A sound of bell always echoed through the city every morning louder than the rooster’s crow. Raising up an army of men, a call for duty for machines and people working together. I had a dream to grow old and go to the factories like all the men and earn money. Be strong and wise like my father.
Although I got a fairly easy job. To sit outside and yawn. I earned enough for feeding myself and had enough to get drunk and buy a pack of beedi every day. It wasn’t a dream job but being a watchman was satisfying for me. Although I was not allowed to drink during my duty hours but I quite often did and it was also the reason they replaced me with a more attentive watchman.
My Father always had a smile on his face. Every morning he used to look at me and smile. I mostly remember it as silhouette in dark morning room before sunrise, orange bulb tracing the shape of his head. But there is something about a genuine smile. It reaches you even if you can’t see it.
But I didn’t know what he hid beneath that smile. My mother told me “you are a big boy now, today you go and give the food to your father”. As I entered the factory I felt this immense heat inside the factory which lurks beneath your skin and you can feel your body burning from inside and this queer smell which made me retch. Then I saw my father at a distance and a man approached slapped him. I stood there, as if I was slapped, it all came to halt, the sounds muffled before it reached my ears, my heart raced ahead of me and the humiliation I felt. I couldn’t look up.
Next thing I remember was my father holding me and taking me out of the factory. He kneeled down and I looked at his smiling face, half red because of the slap, I couldn’t control and dropped his tiffin and ran away dropping my tears along the way.
That day, after having my afternoon nap with bunch of jobless man like me in the cooperate park, I saw this school bus that stopped in front of me and this little girl sitting inside just opposite of me. She looked at me and smiled and I smiled back at her. After a long time I felt like someone has acknowledged my presence in the world. I felt like this child from inside of his gut to his head life bursting out to his face in excitement and happiness and at the same time it also reminded me of my father who died after working at that inhumane place and he never let that smile go away from his face.
He said, you are the reason why I smile.
So I named my daughter ‘Muskan’, the reason for my smile.
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