The Call for Help
“There used to be a river here.”
“Ah, there it is. Ohh they made it into a park. I used to come here almost everyday.”, he shouted in excitement.
I was his driver and was driving him home from the airport. He was quite excited to visit his hometown after 5 long years and even more excited to see the riverfront develop from an empty, soiled, isolated, smudged area into an aesthetic and a mesmerising riverfront park. Since I was new and had met him for the first time, I had no idea about his past life in the city, but I could clearly see the overflowing emotions from his face.
“Let’s stop here for a smoke.”
I stopped the car at the riverfront in front of a Pan shop.
“You smoke?” He asked me and I nodded my head while giving an embarrassed smile.
We got out of the car and he asked for lights for both of us. Even as he was lighting his cigarette, I could see his eyes gazing into the view, like he was searching for something. And after that, with every drag that he would take, he would take a long breath as if the smoke was getting him high.
With a sense of calmness and a hint of a smile on his face, he was lost in the sights making him reminisce about his past. However, the sight which hit his nostalgic nerves was that of two young slum kids around their teen – a boy and a girl with one leg, taking a dip in the river. There was an old, rusted hut too on the edges of that river.
“Its still there.” He said in a low tone.
I looked at his face with the corner of my eye. He was standing with one hand in his pocket, staring at the hut, still smiling. But that smile had taken a different emotion. He wasn’t calm anymore. His eyes looked sad, pale. He suddenly looked similar to a kid who had cried hours and hours after losing his favourite toy and then had forced himself to forget about it and move on.
“I know those two, though they never knew about me.”
“Sir, I don’t understand.” I said. I didn’t. His expressions were loud, but I never knew the reasons.
He started, “I used to come here almost everyday when I lived here. See, this place used to be empty and abandoned during those times. So, I would come here to enjoy some isolation and some me-time. From a distance, I would observe those two take a dip in the river in hopes of finding riches in the water. They would swim for hours and I would watch them for more.
But one thing always bothered me. Everyday that they would finish their swim, the boy used to get out of the water with no difficulty. However, the girl, having only one leg, used to have lots. And, every time that the boy would extend his hand to help her out, she would refuse his help every time and attempt to come out by her own. Even though succeeded after struggling for a while, every time she would suffer wounds and scratches on her leg.”
“She must be a fool, sir.” I said in a humorous tone.
“Maybe. Come let’s go.” He replied as he threw the bud on the ground and doused it with his shoe.
As we were walking towards the car, we heard a shout from the direction of the river, “Oyeeeeee!!!”
I turned around and saw that boy calling out to that girl to help him out of the water. He was practically struggling on the edge, which was strange because, from what I heard, he was an expert in it.
“Oyeeeee”. I heard him call out to her a few more times in desperation, but she didn’t respond. As I looked in her direction, I saw her busy washing plates in front of the hut, which was at quite a distance from where the boy was calling out from. She didn’t respond. I again looked at the boy, who somehow had managed to come out from the river, only after which I noticed that his left arm was missing.
I stared at him in confusion and horror as he stood there hurt, disappointed and distressed. He just stared at her from a distance, walked towards the hut, and then finally inside.
“Sir…” I looked at my superior and saw him staring in their direction.
“Maybe he won’t heal as fast as the girl’s wounds did.” He said it in a way as if he expected this to happen.
“Do you think it was fair of him to expect help from that girl when she had refused his hand every time he offered?” He asked me with that same pale, sad kid’s look on his face.
I couldn’t think of an answer to this, but I knew his question wasn’t meant for me, but for himself.
Even today I wonder why SHE never responded to sir’s call for help.