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4

The group marched on. This is the police line. All the constables do their drill here. The poor chaps have to patrol their areas of jurisdiction all through the night to prevent thefts.

Now, our group of rustics entered a densely-populated locality. Other groups of people could be seen walking towards the Eidgah. People were attired in their colourful best; some were travelling in horse carriages, some in motor cars; sweet scent of essence filled the air; everyone was in a jubilant mood. Our little group of villagers walked along contentedly, unconcerned about their own poverty. The city was something exotic for the boys; they could not shift their gaze from its many charms. The cars honked their horns from behind, but the boys were deaf to the sounds. Hamid nearly came under a car but moved aside just in time.

Suddenly, the Eidgah came into view. A dense growth of tamarind trees provided shade, and the floor was covered with carpets. There was an unending stream of faithfuls, and more and more of them arrived and stood at the farthest end where there were no carpets even. Here, wealth and position meant little. Everyone was equal. Our group of villagers occupied their places in the last row. Everything was well managed; it was a lovely sight to see lakhs of heads bow down in reverence, and then stand up again in unison. Everyone bent down as a single man and sat on their knees. The process is repeated several times; it is like witnessing lakhs and lakhs of electric lamps being lighted at the same instant and, then, extinguished at once. The ritual continues. It is a beautiful sight to behold; the collective action, and its infinite spread fills the heart with faith and pride. It is as if everyone is bound by a common thread of brotherhood.

The prayers were said, and people embraced one another. People now rushed to the sweet and toy shops. The grown-ups in our group of villagers are as eager as the children. There's the giant wheel, let's take a ride after paying one paisa. One moment you feel you are rising to the sky, and the very next moment you get the feeling of dropping to the ground. This is the merry-go-round, there are wooden elephants, horses and camels hanging from supports overhead. Pay one paisa, sit on the wooden animals, and you can enjoy 25 circular rides. Mahmood, Mohsin, Nooray and Sammi grab the animals of their choice. Hamid stands at a distance; he has only three paise. He cannot spend a third of his treasure just on a circular ride.

The boys get off the merry-go-round; now they will buy toys. There are big queues in front of the toy shops. There are a variety of toys: there is a policeman, water-man, king, lawyer, washer-woman, and an ascetic. Wow! Such lovely toys! They look so real, and seem to want to talk to you. Mahmood bought a policeman in khaki uniform with a red turban and a rifle slung across his shoulders; the policeman, it seemed, was getting ready to march in a parade. Mohsin liked the water-man. The water-man, bent with the weight of the water bag, looked quite happy; he was, perhaps, singing some song, and wanted to empty the water bag as soon as he could! Nooray took a fancy for the lawyer - there was a look of intelligence on the lawyer's face; he looked quite impressive in his black coat, white shirt, a watch in the shirt pocket, gold chain attached to the watch, and a heavy law volume in one hand. It seemed as if he was coming out of a courtroom after arguing a case. These were toys worth two paise each. Hamid has only three paise; how can he purchase such expensive toys? If the toy slips from the hands and falls to the ground, it will be shattered to pieces; if it gets wet by mistake all the colour will come off. Of what use are such toys?

Mohsin says, "My water-man will deliver water to you every morning and evening."

Mahmood: My soldier will keep guard, and will shoot down any thief with his rifle.

Sammi: My washer-woman will wash my clothes every day.

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  • Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
  • IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
  • Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
  • Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
  • IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
  • Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
  • Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu