Jump to content
Registration -- to join PMO ***UPDATED INSTRUCTIONS*** Read more... ×
Poetry Magnum Opus
goldenlangur

A day in the life of a boy

Recommended Posts

goldenlangur

A day in the life of a boy

 

 

 

Every morning before the smog of dung and wood fires lifts over the Brahamaputra Plains, he emerges from the tin shack, a home he shares with his mother, father, twin baby brothers and a younger sister.

 

A cup of tea without milk or sugar and last night’s rice and lentils warmed up, should keep him going for the day till he returns at dusk with some money from the scrap merchants.

 

He picks up his plastic sack, its colour indistinguishable from his army fatigue coat, his mother bought some years ago in a second hand stall at the Sunday market. The coat is tight, torn under the arms but at least it keeps off the chill of the fog that comes down from the mountains across the border.

 

His rubber shoes are new though, purchased from a proper shoe store in town, with money he had saved under his bamboo sleeping mat. He wets his hair from a ladle of water. His sister always complains that he uses too much because he does not have to carry tins and plastic jerry cans filled from the stream across the fields. He ignores her glare this morning again and runs a small comb through his hair to give himself the latest Bollywood hero’s smooth sweep.

 

Whistling a film song he watched on his neighbour’s TV, he walks to the rubbish dumps along the railway tracks. Bottles, aluminium cans, plastic wrappers, bits of wood, if he’s lucky. In winter there’s a different stench – the cold, rainless air carries urine, faeces from the open toilets and dust in a dry heavy blanket. So he ties a polyester cloth with a colourful picture of a Bollywood couple dancing around a fountain, over his mouth and nose. He has also learnt to use a plastic bag as a makeshift glove, ever since his fingers closed around a dead baby’s head.

 

Swiftly and deftly with one hand he shifts through the refuse, while the other holds the plastic sack. Mangy strays whimper and growl as they compete with him inside the concrete tubs. He was once bitten by a hungry bitch, her teats hanging to the ground and her bones showing through almost fur less back and sides. Anti-tetanus, rabies injections? Just words he heard on the TV government health posters.

 

Trains from Delhi to Guwahati come and go – Express, Luxury Overnight, Oil and Teak cargoes. Their hoot and rumble make him look up briefly. But he has to fill the sack or else the scrap merchant will not pay.

 

 

Later that evening, he trudges to the yard – dusty, overflowing and noisy. The merchant, a thin, tired looking middle-aged man is drinking tea. He ignores the boy, who waits quietly, the sack by his feet. He shuffles forward, bored and bad-tempered:

 

"That’s no good, or that. What is this? How many times have I told you not to pick paper bags – they can’t be used again. You do it to fill the sack !"

 

The boy does not argue. Wordlessly he pockets the few notes the man throws at him and makes his way home with the unwanted paper bags in his sack.

 

 

 

Notes:

 

Brahmaputra Plains : The Brahmaputra is one of the largest rivers in the border area between India and Bhutan, spanning both territories. The Plains are the lowlands on the Indian side of the border.

Guwahati : A major town and business center in the north eastern Indian state of Assam and again Assam and Bhutan share a common border.

 

 

 

 

Taking a shot at writing prose.

 

 

goldenlangur

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Tinker

My God! What have we done to our children? This is beautifully written and a very sad commentary on what children experience all over the world. I was involved in a Water Project in Guatamala through an NGO with ties to UNESCO a few years ago, the children there were doing exactly the same thing as in this piece. In fact a whole village had sprung up right on top of a garbage dump, disease and infection were rampant. Poverty targets our weakest, yet this child has a steely strength that the pampered children of more affluent families will never know. My heart breaks for him and at the same time I stand in awe of his capacity to survive.

 

Thank you for sharing this gl.

 

~~Tink

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
badger11

An accomplished piece of writing gl, but then that is not unexpected. This could have been 'sadly' predictable, but the nuances create an individual not a stereotype.

 

A day in the life of a boy

 

I thought the plain simplicity of the title invited the reader to explore further.

 

Every morning before the smog of dung and wood fires lifts over the Brahamaputra Plains, he emerges from the tin shack, a home he shares with his mother, father, twin baby brothers and a younger sister.

 

You pack a lot of information into your sentences: a typical day because it is 'everyday'; a day that starts early 'before the smog of dung and wood fire' ; some local colour, placement with 'Brahamaputra Plains'; the poverty 'tin shack'; the overcrowding 'shares with...; the fact he is older than his siblings.

 

 

His rubber shoes are new though, purchased from a proper shoe store in town, with money he had saved under his bamboo sleeping mat. He wets his hair from a ladle of water. His sister always complains that he uses too much because he does not have to carry tins and plastic jerry cans filled from the stream across the fields. He ignores her glare this morning again and runs a small comb through his hair to give himself the latest Bollywood hero’s smooth sweep.

 

A lovely piece of writing that conjures up the child's escapism, the reality; the 'proper shoe shop' and the labour needed to obtain water - writing that gives a rich undercoat, a context that defines the limits of this boy's world.

 

 

Wordlessly the boy pockets the few notes the man throws at him and makes his way home with the unwanted paper bags in his sack.

 

Maybe 'wordlessly' would imply 'The boy does not argue'.

 

Look forward to more

 

badge

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
goldenlangur

Hi Tink,

 

Thank you for a perceptive response. I can see how your own experience with Guatemalan children would give you some insight into the wretched plight of children who survive against all odds. Although mine is a fictional account - this kind of life is the lot of many children and yes, as you observe, they are resourceful, strong and in this case, uncomplaining.

 

 

I'm grateful that this touched a chord with you.

 

with appreciation.

 

 

goldenlangur

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
tonyv

Hi Golden,

 

I like how you shed light on the economic extremes that exist in such close proximity to one another, almost like in parallel universes, when you juxtapose how "In winter there’s a different stench – the cold, rainless air carries urine, faeces from the open toilets and dust in a dry heavy blanket" with "Trains from Delhi to Guwahati come and go – Express, Luxury Overnight, Oil and Teak cargoes." I also like how you show that this boy -- this survivor who must compete with the animals (also survivors in their own right) -- is aware of a better life and somehow has hope: he has obtained good shoes for himself, and he is conscious of another world as is evidenced by the Bollywood references.

 

This is a sobering reminder to all of the economic inequality that persists in the world. It makes me think of the Alang shipbreaking operations, and it should raise questions in the minds of all as to why why nations have allocated money to conduct wars and take jaunts into outer space when so many people, especially children, live in such squalor and are barely able to meet basic needs for sustenance.

 

This is well written; I like both your prose and your poetry very much. I hope you will post some of your haibuns like on the old site. I still plan to try writing one sometime soon...

 

Tony

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
goldenlangur

Hi badge,

 

 

Thank you very much for your close reading of this piece. It's been a long while since I've written any prose and your review gives me some hope.

You're right - there're many details packed into this narrative. Perhaps as I learn and improve I will be able to write with a lighter hand.But I'm very glad that the plight of a brave and admirable child comes across for you.

 

 

Your advice for the closing line of the story is well observed and I shall gratefully take it on board for a rewrite of this piece.

 

 

 

With appreciation,

 

 

goldenlangur

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
goldenlangur

Hi Tony,

 

I'm very grateful for the way you've honed into the cultural-economic significance of certain references in the piece, particularly here:

 

the economic extremes that exist in such close proximity to one another, almost like in parallel universes, when you juxtapose how "In winter there's a different stench – the cold, rainless air carries urine, faeces from the open toilets and dust in a dry heavy blanket" with "Trains from Delhi to Guwahati come and go – Express, Luxury Overnight, Oil and Teak cargoes." I also like how you show that this boy -- this survivor who must compete with the animals (also survivors in their own right) -- is aware of a better life and somehow has hope: he has obtained good shoes for himself, and he is conscious of another world as is evidenced by the Bollywood references.

Tony

 

Yes, the flamboyance and excesses of Bollywood as well as the archetypal family life and contentment these films show are such a contrast to this child's life and experiences.

 

Thank you for mentioning the Alang Ship breaking operations - I knew nothing about these till you referred to them. You're right that the disparities between nations and amount of wealth wasted on war when many die for want of food and basic amenities, are shocking.

 

 

I appreciate your encouragement and support very much and hope to write a little more prose.

 

 

With appreciation,

 

 

goldenlangur

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
badger11

I will be able to write with a lighter hand.

 

I don't know gl, but as always you sensed what I had decided not to elaborate on (ie I edited my response on reflection). I used the word 'nuances' rather than 'observational detail' because I felt the piece was not compensating for a lack of creativity. Perhaps it is the old dilemma of how much we 'trust' our readers: some of the responses here suggest knowledge rather than ignorance, but perhaps that is the exception.

One question I would like to venture: I did wonder about the absence of a name?

 

all the best

 

badge icon_biggrin.png

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
goldenlangur

Hi badge,

 

Thank you for getting back with your thoughts.

 

I felt the piece was not compensating for a lack of creativity. Perhaps it is the old dilemma of how much we 'trust' our readers: some of the responses here suggest knowledge rather than ignorance, but perhaps that is the exception.

One question I would like to venture: I did wonder about the absence of a name?

badge icon_biggrin.png

 

A very good point, you make here. I think that if I was writing this for Bhutanese or Indian readers, I would use more local terms which would cover/convey a whole gamut of references and perhaps I would not use some of the factual details, I have used here - the tin shack, for instance, because many are only too well acquainted with the living conditions of children like the one described here. Perhaps I would use more conversation/dialogues to give a more colloquial tone.

 

The dilemma of "trust" in the reader in my case is, I fear my own inexperience - I have yet to learn how to balance the factual and the narrative threads in a prose piece.

 

As for the absence of a name - I wondered if a nameless boy would bring out how utterly without choice, identity and chance such a child is - he performs a social role - a earner for his family and a scavenger for the scrap merchants who pay him a pittance. Employing older more skilled youth would be economically unviable for this strata of petty business. He has no life, in effect. I'm not sure if this makes sense.

 

I appreciate this exchange,

 

goldenlangur

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Aleksandra

Wonderful piece goldenlangur. Well written. And I must admit it was a little hard for me to understand but finally I did , thanks to Tony who helped me with this. It is deep subject and so sad event in this world.

You start here very touching and emotional:

 

Every morning before the smog of dung and wood fires lifts over the Brahamaputra Plains, he emerges from the tin shack, a home he shares with his mother, father, twin baby brothers and a younger sister.

 

A cup of tea without milk or sugar and last night’s rice and lentils warmed up, should keep him going for the day till he returns at dusk with some money from the scrap merchants.

 

And the end goes with same power and same tone as in the beginning.

 

The boy does not argue. Wordlessly he pockets the few notes the man throws at him and makes his way home with the unwanted paper bags in his sack.

 

I would put there " ... " I mean at the end: " with the unwanted paper bags in his sack..." - because I feel that this one is going on and going on, every single day.

 

Sad but real. So well done and thank you for sharing GL this one with us

 

Aleksandra

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
goldenlangur

Hi Aleksandra,

 

I'm grateful that you found this account of a boy who struggles to survive against great odds in a poor society, moving.

 

 

You're quite right that this scenario of his spending a whole day in the rubbish dumps collecting items to sell to the scrap merchant has a monotony and endlessness about it. So thank you for suggesting a .... after the last sentence. I will certainly give it consideration when I rewrite this.

 

I have not attempted prose for a long time and so your encouraging response is very welcome.

 

 

With appreciation,

 

 

goldenlangur

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
YarnSpinner

A Day in the Life of a Boy; fictional or non-fictional reading, It is well written. 

I choose the term epic, for this reads like a sad, open diary of a young person’s unfortunate life. A life that is established strictly by survival instinct.This child has not been privy to awakening from a clean, warm bed; nor is his style of dress one that would take several wasted moments, choosing only the best his wardrobe had to offer, before leaving home for an undisclosed period of time.

This child probably never experienced the privilege of an air conditioned house; being able to choose a warm breakfast, or just a day old donut and cool glass of cold milk, before leaving his dwelling...

More that I read, I realize that all mankind worldwide...is not created equal. Being created equal is not by choice of an individual, instead it’s because of indiscretion of a ruling factor that dictates without remorse. The 5 basic senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch) are diluted from birth. A child of this nature is not given to the fullest extent, an education to understand what he or she, is worthy or capable of. 

A Ruling Factor fears education. If this burning thought ever flickers strong in the eyes of the underprivileged, there will be changes. Change comes at a costly price. For the educated, the price is well worth it.

YarnSpinner
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.