What stars really are

Last June, my friend and I were trying to explain to a bunch of street kids what stars were. We took a flashlight and rode far away from the children till the light seemed to come from just one point.

“Now imagine the sun going far far far away. What will it look like?”

“Ahhhh….Stars are like that?”

“Yes!”

I was pretty proud of myself for having explained that to them. I was pretty proud of them as well for grasping the funda pretty well.

But 8 year old Balgum wasn’t convinced. He knew what stars were, of course, and he knew we were just ignorant about it.

So, with the confident stride of the master who knows he has to teach an important lesson to his students, he came to me, pulled my hand and took me over to the side of the road, where his mother sat selling aluminium trinkets.

“See the tarpaulin on which the things are kept?”

“Yeah. What about it?”

“When the day is done, Ma takes the tarpaulin and covers the things so people don’t steal from us.”

“Ok…”

“See those holes in them?”

“Yeah. The tiny ones all over it. I see them.”

“Haan. Tarpaulins are that way only. They get these holes after a while.”

“Great. I will keep that in mind.”

“Arey, listen no? Stars aren’t torchlights on motorbikes. Your schools are not teaching you correct things. Schools should teach correct things, no?”

“What are stars then? And what does the tarpaulin have to do with them?”

“Everything I have to explain to you. See. When the day ends, God also has to put the tarpaulin over his things, no? Even His tarpaulin has holes, no? So sunlight will come in, no? That’s what stars are. Understood?”

I am not sure for how long I sat smiling and crying and laughing and smiling some more. What I was sure of was that an eight year old had taught me my most important lesson in poetry.

An eight year old living on the streets with no future.

And I was determined to change that.

With the help of my friend, we got him enrolled in a public school. We needed his name and asked him about it.

“Everyone calls me Balgum” he said.

Turns out his name Balgum is actually a corruption of “Bubblegum” — something he is notorious for smuggling out of the local pan shops.

“We need to get you a real name, kiddo. If you don’t remember your real name, we will have to register a new one for you. You want a new name?”

“I can get any name I want?”

“Pretty much, yeah. Write it down here. You remember the letters we taught you?”

He wrote in Hindi what could be read out as “Saruk”.

“Saruk?”

“Haan. Like the film star.”

We burst out laughing and officially named him “Saruk” with the help of a notary. Then we enrolled him to Std Two as my friend had already taught him things of Std One.

And that’s how he went to school.

I am telling you this story today, because my friend called me to inform me about Saruk’s grades.

“He’s scored 83%. Fifth in class. Very happy he is.”

Very happy I am too.

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