The screech pierced in Kapil’s ears, making him cover them with his hands. The train dawdled to a start and pushed itself forward on the tracks, fading the horn. Kapil looked around in the compartment he chose to hide in, there was nothing to cover his wound except a torn cloth.
He dusted the dirt off the cloth and turned it around his lower arm. Holding the other end with his teeth, he managed to tie a sloppy knot around his bleeding wound. He started wondering where he will get enough water to wash the wound as well as the dirty cloth.
“You’ll get water at the stop after Alamgarh.” The face in the dark said, as if reading Kapil’s mind.
Kapil wandered off to the events that led to the wound. Unsure of his future, he had to put a finger on where it started in the past.
As the Saabji approached with the hot iron rod, closer and closer to Rahim, Kapil was sprinting towards the back of the tent, where Saabji had Rahim tied to a chair. As he watched the mouth full of paan relieve of its contents, he heard Saabji mumble something.
“Served hot…” Saabji’s eyes had grew wider, you could see the exhilaration in his words.
Kapil quickly grabbed the sling from one of the kids’ hands and loaded a big stone in it. He gave a scream before Saabji was inches away from the eyeballs.
“Saabji!!!” The term meant respect for an elderly but the tone wasn’t of admiration.
The crowd onlooked the drama unveiling before their eyes and took it all in. The boys who shared the tent with Kapil did not know the skinny person had courage of a lion when it came to his friends.
Saabji turned to face the little figure before him. He saw eyes that glared crimson from hatred and a chest pounding so hard, it was clear he was not fooling around.
Kapil drew back the stone and let it hit Saabji’s cheek hard. Everyone gasped but no one came ahead to catch the slumping heavy figure of Saabji. He held his bleeding cheek and knelt on the ground.
“You bloody kids have taken this too far.” He dabbed the cheek with his dhoti and picked up the fallen rod, it was still flaming hot.
But it was too late because Kapil had managed to untie a hand of Rahim right after he shot the stone. Kapil forgot the sling and just picked up stones to pelt at Saabji. Rahim struggled to escape and did, the onlookers were more like statues at this point, not moving an inch to help either cause.
Saabji tried to get his heavy body but the stones coming at him were making it difficult to cover his face and head. He took the iron rod, and started flinging it in all directions. It scraped Kapil on his arm. That’s when the stones stopped coming towards him. Kapil thought the big guy had gone crazy with the velocity with which he was swinging the rod. Rahim by his side, Kapil turned towards the circus dome and started running.
Saabji took one last look at the two boys and threw the rod in his hand. Still on the floor, kneeling down, he cursed the day the two boys joined the Circus.
“I said you’ll get water at the stop after Alamgarh.” The voice repeated after seeing Kapil go into a far gaze.
“Oh, uh, Yes. Thank you. I will get down and hopefully find a bottle to bring back some.” Replied Kapil, still having a million questions about Rahim on his mind.
“That’s no problem. You wash off your wound. I’ll arrange the container for the water.” said Rahim, trying to read the quizzical expression on Kapil’s face.
“We’re in this together.” Rahim reassured Kapil.
“Yes, of course.” Kapil replied, stone-faced.