The boy kicked the red-spotted black ball. It bounced off the flower pot at an acute angle, and landed a few feet to his right. The stray cat, basking on the warm Magh sun, stood up, ran, and punched the ball.
Samir was watching the order of events from the second-floor window. The small cemented lawn in front of the three-storied house usually transformed into a playground, of both the boy and the cat every evening, after the boy came back from school in the late afternoon. After having lunch, the boy would run down the stairs from the third floor where the gharbeti lived, and played with his bicycle, a wooden cricket bat, a small plastic ball, and this particular football.
From the window, Samir watched the kid at play. He was always alone. Why wouldn’t he be? There were no other kids in the neighborhood. The area was built with old-money, and most of the houses were already more than twenty years old. The architectural charm of the buildings was there but leaking toilet pipes and worn-off paint on the walls had converted the tole into a refuge where rural migrants with decent money tried to carve their own concept of ‘home’.
And thus, the neighboring structures all housed either single men or young couples. The young couples were either childless or recently had a child. The boy was too old for the toddlers to play with and the adults too old.
Samir remembered his own upbringing. He was from a small town in the Terai. Every evening, twenty kids – sometimes up to thirty three – kids would gather around the maidan and they would play a hearty two-hour game of football. He would often come home with bruises carved on multiple parts of his body. A roll of Handiplast was always at his disposal, and he would make sure that he would hide the Handiplast kissing his skin from his mother to the most of his ability so as to stay away from her bitter scolding. “Aaja feri ghau banaayecha,” he despised hearing these words.
The football hit the open windowsill, right on the pane of glass. The frame rotated backwards from the force.
“Sorry uncle!” the boy shouted.
Samir responded, “Pakha. Wait. Let me join you.” He managed to find his three-year old rubber slippers that already had a few cuts here and there, and ran down to the angan to join the boy in his play.
Translation of words
gharbeti – houseowner
tole – street
aaja feri ghau bhanaayecha – you got bruises again
maidan – playground
angan – lawn