“Oof! ….” Shankar woke up with a jerk. Sweat rolled down all over his face and he was already bathed in perspiration. He couldn’t sleep anymore. His table fan was still. Was it a power-cut? He banged the old piece in a fit of rage.
“Damn it! These bloody EB (Electricity Board) fellows..sadists!”
But he was blaming the wrong persons. The motor running in the neighbourhood was too blaring to suggest a power-cut. Thru’ his blurred eyes, he looked at his wrist watch. “Oh God ! It’s just three..”
A good night’s sleep lost! Gaining some patience, he examined the old piece. But, it didn’t seem to have a fault. There was something else that couldn’t be figured out; at this wee hour anything other than sleep seemed impossible. Just then the landlord’s words echoed in his half-dead ears: “If you don’t pay the electricity charges by tomorrow, you won’t be able to sleep tonight.” Hell with him!
Shankar had forgotten all about that warning. He had paid for the month’s rent, but couldn’t make up the deadline given for the ‘electricity’ fees. It was past the mid of the month, and the landlord Mani’s reaction was something anticipated. One could never expect even an iota of sympathy. And, Mani wasn’t the only exception. The BIG city Chennai was full of such SMALL hearts. So was his home; a small hut over the terrace of a house. A place too small for the owner to be called a landlord, and Shankar, a tenant.
The dead mosquitoes beside him were countless. He got used to these. As a stranger off the boat, the city and its habitat looked alien. But now he can’t sleep without those ‘swats of the night’; this occasion, a shorter night. “No problem!..I have a longer day ahead ” he thought. “Another chance to make a better living.”
Shankar’s greatest assets were his self confidence and heavenly mother’s wishes. His irresponsible father had not left behind any legacy. His own little earnings enabled him to move to the city. Then, he had started serving newspapers in his locality. Recently, he won a small contract from another dealer. Another additional hour of cycling to homes, and some more money. All hard-earned accruals got him a place to live and buy himself a few household items. However, ends are yet to meet.
Shankar got up with a feeling of determination. His day always began with an invigorating cup of coffee. He was very fond of it, rather grateful. There have been some busy days, when coffee has been the only filler.
Good gracious! there is no oil left. He bit his lips. It was the stove’s turn to test his patience. Not to be perturbed, he went to have his morning ablutions. His rights to good water was restricted to two buckets per day during summer. Now, the clock struck six and the Sun was gleaming. Shankar came out happily to greet the Sun. The clear sky was additional beauty. He hung his clothes to dry.
Loss of air disturbed his sleep; No oil, no fire; A scrap of land and too little water…..Thank God, the fifth element is free.