This is the first in a series of ten microstories. These stories — vignettes, to be accurate — are set from dawn to midnight in an Indian metro. They follow different people in different settings over the course of a single ordinary day. Two of these stories have been published / accepted for publication in literary magazines. I’ll be publishing one piece per day over the next ten days.
The sky was midnight blue. The leaves rustled, mourning night’s passing. Savouring dawn’s cool I strolled in running gear towards the gate.
When I heard the noise beyond the wall, the sun hadn’t surfaced.
I hastened to the gate and looked up the road. Already, another car had stopped, and they’d carried the boy gingerly into the back-seat. The manual-rickshaw still stood strewn across the road. The rickshaw-driver sat on his seat. Headcloth pushed up askew, still gripping his rickshaw-handles.
By a big yellow suitcase standing upright, the boy’s father lay across the road. Head turned away blood-soaked.
I dialled Emergency on my mobile-phone. Across the road, a man also on his phone waved at me: No. I crossed the road.
“What happened?” I asked them.
“A mini-truck, delivering bread to the groceries, ran into the rickshaw. The rickshaw-driver was gripping his handles: so he was fine. The boy was holding on to the rickshaw’s sides. For they were going fast: they were late. The boy fell, too, but softly. The father was sitting clutching the suitcase with both hands. When they were hit, he fell hard. The bread-truck kept going. The police are on their way. We’re taking the boy to the hospital.”
“Why were they going fast?” I asked them.
“They were going home. They were late for their train.” He pointed to the train-station round the corner.
I waited with them for the police. I helped them decide which hospital to take the boy to: the nearest. They looked unsure: the nearest hospital was a private hospital. “Here,” I said. I gave them money.
They, the people of dawn, had been going about their business. The old man washing, for his hole-in the-wall cigarettes-and-paan-and-bhang shop, marijuana leaves and flowers at the public hand-pumped well. The vegetable-vendors setting up. The beggars setting off towards the wedding-halls to scavenge last night’s cornucopia of leftovers.
The people of dawn had witnessed many road-accidents. Before your day or mine has begun, other people are up and rushing. Speeding, down empty roads, to deliver bread. Almost empty.
It was Sunday: I had nothing to do but walk on to the park, weak-kneed, afraid. The people of dawn chatted for a bit about the road-accident. Briskly, together, unafraid. Then the day’s business claimed their minds.