"Ma ! Ma ! Roti ?" Manu repeated and pulled the torn pallu of his mother. Ma glanced helplessly at the heap of unsold grass and looked painfully at his 2 yr old hungry since morning, son. She pressed Manu close to her chest, she knew it was no alternative to roti but that was the second best thing she could do, in the vain hope that he would forget about roti for a while. The heap of grass was cut by Gauma during the whole day from different lawns. After crossing Connaught Place she reached Qutub Road opposite New Delhi Railway Station where tonga stand is there. Though once the only and most prestigious means of transport, it lost its sheen and relegated to pathetic oblivion. Tonga owners have no food for themselves so where is the question of anyone buying grass for the horse.
It was already dusk and darkness was engulfing the area. Not a single customer came to purchase her grass. None came to pay for her hard day's sweating labor. Not a single man came forth, she was willing to sell her entire heap just to buy food for her hungry son Manu. Why would anyone come. When her own husband left him lonely and helpless in such a vast cruel world, liver cirrohsis claimed his life.
Gauma's husband Lal was an addict. Drinking was his only aim of exixtence. He lived for drinking and died of drinking. One evening like all evenings he came home drunk, cursing his fate.Abusing his wife and child he went to sleep never to rise. People from neighborhood colllected donation for his funeral. Left behind were Gauma and son Manu to beg for work from door to door.
Gauma was shaken abruptly from her thoughts by the shouts of " Committee....Committee ! " She is familiar with those rude and lecherous eyes of committee walas in addition to fine for selling things without licence.Leaving her grass heap, holding Manu firmly close to her chest, she ran towards her hut.
Taking time off for relaxing on a wintery night , a group of coolies of nearby station spotted the heap of grass. They sat across it in a round . One of them lit fire in the grass. The grass was burning bright, flames lapping up.
Once again hungry Manu had slept believing his mother. Gauma's torn pallu was all wet with her tears.The fire had long extinguished.
(this story 'Gauma' in Hindi was first published in Nav Bharat Times on 4th March 1979 )