes raining tears, Gaurav tells him softly that he is an orphan.

(Younis Kaloo is a Journalism Post Graduate. Ideas expressed are his own)




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