Mar 28, 2023
Mar 28, 2023
by Ravi Pipal
Sattu was a street boy of my age in Aligarh city. He was not exactly a street boy, for he hailed from a big joint family, a bigger house which occupied almost half of the street and owned buffaloes, hence, by the then prevailing standards he came from a well off family. While Sattu was still a young child his mother had died of series of ailments leaving behind 3 brothers and a sister all elder to Sattu. Sattu's father was not much of a worker and worked off and on as a forest contractor. Sattu was brought up more by his street smart boy mates and relatives who were plenty in number but not much to write about back home. Sattu was fast receding to be an urchin, wearing whatever came his way, eating from whoever cared to feed him. He was a plump boy with beautiful features. Wearing rags and eating ill-nutritious food could not camouflage his handsome looks. He would stammer a little but that did not deter him from continuously talking and seeing first day first show of any film, English or Hindi which entered one of the five theatres housed in Aligarh – Tasveer Mahal, New Royal, Ruby, Novelty and Nishat. Sattu was a school drop out, not by choice but by the sheer result of negligence,as his mother was no more. Brothers had migrated to pursue their own avocation and one of the 3 brothers rose to retire from the post of Commissioner. Not that Sattu was an urchin right from beginning but oasis of prosperity did come his way in irregular intervals. As I said earlier, he was a movie buff . As was common among the growing up boys of his time, he took to the adventures of smoking. Again, whatever came his way: cigarettes to beedi to pot.
There is no adventure which Sattu would not take up enthusiastically. He was a daredevil. I recall him asking a young boy to put his finger in the toy gun. As soon as the boy entered his finger into the barrel, Sattu pulled the trigger, the sharp rod pierced though the boy’s entire finger sending the boy shrieking and wailing and Sattu, dropping the gun, running away in opposite direction. This is just one of the innumerable instances of Sattu’s bravado, for which he was always a game with abundant gaiety. His elder brother was posted as an Officer in Simla and would live in a spacious wooden bunglow in Lower Kethu with large size French windows, overlooking the beautiful hillocks and the famous Glen, where cricket and film shoots took place. When this officer brother had called us all children, I too tagged along. My first ever vacation to a place other than my grandparents cities in Aligarh and Firozabad. Firozabad was a town and not elevated to a District HQ as yet.We all had heard so much about Simla by our ‘uncle’s exaggerated version and his photographs in black suit and dark glasses against the backdrop of snow capped hills, in yet another skating similar to Rajender Kumar in Rajender Kumar & Sadhna starrer film ‘Arzoo’. He would tell us how clouds entered your house and would wet you all over. We had pictured in our mind a romantic sojourn in Simla. Beautiful, it certainly was. As beautiful as it could look to an eleven year old boy who had seen hills and snow fall only in few films he had watched by then. Sattu was not a part of the contingent. We did not give it a thought. It was too exciting for us who were in the ‘IN’ list to bother about the ones in ‘OUT’ list. Sattu must have been saddened beyond words. His own real brother has not spared a thought for his own younger brother.
When the ‘uncle’ got married and pretty ‘aunty’ gave birth to a daughter, Sattu was promptly remembered and taken to Kodarma in Bihar, where uncle was then posted. After a year or so when Sattu returned to Aligarh, he had changed beyond recognition. He was wearing neatly ironed clothes. His hair properly cut and carefully combed. He was walking in freshly polished shoes to the envy of one and all. He would talk gently, sounded more confident and pleasant. He had, indeed, transformed. He was no more a Sattu but Satish Kumar. He was put back in school as Satish Kumar. During his after hours he would baby sit his little niece as aunty was pursuing her post graduation through correspondence course from Delhi University. Bhabhi-Devar relationship is as fragile as Saali-Jija. If it clicks they become best of friends. If it does not, then worst can happen. Aunty’s M.A. completed and niece not requiring much of baby sitting. Sattu soon became a burden, an intruder in their privacy. He was irritating and so many faults were picked up in him by Aunty that one day uncle – his elder brother – decided to drop him in their newly acquired house in West Delhi. The house was a two-bed room MIG flat fully furnished. Living alone in the house Sattu remained a VIP. But his happiness did not last long. He had nothing to do whole day. Much later he would recall with bitterness towards one and all that he was kicked out of the house by his Bhabhi, as Bhaiya was more henpecked than any husband living or dead could have been to his wife. He was merely a caretaker,they badly needed to watch and ward the house in their absence. As soon as the family shifted from Kodarma to Delhi, Sattu became an eyesore. He was promptly packed back to Aligarh.
For a couple of years he could preserve his suave mannerism and sanity. Bubbling with youthful energy he befriended a rich businessman’s son, who introduced Sattu to his entire household. Sattu again got a foster family and was spending more time with them than his ‘own’ kins to the growing envy of them all. Sathu was fast falling down in their esteem. Businessman’s son, if he is spending all the time with ‘friend’ when will he learn the basics of business ? So Sattu could feel the ‘cold shouldering’. A sensitive soul Sattu was, he could feel to his dismay, that the warmth between him and the family was fast evaporating.
A time came when their servant would inform Sattu right at the door that there is no one at home, while Sattu could clearly hear their voices. Sattu, by now, was turning a wreck. He would wonder what is his fault in all this. How is he to account for untimely death of his mother, or if his father has turned a drunkard or if his brother did not care and looked after him. He was an undesirable company. Due to his bad habits he took to stealing petty things. Houses, he would enter freely were putting restrictions. He was always asked more questions and difficult questions before entry was allowed or not allowed to him. In protest he would sleep on the platform near Community Well or outside under the street lamp post. When his brother from Delhi visited him; he found him lying under a street lamp, no better than a mendicant. Under his pillow he found bundle of papers in which he had written heaps of abuses to all the film stars whose names he had seen and got firing from his elders for wasting his time and money and not doing anything worthwhile. Elder brother got further scared to take him to Delhi or doing any similar remedial rehabilitating act. He knew his wife will not let him live peacefully if this dirty vagabond of Sattu is taken to Delhi. We all have softer alternatives to stay clean with our conscience. He gave him small money and a big sermon and returned a happy man to his family in Delhi. Sattu took the money, threw the sermons down the gutter and lived for few more weeks like a Prince.
He was losing track with contemporary real world. He would mutter incoherently.He was fast sinking and nobody was caring for him nor was he caring anymore for the world, for the world had not given him anything rather had snatched whatever little he had. Parents snatched, his childhood robbed. Honour gone. Painful was, his well-off relatives looked other way when he was sliding and his world was slipping away. He could never swallow that, he never forgave them for this omission and sheer neglect on their part.He started begging in the streets.
While high on grass some enthusiast took him to a hospital. When he gained consciousness he found himself lying on a hospital bench with few currency notes clenched in his fingers. He was operated for vasectomy. Imagine! a family planning operation on someone who had no family whatsoever. With this surgery came other attendant complications. Sattu had no money nor any interest in his own life to attend to any ailment.
Alas, Sattu became Satish Kumar but for a very brief period, though I still feel he could have been groomed into a fine productive Youngman; useful to the society. After a few months, we heard Sattu died unsung. No one came forward. His body was disposed of as unclaimed.
More by : Ravi Pipal