Lost Spring: Anees Jung

The writer who is a journalist by profession meets a  bright young boy whose name is Saheb. He is a refugee from Dhaka, Bangladesh . Jung is deeply touched by Saheb’s lively and enthusiastic nature which is in stark contrast to the impoverished background he hails from.

Saheb’s full name is Saheb-e-Alam, which means the  lord of the universe. Despite his rather grandiose name, Saheb is a rag picker and he spends his day walking barefoot in search of waste.His family  had left the barren unfertile fields of his  country in search of better living conditions and are now settled in Seemapuri, a slum in the outskirts of New Delhi.

The inhabitants of Seemapuri have elevated the status of rag-picking to that of a  fine art. Garbage to them is no less valuable than gold.

One day, the writer asked Saheb if he would join a school if Anees were to start it. The boy did not say anything but after a few months he comes back to ask if the school has been started and the writer is left red-faced and confesses that it is not so easy to start a school.

Saheb loves tennis. He intently watches others play it. He has even managed to get a pair of shoes. It does not matter to him if they are old or discarded. His eyes light up watching others play the game he loves.

Sometime later, Saheb starts working as an assistant at a small tea shop. He is paid 800 rupees and gets his meals free. The writer rues the fact that the job has only taken away Saheb’s freedom without giving him much in return.

Mukesh makes bangles like everyone else in his family.The delicate bangles he makes adds colour to the lives of many but leaves his own dull and uninteresting.

One day he takes the writer to his home,a shack covered with tarpaulin which he announces proudly is being re-built. Inside, Anees is greeted by Mukesh’s, sister-in-law preparing food for the family.

Mukesh’s father had tried all means to better his lot. He worked as a tailor then as a bangle maker but could not build a home for himself or send his children to school.  All he could do was to teach them what he knows- to make bangles.

Mukesh’s grandfather had lost his eyesight, it was his –karam-destiny,sighed his wife. Making bangles in the dark dingy hutments they lived in, welding coloured glass into circles of bangles , the boys and girls  start working early in their lives. Eventually they get  used to adjusting their eyes to the darkness around them than the light outside.

The poor sales and low cost of the bangles they make does not earn them enough. But it is a profession they have followed over a few generations and a shift to a safer more profitable one is not easy.

Caught between the  shackles of the caste into which they are born, the ruthlessness of the middle men or sahukars, Mukesh and his community see no hope for themselves.

But Mukesh  does manage to become the  mechanic he always wanted to be.

Perhaps change is possible…

In Lost Spring, Anees Jung looks at the lives of young and old living in sub human conditions with  sympathy and understanding.

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