Inside the shop Gurdeep, Ravinder, and Rajkumar went about readying their workstations. The room was a short but rectangular strip, with a raised marble platform to the left; this ran the shop’s length, and all three of them sat here cross legged while preparing customer orders.
“Hey, the chick has died!” said he.
Has died, and what then, I thought to myself but didn’t say anything.
“Do you hear!” he said again, “the chick has died!”
Many people of different colours, faces, and occupations were gathered on the maidan outside. They carried a variety of wares to attract attention to themselves. Decorative items packed in shiny wrappings were placed on their heads. He gave them all a cursory glance and entered the school classroom.
The line calls. We wake before the purple fades from the sky and begin a rummage through the house. Everything must come out to the open. Shoes, textbooks, rags, egg cartons we collect to smoke out mosquitoes. Somewhere in that mess, there is a jute sack big enough for thirty kilos of rice.
There’s a bug in my father’s matchbox, my sister placed it there to keep it away from the lizards. I put that in his pocket expecting him to open it, get bit and die. I watched him put on his shirt that morning. His breast pocket bulged with many bunches of folded papers and the matchbox on top of them.
Ma called to tell me she’d had a fall, nothing serious. I asked her what she meant by a fall. She said she slipped on the stairs and fractured her ankle. I asked her what the hell she meant by nothing serious then, and she clicked her tongue and told me not to worry,
After my fall of grace in November 1918, I didn’t speak for over a year. I lived wherever I could rest my head undisturbed and during the day tried to cope with the ceaseless chatter and terrible smells of my new world, scrounging food near the markets in this strange southern city called Sydney.