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Microstory

One Day: Dawn

The first of ten microstories, following the lives of ordinary people, set over the course of one ordinary day in an Indian metropolis.

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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.

END

By Amita Basu

I'm a writer based in Bangalore, India.

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