‘‘Come on to Mitrapark-Gausala-Purano Baneswor-Ratnapark. It goes faster than the others. Seats are available. It is leaving’’, a boy of about ten was offering passengers for a tempo at Chabahil, Kathmandu. He was working as the khalansi, a helper of the driver. It was about six in a foggy morning of winter. The boy was in unbuttoned single cotton shirt and a half pant. His bare feet had several desiccated cracks. His dresses were old, torn and shrivel and almost all filthy, grimy and messy. His curly hair was long and unmanaged. It hung in a disheveled mass around his head and shoulder. He looked like never bathed. The effect of the cold was conspicuously seen on him. He was constantly quivering. He sometimes looked towards the sky. Perhaps, he was hoping to witness the rising sun but the sky was murky along with substantial mist.
I was just standing by the side of the tempo. I myself was still feeling cold however I wore layers of vest, thermo coat, high necked sweater and a leather coat respectively to ignore out the winter. I got on the tempo nevertheless my destination wasn’t through the route. I didn’t know why I wanted to talk to the boy. As soon as the tempo moved ahead Mote, the driver commanded him, “Hey Punte, collect fare from all”,
Punte started to accumulate the fare. Holding some notes on his cracked and dried hands he asked, “Uncle, fare!” I took out my wallet and gave him a note of twenty rupee. He returned me ten rupees and said, “Uncle, I don’t have change-I’ll give you two rupees if you ride next. Okay?”
I returned him the note and asked him to return mine, the note of twenty. I instead gave him the precise fare, eight rupees.
“What a gluttonous uncle you are!” he exclaimed. I couldn’t dialogue to him even if I wanted. His vocalizations repeatedly came around my psyche. I thought internally why I couldn’t leave a two rupee for him. He might have used it for a cup of tea. I was not so greedy personally for such underprivileged boy. In that morning, I visited Lord Pashupatinath, the holy temple of Hindus. I dropped coins into the several beggars’ vessel during my visit there. I was thinking that the day would be worthwhile. I glanced at his appearance and found it was covered with damaged pimples where some were leaking pus. I felt ashamed for saving a two rupee. In the next station, some passengers dropped off and some rode on it. He again started his chores. Almost all didn’t mind when he didn’t return a change- two rupee. He looked at me and articulated, “Have you seen others, uncle? They are kind to me. Most of others always do the same. They don’t mind for a small change but you are only…”.He continued, “It’ll be my one and only income that I’ll save fore my future”.
His last utterance hit to my heart. I guessed that Mote wouldn’t give him salary for his errands. I started to feel my heart beating at my mind. My body leaked worry. When other passengers looked at me, I felt hot and my face became red. I was nearly jumpy!
“Uncle, won’t you get off? The station arrived”, he screamed.
I found I was alone in the tempo. The driver had gone somewhere. I got off it however I felt my legs were heavier than usual. I was feeling a difficult situation. I wanted to know about him.
“Is your real name Punte?”
“No, but the driver calls me by Punte”, he replied.
“What is your real name?”
“I don’t know. Every body in the bus park calls me-Punte”.
“Where is your home?”
“God knows; I was grown here for a long”.
“Where are your parents?”
“I’ve never seen them. I sleep in the tempo but I’ve to come here after I finish cleaning his hotel”.
“Do you work in hotel in the evening? Is that of Mote?”
“Yes, other wise he doesn’t feed me!”
“Is he your relative?”
“No. But he said me that he found me under Bagmati Bridge collecting wrecked coppice with my friends. I used to live there and he brought me to him. I work with him in tempo during the day and I’ve to clean the plates and utensils during the evening to the night in his hotel”.
I was very much disorientated knowing his adversity. I was thinking to rescue him.
I asked to him, “Do you want to study if I take you?”
“Yes, but the driver doesn’t let me to go with you. He is very hazardous. Last time one of uncles like you tried to take me but he was terribly beaten by him”.
“Uncle, you go now. He is coming”, Punte pointed to the driver, Mote.
“Okay, I’ll come again”.
“He nodded his head”.
I returned home during the evening. Renuka, my wife easily read out my face.
“You are quite sad. What happens to you?” she inquired.
I explained her about Punte. She advised me to report to the police. I thought her idea was good and I decided to report to the police.
The next day, I went to the police station and reported about Punte’s case. Police Inspector, Brahmadev seemed to be very cooperative and he took out a raid into Mote’s hotel. Police found that Punte vomited blood while Mote had terribly beaten him during previous night. According to neighbors, Punte was crying and hawing all the night. When he saw me: “Save me, uncle”, he said, “Mote beat me with his belt accusing of unnecessarily talking to you. Don’t leave him. He is the vampire sucking children’s blood. He had furiously beaten Chhote, my predecessor, two months ago. Chhote was stronger than me and escaped from him”.
We hospitalized him; it was too late. Punte left us forever.
“Oh god, I have a great regret!”
The police arrested Mote.
Copyright @ Chiranjibi Niroula