Sunday storytelling slam featuring millennial authors (HT Brunch Cover Story): Bilal Siddiqi writes…Providence
Suleiman first lost his folks to the rains and then it beat him down once again...Updated: Aug 18, 2019 01:39 IST
Suleiman in all his 13 years of age had been told about God and his mysterious ways. Living in an impoverished part of Mahim, he had lost his parents a few years earlier in the most unfortunate of ways. Their little makeshift house, made of asbestos sheets, metal rods and loose bricks, caved in one rainy night and crushed them while he happened to be outside with his friend Javed. Javed and he had been enjoying the hard beads of water hitting their faces as they waded in the muddied puddles and played catch with well-rounded pebbles. Upon returning home and witnessing what had transpired, Suleiman broke down, unable to fathom how the same rain that he so enjoyed had also caused great heartbreak. “It is all providence,” he was later told by the craggy-faced maulvi at the dargah nearby.
Almost a year later, Suleiman and Javed sat opposite a seedy restaurant, longing to sink their teeth into the cheap kebabs and naans. It was humid and the smoke from the tandoors and the collective body odour of the crowd enveloped the road. It had been a while and the rain had still not arrived. Global warming and suchlike were the justifications of the elite. Out here, it was all God’s will.
With Suleiman and Javed was the local handicapped ragpicker Abdullah. The restaurant, run by pot-bellied Faizan bhai, had scores of beggars lining up outside awaiting some do-gooder to pay for their meal. Faizan bhai, when he came across the said do-gooder, would pocket a large chunk of the money that was meant for the beggars and feed them with whatever his limited generosity allowed him to. Abdullah cursed at the unscrupulous Faizan. Suleiman watched pensively and then made up his mind.
“He is stealing from others,” he shrugged. “So we can steal from him.” Abdullah chuckled.
“Suleiman,” he flashed his ugly grin, “You are the better runner of the two. Javed, you distract Faizan. Suleiman you run off with the food. Whatever you can lay your hands on. I’ll see you at the end of the road. Okay?”
The two nodded. Javed walked up to Faizan and began to annoy him with a well-rehearsed plea that he often used at traffic signals. An irritated Faizan tried hurling curses at Javed to send him off. But Javed was going nowhere. Faizan got off his stone platform with a piece of wood that he used to beat his rotis into shape, exposing a stack of freshly-cooked butter-naans behind him. Suleiman saw his chance. He darted through the scores of beggars, swiftly grabbed the food, and made his way out of the restaurant before Faizan could register what had happened. Faizan ordered his men to chase Suleiman. A few beggars cheered Suleiman as they saw the nimble-footed boy negotiate his way through the crowds.
Suleiman turned to look at the chasing men. He also felt his skin moisten. It wasn’t sweat. It had started raining. Not a gentle drizzle. The rain beat down hard on him. The same rain that had taken his parents from him. As he ran on, the ground beneath him got more slippery. He turned to see that Faizan’s men were still hot on his heels. He could not afford to get caught. He pushed himself to run faster and the inevitable happened. He fell. The naans he had stolen fell in a muddy puddle next to his face.
He felt a few kicks to the ribcage. Well, it certainly is true. The wise maulvi’s words echoed in his ears. “It is all providence…”
Author bio: Bilal Siddiqi released his first book, a spy thriller called The Bard of Blood, when he was just 19 years old. This was followed by a biography and a romantic thriller. Plus, Bilal is also working as a screenwriter with a production house and is open to writing in different genres.
Illustrator bio: Parth Garg is a Delhi boy who, at 24, is a millennial himself. In addition to illustrating for HT Brunch, he is currently involved with a project that promotes education for all.
Additional reporting by Lubna Salim
Read: Rain by Gurmehar Kaur
Read: The Reptile Kind by Vivaan Shah
Read: HT Brunch Cover Story: How millennials write…three 20-somethings write exclusive monsoon-themed stories
Join the conversation using #HowMillennialsWrite
From HT Brunch, August 18, 2019
Follow @HTBrunch on Twitter
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch