"Shambhuji, kaisey ho (how are you?)," greeted the roadside toy vendor. Shambhu had ventured with his three children and an expectant wife on a challenging task of six-monthly family shopping and a day out with the family. Past experiences of such jaunts had made him wiser in the art of shopping for clothes and toys for the family.
Just last year, Ravi, the youngest of the otherwise female-intensive family was a handheld creature, and hence less demanding. Shambhu had then managed to cater to everyone's needs and even treated them to a hearty 'pao-bhaaji' meal that had cost him a cool eight-hundred rupees, his salary of six days. This year it was bound to go well past the minimum four-figure mark. But Shambhu was a happy man when he replied, "Bhagwan ki kripa hai (God is kind)."
Shambhu, a self-made man, could not get an opportunity to hone his skills. He followed his cousins to a metropolitan in search of greener pastures and new dreams. In due course, running errands for a courier company made him wiser and confident. The pleasure of booking important consignments and letters made him responsible. He considered himself an asset to the organisation.
The company office was plush and in consonance with the prevailing environment of insecurity and distrust. CCTVs, biometric system, round-the-clock security and slick professional handling of consignments presented an environment that was completely different from the conditions in the unimpressive locality in the suburbs, where he was staying in a shanty. Loose electricity wires with countless insulations were an acknowledged risk.
Braving the agony of experiencing profuse leakages during monsoons and other vagaries of weather made life a struggle. Shambhu, however, was happy and contented. Frequent rise in the prices of cereals affected the entire family. Milk was a delicacy for the kids. Shambhu dreamt of opening his own small courier service one day, a dream that he shared with his wife during weaker and private moments which were far and few between. Life, thus, went on.
Today, Shambhu, first time after being blessed with another child, had planned to watch a late-night Bollywood flick in the open-air cinema in the adjoining colony with his wife after putting the children to sleep. His mood was upbeat when his son ran towards a parked scooter, smitten by the enigmatic machine. The whole entire followed, calling after him.
Suddenly, there was an explosion and splinters ripped through the air. The confusion and the successive blasts escaped Shambhu's ears. It was peace for him. Shambhu and his family of five ceased to exist. It was all over. Scores of other Shambhus in the vicinity met the same fate that day.
The survivors, in the hope of some compensation, trudge the treacherous walk of life. Blame game, statements, counter-statements and promises to get the guilty to book and, of course, intense panel discussions aired by news channels, are the only reminders of the terrorist attack in the heart of the city. The struggling Shambhus leading honest lives with nominal dreams are proud but expendable citizens of the country, leading a life of helplessness.