August 27, 2017 Longshot Island
‘Bapu,’ he whispered. ‘Eat something.’
Bapu couldn’t hear him. He was many miles away, lying in a little bed, his life slipping away. Only his spirit remained strong, so strong …
Aisha wanted a doll. She had begged for one for so long now, and Munna badly wanted to get it for her.
“I stopped by Ahmed Bhai’s toy shop on my way home yesterday to check the price. The doll you like costs 6 rupees!”
“Allah!” gasped Aisha, her eyes wide as saucers. “So much!”
Then her longing got the better of her and she dropped her eyes and mumbled, “But it’s so beautiful…”
Munna’s face softened. He decided to earn the money, no matter how long it took. He worked as an assistant in a shoe store after school each day, for which Kapoor Sahib paid him three rupees a month.
At Kapoor, Chand & Sons, Munna was the junior assistant. He hardly saw the customers who came and went, for his job was to remain up in the attic and throw down shoes of different sizes that the senior assistants yelled for, as they fitted out the customers. Clients. Kapoor Sahib insisted that they be called clients.
In the attic were hundreds of shoe boxes piled one over the other. At twelve years of age, Munna and Shankar (the other junior assistant) were the only ones small enough to move around with some ease in that confined space upstairs. So they ruled their territory like young lords, arranging everything according to some brilliantly devised system known to them alone, that ensured that they never took more than a minute to find any pair of shoes in the size and colour that was needed below.
Munna liked his life at Kapoor, Chand & Sons. He liked Kapoor Sahib, who was always jovial and kind. He liked the senior assistants who teased and laughed and made funny comments on the custo … clients … that came and went each day. Most of all, he liked Shankar, his simple little friend and coworker.