The boy was five years old that day.
He did not know how old he was. It was needless to know. He did not want to know, either.
His father and mother had no time to take care of his age. Children of all ages had been born one after another. How old was that one? When was that one born? It was not important for them to know how old they were. When the boy’s grandma was asked, “How old are you Daw Marie?” she would reply, “Yes, I think I’m fifty or sixty.”
I had been selling for seven years and so that was why I knew the boy’s age by calculating my selling age. While I was selling in that bazaar for two years, his mother gave birth to the boy. As she was plucking beans, she shuted, “Sister, sister”, when the boy’s head was about to come out and the laborers picked her up to the Gyinmakhanar hospital.
The boy’s family was always dirty whenever they were seen. Look at the boy. There was soot on his face. His hair needed not to be dyed, it was reddish, grey, dry and greasy. There were dust and trash on his head. His short pant was of torn seams. It was hard to differentiate its color. His shirt was sleeveless in one side and was neither short not long in the other. Half of its collar was torn and hanged at the back. The complexion of the boy’s family seemed to be black, but they were not only black but also shiny and looked like negroes. By tossing up beans, onions and chillis, there were dusts and powder from the shops that stuck on their faces and they were black, dry and grimy as they had never taken a bath for the whole life.
The boy had eight brothers and sisters. He was the youngest. In the last week of the last month, one of his elder brothers died of jaundice in the hospital. No one knew which brother he was, he was just one of his seven brothers. Having no expense for the funeral, they let the hospital for undertaking. I’hey did not seem to feel sorry for their brother’s death. They were awe with eyes popping out.
Look at the boy’s family! How were they running their lives’? At the place behind the toilet where various kinds of people used. they laid down on the ground; some five or six old bamboo mattings that were thrown away from the shops; some broken reed mattings and old torn gunny bags were used as a cover or shield. That was the house of the boy’s family. On sparsely old bamboo mattings, they laid down the old blankets which were given by the others and they slept on it. They never cooked rice and curry to eat. There were no pots, plates and cups. Holding old bowls and broken enamel plates. they begged some leftover rice and curry of the customers and the family shared to eat.
Sometimes, they picked up gram, tossed up and sold them and from that money, they bought rice, poured down some water from the common drinking-water pot, asked some salt from the salt shop and fritter from pickled tea-leaves shop and they ate them. In that way they ran their lives everyday.
The boy’s father had no permanent job, he did everything what the buyers and some shop- keepers asked him to do. He carried bundles and goods, it was called extempore worker; every evening at the colorless alcoholic spirit shop, at the end of I y street, he spent the money that he earned, he didn’t eat rice and curry. His body was always shaking. he never wore any shirt but only waist cloth. He put dirty, old vest on his shoulder.
The boy’s mother, brother and sister were busy the whole day on the ground among the bean bags. holding a black, dirty and grimy sieve with thin bamboo strips here and therein their hands they went to work. They picked up beans that fell from the holes of different kinds of gram bags on the ground, they sifted them, and when there were no dust and trash, they sat down to choose the different kinds of grams. There were chick pea. pigeon pea, lablab bean and lentil. They had more than a tin of condensed- milk-tin of each kind of bean and they went to sell at the strand as there was a rnan who bought their peas.
Sometimes, behind some shop-keepers’ back. they made the holes of the gram bags to become larger and took out some beans. When the shop-keepers saw, they were shouted and beaten, saying. “Don’t come here, again”. Scratching head and buttock. with eyes popping out, they went among the other gram godown and gram bags.
Last Saturday, one o f the boy’s brothers was dying. He didn’t pick up the peas, but he was catching the cockroaches. He was trying to catch among the bags of peas and the bags of salt. He got many cockroaches. He went to sell them to the men who were fishing at the strand. he put the cockroaches in the condensed- milk-tin and sold and he got more money than picking up the peas. Jackie Chan and the footballer actor could lose him. One day the pea-bags fell over him. How heavy the bags were! One bag weighed thirty or forty or fifty viss. No sooner had the bags fell on him, he shouted for help and the workers came, he was lucky and so he did not die. There were blood in his mouth and nose. he was only twelve or thirteen. he would die if nobody heard him.
How was he kept as newly-born baby? There was quid of betel shop near bazaar toilet. A round bamboo tray was laid on the ground near the quid of betel shop, the boy was put there, under the sun or rain, mosquitoes and flies were swarming, even the neighbouring dogs kiss him. The boy’s mother went to pick up the peas, leaving the boy with the shop-keeper of quid of betel who was too busy to look after the boy. He had his own job.
The boy never had enough breast-feeding. The boy’s mother was lack of nourishment by herself and she could not breastfeed her baby. The baby longed for the mother’s thin nipple and when once he had breast-feeding, he took it without restraint.
The boy grew up very wearily. As soon as he had learnt to walk, he followed his mother to pick up peas in the bazaar. While his mother was picked up something on the ground and ate it up. With thin and black buttock, the naked boy walked in the bazaar. The kind and sympathetic sho-keeper gave him some food and old clothes.
Now, the boy was five years old. He could walk well. Although he couldn’t talk clearly, he could talk quite well.
If the boy had been a member of rich family, there would have been great and grand birthday party. Everyone would sing “Happy birthday to you”. There would be a big birthday cake and many presents.
He would wear the vest school uniform. He would hold the best haversack, he would go to school by the best car. Although they were not rich, the average middle class family would celebrate the youngest boy’s 5th birthday. He would also be sent o school.
No, let alone the taken of remembrance of the boy’s 5th birthday, no one in his whole family didn’t know about it. It was not important to know, nor to remember, Although he was five, he couldn’t attend the school, they even did not understand to send him and to enroll him to the school. they had to work, like his mother, brother and sister, the boy was always there, holding dirty black grimy sieve among the pea-bags.
Sometimes, holding a condensed-milk-tin, he was catching cockroaches. He would carry the buyers’ heavy baskets and bags.
Just like the boy, there were many boys in the bazaar.