How old she was, or who her family was, she didn’t know. All she remembered was living under the bridge with a lot of other people, and always working in the brick factory a few kilometers away from the bridge.
Though she was only a child, her eyes contained enough sorrow to fill the entire Ganges with water. She had always had a bad backache, and sometimes, violent coughing fits.There was no one whom she could call her own, Though there were many families living under the bridge, she was alone from when she could remember.
Everyday, she woke up at daybreak, when the faintest ray of light had penetrated into the inky blue night sky. She got dressed, making sure no prying eyes were on her naked body, and then, set out for work. She walked all of the seven kilometers to the brick factory. She walked fast, because being late meant a cut in the wages. On the way, she saw smiling children with their faces washed, hair combed and clothes pressed, in buses, going to school. She heard their laughter even after the bus had sped off and wondered why only the rich knew how to smile.
At the factory, she worked endlessly, carrying bricks to and fro, ignoring the pain behind her neck, ignoring the pleas of her aching heart. For lunch, she usually had a glass of tea and a slice of roti. If money was scarce, she manged with just the tea. After lunch, she worked again until the cruel sun finally rested for the day.On her way back, she would stop at a noisy shop, filled with drunk men, and ate whatever she could with what little she had. Some days, she didn’t have anything at all.
Then she returned, exhausted, and lay down, ignoring the violent nightly fights between the husband and wife near her. Sleep was her only solace. She slept undisturbed, She slept like the dead. Every night before she slept, she prayed never to wake up again. Every night, a cold wind blew to fondle this girl who was alone in the world. Every night, frost held her in its icy hug as she trembled. And every night, she slept, dreading another daybreak, dreading the cruel sun.
She hadn’t eaten for three days now. Her salary had been cut because she was continuously arriving late. Today, she had woken up earlier than usual, but her head was throbbing so much that she just couldn’t walk fast. She trudged on, hoping fervently that she wouldn’t be late.The sound of the school bus and the children’s laughter seemed distant to her. When she looked up from the ground to stare at the happy children, they seemed blurry and far away.
When she got to work, she was late again. Her manager screamed at her, “Useless scum! Get out! We don’t want lazy beggars like you here!”
She begged, pleaded and finally fell at his feet. He kicked her away, and she knew that there was no point pleading now.
She walked back slowly, She didn’t see or hear anything. All she could feel was her stomach growling for food, and her mouth crying for water. The cruel sun burned her back mercilessly.
She trudged on. Not a single tear could she shed.
When she finally reached back, the sun had rested once again. She heard the familiar fighting nearby. Her head felt too heavy and she sank to the ground. she lay down, and her body shook convulsively. Yet she couldn’t cry. Her eyes closed, but her lips moved in prayer. She prayed to no one in particular. She prayed in the universal language of the wear soul: she prayed for pure, undisturbed sleep. She never wanted to see another daybreak. She never wanted to face the taunts of the cruel sun.
That night, the kind arms of Death gently wrapped the girl who was all alone in the world. She finally got the sweet, undisturbed sleep she wanted. When she would wake up, the sun would be pleasant and warm. There would be soft grass at her feet. She won’t be hungry. Her body won’t hurt. She will be laughing like the children in the school bus. And she would never have to dread another daybreak ever again.