Mango Thieves

Apocalypse, they say, is happening now. It should positively culminate by the third week of December, which means :

1) I would have celebrated my girlfriend’s birthday with her, alive and happy

2) I would have worked for almost 4 months (Shame to be leaving without the salary for the 4th month of blood, sweat and concrete),

3) I would have bought my first motor-cycle,

4) I would have laid hands on FIFA 13.

5) I would have not missed almost any other Pujo or birthday, of significance.

6) And watched United lead the rest of the Premier League by miles, courtesy of Kagawa.

I am a very strong enthusiast when it comes to the end-of-the-world theories. More so now, since I am completely out of a job. Hence, I tell myself, it is forty nine degree celsius outside. We have four mango trees in our compund. Every alternate year we are flooded with mangoes, of different shapes, tastes and sizes. An abundance of mangoes also necessitates that there will be stones and sticks thrown, and some would fall on our tiled roof and destroy a part of it every time.

Therefore we have an extremely busy summer everytime God sends the Mango-flood our way to cleanse us of our honest man’s afternoon sleep. And usually ma or I, end up chasing a wide variety of animals scurrying across our compound, the most cunning ones being the little half-clads.

These little half-clads are one of a kind; they are fast, fearless at heart and extremely agile. They have been trained since the day they have been born, in the world’s most feared and hated militant camps, created out of antipathy shown by our government. Poverty. They bleed while they scale the barb-wire fencing, but they are not afraid to come back again. They are masters of stealth. They are the results of policies not working in our world, of hunger and of a society that has ejected them, in every possible manner. They are the misfits, the ones that do not get a childhood like we did, the ones without friends, save that, that are their partners in crime. And yet somehow, their numbers have multiplied, and they have learned to hang on in such conditions where we will not last even a month. They do not eat for days, they will lie like the dead in the freezing nights, or will lie without clean water in the burning heat, and still they will not die.

To die, one has to live. They were never alive. They were dead long before they were born. Killed by the society that they wanted to be a part of, the government that they constitute.

When I was in school, I stayed in a colony that had several mango trees. And we used to steal mangoes too. Before the residents of that colony (some of whom I know very dearly) explode in indignation, I must say, we used to steal from trees that really did not fall in anyone’s compound. And it was fun. I loved the sight of mangoes falling from trees. For every twenty-thirty stones thrown, one mango fell (compare that to the accuracy of these little half-clads; five-six stone throws for every mango) and it didn’t matter if it was half eaten or unripe. Much like the bi-cycle races, we used to boast about the fruits that we had felled. But that was it, all of it.

Today, I hear sticks and stones falling on our compound. Groaning, I put on a pair of slippers and I walk out in the heat, the sun burning my eyes. And then I notice a half-clad running wildly across the compound, a packet in hand. I weight eighty-three and a half kilo-force (the needle usually rests either on an eighty-four or on the half mark before; I say the latter because it makes my weight sound cooler) and I am nicknamed the Hulk in class; therfore I must have scared him to death. I take off after him, my knees groaning under my weight and I scramble up the steps and brace myself for the leap of faith. I stop and I almost fall over when I notice shards of glass stuck on the wall. The half-clads have done it again. I sit down behind the wall, the summer heat getting to me.

Thirty minutes later, I find these kids are back at it again. This time, I am more careful. I silently walk across the compound, hidden by green all around me, open the gate and I go around the back. They notice me by the time I am standing behind them, ready to reprimand them. Their jaws drop, and so do the stones from their fists. I am at the end of my wits. I want to grab them by their necks, bring them home, teach them a lesson about stoning someone’s house again and then turn them over to the security. I want them punished, I want them to know that what they are doing is not right. I want them to think twice before they pick up stone in their life again. To me, the stealing of mangoes is not important. The saftey of my family is.That is when I look into the child’s eyes and I see the hunger in them. I see the helpless-ness in their eyes, the desperation and the raw, relentless poverty tearing every bit of their soul away. I want to punish them, but at what cost, I ask myself. They have suffered enough. They will suffer enough. I am not in a position to relieve them of their suffering. I cannot be the one to punish them. I have no right.

I ask them not to throw stones at the tree. I explain to them that if they do that, it causes structural damage to the roof of the house (not in the exact terms, ofcourse). I tell them that if they throw stones again, I will catch them, and they will be facing action. I am not a total wet blanket though. Before walking away, I ask them to come back the day we will be collecting the mangoes from the trees. These are half clad children. They have every right to a life, as do the children around us. They have every right to grow and make a name for themselves as we are taught by our parents, and as we will teach our children. They have every right to eat their food they are entitled to, without being shooed away.

Still they are made to appear for tests everyday, where staying alive to survive the next day is itself the only success in their lives.