A real conversation between me and a kid name Ramu which happened on 08/Jan/2013
There was this little boy standing on the bench next to me in the hospital where i am sitting, wearing dirty short pants and a sloppy T-shirt, clothes totally unfit for the cold night. He didn’t look homeless, but he wasn’t far from that either. His skin wasn’t muddy yet not entirely clean; he didn’t look like he had suffered “street violence” but was however affected by the kind of lifestyle he was living.
His expression was a mix between happiness and sadness, showing a feeling of bittersweet nostalgia.He went to entrance gate, i can see from the window.He was staring blankly at the gray road, leaving me uncontrollably curious about his situation. I have never seen someone, who’d seem to be in any similar situation as him, to show a smile. Even though curiosity killed the cat, I couldn’t help myself and I asked him what his name was. At first, maybe because not many people paid any attention to him, he looked surprised, then he smiled shyly and gave “ramu” as his response. I smiled back and asked him what he was doing here in this cold night dressed like that. He told me he was used to cold weather since he and his family lived in a small hut in some conditions that a human could hardly call satisfying. He started talking about how he sleeps on a mattress with his father covering themselves up with a thin sheet, how he eats mostly expired food and tons of dry bread(bun) and how they drink water from a well where two wild dogs died sinking. I was shocked and asked where his mother was.
“Oh, she’s here with us. She is mostly working, since my dad is unemployed, and is constantly taking care of my older sister, who has cancer. Though I don’t know what that means.” He smiled timidly while looking at his hands.
“Your sister has cancer?” I couldn’t stop the stunned sound of that question.
“Yeah. I don’t know what that is, but amma(MOM) is always sad when she sees my sister lay in bed. And she is always careful to give her the best conditions…” he stated somehow envious.
It was wrong to think so of his sister, but then again he was not aware of his sisters’ illness. Then he described how his sister was living, which wasn’t that great either. Yes, it was considerably better, but not perfect for a person with cancer. She was sharing a bed with her mother using only one blanket, which wasn’t actually ideal to keep a person warm. Neighbors occasionally offered to wash the girl, radhika. The mother used her income and the children’s monthly allowance to pay up medical bills, radhika’s medication and carefully chosen food. Radhika knew awfully lots of things for his age, considering he was around 10. Yet the most important thing he did not know.
“They took radhika to the hospital a few times over the year, when some nice people saved up some money for us. Right now, she’s home. She came back 3 weeks ago with no hair and no eyebrows. When I asked what happened to her, she said it’s from the ageing. Is that going to happen to me too?” he asked in shock remembering the memory.
I told him not to worry, his sister was just joking with him. I appreciated her trying not to panic her brother, even though it wasn’t quite graciously.
“Is my sister going to be ok?” he asked in the most natural way possible. I didn’t know what to answer so he went on. “I mean, she didn’t do anything wrong. One day she just started feeling bad after coming back from school. She is the only one in the family who got into high school, you know? My parents didn’t do it and I’m still too young. We are so proud her.” A smile formed on his lips still looking down.
“How is your sister feeling now?” I asked.
He told me his parents don’t talk much about it, or if they do he’s never there. Last time when they were at the hospital, he overheard a little conversation between his parents and the doctor. Apparently the doctor told them “…something about a stage 4? What’s that?” he said.
So i concluded my self that his sister was in terminal stage.
After shifting his look from my face to the sky his smile got wider, overcoming the nostalgic-smile kind of way. I asked him what he was happy about and he reached for his pockets. He pulled out a 50 rupees note($1 USD),few coins and showed it proudly to me. I wondered what was he going to do with it and as if he read my mind, he answered.
“I’m gonna use this to buy a birthday present for my sister. Her birthday is on coming Wednesday, this month.”
As you read, the story involves two things that I find important and who are, sadly, something common now a days, in my country(INDIA), as well as in others. Cancer & Poverty. When those 2 happen to come at the same time, I find it devastating.
If I could wish for two things it would be to find a cure for cancer. And to stop poverty.