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Writing prompt: OKAY

Provided by:  RosieC , fellow participant of the A to Z challenge.Visit her! Please leave me prompts if you haven’t already! :) And many thanks also to Vicky Roy for the photograph, and the inspirational story behind his life. I have added links to unfamiliar words.

Genre: Fiction/Flash

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Vicky Roy's photos

O=Okay, Photo Copyright: Vicky Roy, Ragpicker turned Lensman

Raju woke up each morning to the sight of his mother’s rear end. She lay with her back turned towards him, her flower-printed maxi knotted between her thighs, not two feet away on a metal bunk fixed to the wall opposite.

As he clambered down from his perch, taking care not to awaken his siblings asleep on the various bunks beneath him, he wondered how people lived in a house which had a room for each activity: one for cooking, one for sleeping in, one for people to just talk and watch TV, yet another to sit and eat. In the Bollywood movies he had seen, the heroes and heroines lived in such palaces, and walked from room to room. They seemed so lonely.

Beneath the lowest bunk, he fumbled around for the matches, lit the stove and set water to boil. Mumbai never grew  cold, but it was December and the air in his kholi held a  slight chill at dawn. He made himself some tea, but left the milk alone. Mother needed it for his toddling sister.

In the semi-dark, he pulled on a t-shirt from the nearest peg, threading his fingers through the holes that riddled its front, stifling a giggle.  His younger siblings liked to tickle him through the holes on the evenings he babysat them.  From under the sink, he dragged out a pair of mismatched boots his mother had found, stuck some rags into them so they won’t hang loose on his small, nine-year-old feet, and tied the pieces of string that worked as shoelaces. In his sack, he took some extra rags to tie on his hands and mouth later when he reached the dump.He had learnt in the last two years that a nose without roiling stink and a hand protected from cuts found more booty.

He bowed to the picture of Lord Ganesha, and waved a salute at the poster of Shah Rukh beside it, under the lowest bunk on the wall opposite the sink.

“One day, I’ll rule Mumbai,” he said, mimicking Shah Rukh’s screen accent and hiccupy laughter. He picked up paper soap and tooth brush from the carton in the corner to try his luck at the common restrooms of  the chawl. He had woken early enough to find an empty sink, or maybe even a vacant toilet.

“Raju, you’re leaving?” groaned his mother from the top bunk. As usual.

“Yes, Ma.”

“Make sure to bring everything in different bags, okay, and today try to find something we can really sell, okay?”

“Yes, Ma.”

Maybe today was the day, who knew? Just like Lakhan two months ago, who had found a stash of notes  in an old carboard bag while rifling through the trash.

As he pulled the door of his kholi shut, Raju whistled a tune. He thought not of the stench to come, the filth, or the sun on his back, but instead of the surprises the day might bring. He knew he was going to be okay.

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I’m tweeting A to Z posts at #atozchallenge  There is also the A to Z Challenge Daily with links to Tweeted A-Z posts over the last 24 hours.
Thanks and shout-outs to organisers Arlee Bird (Tossing It Out) , Jeffrey Beesler’s (World of the Scribe),  Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh) , Jen Daiker ( Unedited), Candace Ganger (The Misadventures in Candyland) , Karen J Gowen  (Coming Down the Mountain) , Talli Roland ,  Stephen Tremp (Breakthrough Blogs )
Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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16 Comments

  • That’s a lovely story!!

    I would also like to know more about the photographer who was a rag picker first.

  • Damyanti says:

    Thank you all, once again, for the wonderful comments.
    When I wrote the story, I was inspired by Vicki Roy, a ragpicker, who, with a little help from others and a lot of determination and talent on his part, has become a cameraman.

    I’m not sure I wrote the story as one of optimism, but I’m happy it came across that way.

    A child’s resilience is an amazing thing, and knowing no better life, kids like Raju think of their life as normal. Slowly, as realization dawns, in the form of exposure to television (most slums have those), and watching others/ adults take shortcuts to their aspirations, the child changes, and not always positively.

    My idea was to avoid poverty porn, and I hope I was able to do that.

    Thanks once again, people, some of your comments are so effusive as to be humbling. I hope I can keep writing, and get better with each story.

  • Petra Hefner says:

    Wonderful story of optimism!

  • PencilGirl says:

    Amazing story!! I loved the sweetness and the contentment that oozes out of those words..
    It’s true isn’t it, that the lesser you have, the happier you’ll be. All you really need to be happy, is optimism. 🙂 🙂
    The picture was perfect. That’s a little Raju right there! 😀
    Fantastic!! 😀

  • Spenc says:

    I’m amazed at your ability to create such a dynamic short story from a word and a picture. Wonderful.

  • Wonderful post, especially if you should ever wonder if you’ll be okay. It’s important for us to be reminded of how happy some people are with far less than us.

    Thanks, for the reminder 😉

  • I love the characterization here! You’ve got a nice voice. Thanks for sharing with us! <3

    ♥.•*¨Elizabeth¨*•.♥

  • Dafeenah says:

    You captured this so well. I hate to continuously repeat myself but you leave me speechless at how amazing your writing is.

  • Jeanne Kraus says:

    Great story. I can see myself reading this to learn about life through a child’s eyes who is forced to become an adult too early. Amazing writing and pulling us in with great word choice and vocabulary. Good story telling quality also.

  • Cute tale, very happy and upbeat.

  • Shelli says:

    Vibrant and compelling. I love the feeling of contentment you were able to convey through this. It didn’t feel sad to me, quite the opposite. I think it’s inspiring, a reminder to live simply and with gratitude.

    I love writing flash fiction, too. I post something every Friday. Sometimes silly, sometimes not, it’s fun to let my creativity lead me.

  • Tessa says:

    Vivid and real, it pulled me right in! Fantastic picture of a sad situation.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Tessa.xx

    Tessa’s Blurb – Dream. Imagine. Write.

  • Arlee Bird says:

    What a wonderful story! This goes hand in hand with my post today about optimism. And to think how so many of us with so much complain and despair about what we don’t have.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out
    Twitter hashtag: #atozchallenge

  • It isn’t enough to be a competent writer who ensures perfect grammar and excellent storytelling involving all the senses, to be a true artist with words you need to draw in reader involvement, which creates a kind of reality within the heart and mind. Today I have visited a child’s home, slum though we may think it to be, and have seen life through his eyes. Each new day, a day of hope. That moves me profoundly. It also made me think about my granddad who had to help support his family at the age of nine. (19thC).

  • Joy says:

    Optimism makes life so much easier to deal with. I like this story. Raju is happy with so little and has a great attitude.

  • Very vivid, and we got so much of his life and back story in such a small amount of descriptive writing. Great.

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