This is a story I wrote for a school project on Asia. It is about three people from the different classes in the Indian caste system as they experience the same situation. Hope you enjoy!
As I strolled down the busy streets of Bombay, Maharashtra, I mused to myself what a lovely day for a walk it was. It was hot and dry of course, but that was normal for the eastern side of India. The crowded streets were a welcome change from being in the stuffy temple all day. There was so much to look at. Merchants were yelling loudly trying to sell their goods. Carts filled with all sorts of treasures and other goodies zoomed by. I breathed in the fresh air. I would love to be able to spend my days in the warm sun against the busyness.
As I walked, I passed a Dalit woman rocking her baby on the side of the street. Her kids were running amok through the streets but she made no attempt to calm them. She was focused on the tiny baby in her arms. It could not have been but a few weeks old, but its little lungs managed to scream loud enough to fill the entire street. I caught her looking at me and I scowled as she quickly turned her head. I hurried past her not wanting to be bothered. This was a day for me to enjoy myself.
I grew hungry as I passed the stalls filled with delectable foods. I stopped at one of the merchant’s stores to buy a fresh piece of Naan. The Vaishya merchant had a disgusted look on his face as I approached. I smiled warmly at him and he snapped out of whatever mood he was in. As I asked for the Naan I saw some perfect looking mangoes. This was quite a treat, but I had plenty of extra money. The steaming bread warmed my hands as the merchant handed it to me. The mango was a beautiful ombre, fading from a vibrant red, to a warm yellow, into a gentle green. I gave the merchant a tip and his eyes widened in surprise. I walked away contentedly.
Business had been slow all day. No one was hungry because of the blistering heat. I wiped the sweat from my forehead and heaved a sigh. If I did not make enough money to pay the rent, my family would have to leave their home. I looked around the crowded street warily. There was so much competition it was almost impossible to make a profit. A filthy Dalit woman sat across the street from my stall. Her children were running rowdily around the street. The small baby she held was making a horrendous noise. I was sure she was driving my customers away.
I was glowering heavily, lost in thought when a smiling Bhramin priest came up to my stall. I quickly wiped away my frown and replaced it with a welcoming smile. He asked for a piece of Naan. I was thrilled! That was almost enough to pay the rent. I always made the special bread just in case, but no one actually ever bought them. I cheerfully handed him the bread, and to my delight, he asked for a mango. Now I would definitely be able to pay the rent! I was almost overflowing with joy as I handed him the mango. He turned to leave and left a significant tip. I thanked the back of his head eagerly.
As I gleefully turned to put the coins away, I noticed several bunched of my bananas had gone bad. I couldn’t sell them to customers and the local farm animals had plenty to eat. I tossed them across the street and barked at the Dalit woman to pick them up, hoping it might shut the baby up.
My head pounded along with the obnoxious clamor of the city. The sun beat down on me like a master beats his slaves. I had been sitting there since sunrise, watching my children play in the streets. I was so exhausted I couldn’t tell what was real and what I was imagining. My baby was hungry but I hadn’t eaten in days so I had nothing to feed her. She filled the streets with her helpless wails. I could tell my presence was displeasing to some of the merchants but I was grateful that they hadn’t made me move. I was so weak I wasn’t sure I would have been able to move.
I watched people pass busily by, wondering what gave them the motivation to hustle about like they did. I saw a Bhramin priest meandering peacefully down the road. His eyes wandered around the town. I wondered what he saw in the world. Our eyes meet and I shamefully hid my face. He hurried past me, probably worried about becoming unclean.
Once he passed I dared to look up and saw the priest buying food from a Vaishya merchant. The smell of the fresh bread wafted through the air making my stomach ache. I wistfully watched the merchant and the priest exchange goods. The merchant seemed elated as the priest turned away and he put his coins away.
I lost interest and stared into the busy marketplace, seeing nothing. I was lost in thought when I heard someone calling. It was the merchant. He had thrown three bunches of bananas onto the street and he was yelling at me to pick them up. This confused me at first. Why would he throw good food on the ground? I decided not to question my luck.
I rushed to my feet clutching my baby carefully to my chest. I must have stood up to fast because my head spun. I regained my balance and hurried out into the street. People gave me a wide berth as I stooped pick up bananas. Someone pushed me over from behind and I tumbled to the ground. I called my children over and one came to help me up, another scooped up the bananas, and another gently picked up the baby. We walked together to the edge of the street and sat down. I distributed the bananas to my kids and took one for myself. I opened a banana and exhaled comfortably as the sweet scent filled my lungs. Today was a good day for me.
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I really liked the way you juxtaposed the three stories comparing the daily existence of each character to the other. It was also cleaver to show how the derivation of satisfaction or happiness can be vastly different between people. Nicely done!
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Thank you so much! This was a fun one to write. I’m glad you liked it!
This is one of my favorite stories that you’ve written. I love your use of subtle context and imagery. “My head pounded with the obnoxious clamor of the city.” What a powerful metaphor! I really felt invested in the plight of the Dalit woman; you did a terrific job of endearing her to your readers. That she finds joy in spite of her dire situation is a humbling statement of the gross excesses and lack of generosity of the middle and upper classes. Even though the story was set in historic India, the moral and lesson applies to any era and any country.
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I’m glad you found it interesting. Thanks so much for the feedback!