Notes - Lost Spring

Notes - Lost Spring

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Lost Spring


Chapter Summary


Sometimes I Find a Rupee in the Garbage

Saheb: The Ragpicker

Every morning the author meets Saheb and his friends scrounging for 'gold' in the garbage dumps of her neighbourhood. Saheb and his family are Bangladeshi refugees. They have left their home a long time ago as storms washed away their fields and homes, reducing them to a state of abject poverty. That is why they came to this city (New Delhi) looking for 'a better life'.

The author asks Saheb why he does ragpicking and does not go to school. To this, he replies that there is no school in his neighbourhood. The author jokingly promises to open a school. After a few days, Saheb asks if the author has opened the school. The author is very embarrassed at having made a promise that was not meant to be fulfilled.


Saheb-e-Alam: Lord of the Universe

After some months of knowing him, the author asks Saheb his full name. The author notices the irony in Saheb's name, 'Saheb-e-Alam,' which means Lord of the Universe. She feels that Saheb would not believe what his name means. Unaware of the meaning of his name, Saheb roams with his gang, barefoot, on the streets. The author curiously asks why they don't wear slippers. He replies that his mother does not bring them down from the shelf. Another says he wants shoes.

Moving across the country, the author has seen many children walking barefoot. One of the explanation that it is a tradition and not lack of money.


Author's visit to Seemapuri

The author's acquaintance with the barefoot ragpickers takes her to Seemapuri. Seemapuri is a place on the periphery of Delhi, yet miles away from it metaphorically. The place is home to 10000 other shoeless ragpickers like Saheb. They are all Bangladeshi refugees who came here back in 1971. They live in very poor conditions in mud structures with roofs of tin and tarpaulin. The place has no running water facility and no drainage. The ragpickers have lived here for the past 30 years, some even more, without identity, yet they have valid ration cards. Children are born in them and become partners in survival. And survival in Seemapuri means ragpicking. Over the years, ragpicking has become an art.


Different Meaning of Garbage of Ragpickers

Garbage is gold to these ragpickers. It is their only support and means of income. Saheb tells the author that sometimes he finds a rupee, even a ten-rupee note. Anees realises that garbage holds a different meaning to both parents and children. For parents it is the source of their livelihood, providing them with food and shelter; for children, it is something wrapped in wonder.

Saheb No Longer his Own Master

One morning the author sees Saheb on his way to the milk booth. He is carrying a steel canister. He informs the author that now he works at the tea stall and is paid Rs. 800 and all his meals. But the author feels that Saheb is not happy. His face has lost its carefree look. The steel canister seems heavier than the plastic bag. The bag was his, but the canister belongs to the owner of the tea stall. Saheb is no longer his own master.


I Want to Drive a Car

Mukesh Wants to be his Own Master

In Firozabad, the author meets Mukesh, who insists on becoming a motor mechanic. The author feels that his dream is like a mirage amidst the dusty streets of Firozabad. Firozabad is the centre of India's glass-blowing industry, where generations after generations have been involved in this business.


Another Encounter with Poverty

The people of Firozabad involve their children in the bangle-making industry without knowing that it is illegal for children to work in the glass furnaces with high temperatures, in dingy cells without air and light. The children work day and night, often losing the brightness of their eyes. Mukesh volunteers to take the author home. They walk down stinking lanes choked with garbage, past small and dirty constructions, where families of humans and animals co-exist in a primitive state.

They enter a half-built shack, one part of which is thatched with dead grass, where a frail young woman is cooking the evening meal for the whole family. She is the wife of Mukesh's elder brother.


The God-given Lineage

Mukesh's father has toiled hard all his life, first as a tailor and then as a bangle-maker. Still the poor fellow has been unable to renovate his house or send his two sons to school. All he could manage to do was to teach them what he knows about the art of bangle-making.


Daring, Not a Part of Growing Up

One wonders if Mukesh's father has achieved what many have failed to achieve in their lifetime. He has a roof over his head. The cry of not having money can be heard in every household of Firozabad. Nothing has changed over the years. Years of hardship have killed all hopes and dreams. The author asks a group of young men to organise themselves in a cooperative. She learns the horrific truth that even if they get organised, they are taken to jail for doing something illegal and are beaten up. There is no leader among them. The author finds two distinct worlds in Firozabad. One is the exploited family caught in a vortex of poverty and the stigma of the caste in which they were born. The other is a vicious circle of those who exploit them, the sahukars, the middlemen, the politicians, the lawmakers, the policemen and the bureaucrats. These have created such a burden that a child accepts this as naturally as its father did. To do something else would mean to dare. And daring is not a part of growing up.


A Ray of Hope

The author is filled with joy when she finds that Mukesh thinks differently. The boy is filled with hope. His dream of being a motor-mechanic is still alive in his eyes as he is willing to dare.

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