The Little Gymnast
The signal said ‘Stop’, the gymnastics started. Little girl, probably 6 or 7 years old, with
her steel ring, came up in the small space between vehicles. Somersaulted, bent &
squeezed inside the ring & put up her little arms for a few coins. The signal went green,
the child started to walk back to the footpath, She passed a car & as she went across, a
biker came right on to her & she could not escape. She was knocked down.
Crowd gathered, shouted at the biker, and started hitting him. An elderly man stopped the
crowd from hitting the biker & called for police. But, No one touched the child which lay
in a puddle of slush, for she was all dirty. Probably she had no proper clothes & the
tattered clothes she wore were wet with slush. It had rained previous day.
As I saw, a man equally dirty picked the girl from the puddle in the road and placed her
on the foot path. She was motion less; the man sat next to her with a hand on his
forehead, but spoke nothing. A child next to me asked ‘What happened?’. And, I
involuntarily said ‘Accident, She must be dead!!’. The child ran away.
By then, the traffic policemen made their way through the crowd. The senior officer,
shouted ‘What happened?’, The crowd looked at the biker. The officer’s radio crackled &
called for an ambulance. Looking at the biker said ‘Come to the police station, do you
have a license? Get all the documents, immediately!!’
As the crowd swell, the traffic came to a stand still. The child who enquired ‘what
happened’ earlier, now returned with a small group of people. All wore tattered clothes,
looked dirty & hairs caught rut. One of the women among them was sobbing. With a
great effort the gang squeezed themselves through the crowd & started looking at the
child. I suspect they were the Childs relatives, parents or guardians.
Looking at the group of these curious people, the Police officer asked ‘Do you know the
child?’. Some one in the crowd said ‘they are all same, they are all beggars, they sleep
near the bus stand in the night!!’. Again the Police officer asked ‘Do you know the
child?’, this time he spoke Hindi!!, specifically looking at the women who was sobbing.
None of them answered.
They were heard whispering among themselves, but no one knew the language they were
speaking, they were vagabonds, they spoke tribal & nothing else. These were the people
who were forced out of the forests. They made their lives by selling herbs & oils,
sometimes smuggled out of the forests. When they had nothing to sell, they begged, tried
gymnastics. No one really cared; rather everyone felt they were a nuisance in the area.
A siren of a ambulance was heard. The crowd parted & a government hospital ambulance
stopped. Two men got out from the rear. The Police patrol vehicle came behind. A
photographer & two constables got down. The Police officer started giving instructions
for the spot inspection. The photographer clicked photos from different angles. In a few
minutes it was all over. The child’s body was covered with a cloth & put on the stretcher.
As the stretcher got loaded to the ambulance, the Police officer instructed the biker to get
into the police patrol vehicle. The biker handed over the bike key to the constable & sat
in the patrol vehicle. Probably a case will be registered.
The police left with the ambulance. The crowd dispersed. But, the small group of
vagabonds sat gathered around the sobbing woman. An elderly man asked the sobbing
woman who had started crying aloud now, ‘What is the point of crying now?, why didn’t
you speak when the police questioned?’. And, the woman answered back ‘we are
vagabonds, people in cities hate us, police think we are beggars & thieves, more over we
don’t have enough to feed ourselves, how should we face police? It is asking for more
trouble, we don’t want that we will move out of here…we will move out…!!!!
The group sat there for a nearly an hour, the clouds above had darkened, a few minutes
later it started raining & then the group too dispersed. The traces of the accident, the
braking mark small blood patches all were washed away. As the sun started showing the
traffic resumed as before…except for the few shopkeepers, no one talked about it too. A
little child had died.. And, died playing a gymnast!!
By – Dileep Kumar D