Wednesday, 1 April 2009

FlashFiction 2009 Longlist Vikram Gulati

Life As We Know It 

When I was walking down the street the other day, I saw a couple of kids playing with an old football. It was torn in several places but nonetheless reasonably round. What fun those two were having! For a few moments I stood watching one of them baffle the other with his trickery and excellent ball-control. This young boy, barely thirteen years of age, had the potential to give any defender serious nightmares.

However, he never will. He lives in a slum near my house and will soon be working for a living. When he turns fourteen, his father will make him work as a cleaner in a nearby restaurant. For ten hours of hard labour, he will take home a paltry sum of forty rupees. Some of us will spend his entire monthly wages for a few minutes of fun without batting an eyelid. Some of us will look the other way when he comes to clean our table in the hope of escaping reality. Some of us will become experts in looking the other way whenever we find it convenient. The rest of us will become masters at ignoring our guilt. All of us will find solace by asking the following question: "How many can we help? There are too many".

There are indeed too many. This is life as we know it. We just have to deal with it. Unfortunately, I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel for the boy. He looks set to live a life of poverty and there seems to be nothing on offer to change that. Looking at him playing football, blissfully unaware of the future that waits, I feel like a fool. Why? Because I spend far too much time worrying about things. If only I could be more like the boy, joyfully enjoying his moment in the sun. Perhaps I need to learn the true meaning of contentment. As the saying goes – "To get what you want is success. To want what you have is happiness". I intend to start living that way.

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