27 January 2016

Today in Mumbai

Wow. While walking through Khar Danda this morning, past an area where a local mechanic keeps some junk cars parked, I heard the familiar strains of, "Uncle, Uncle!", in plaintive, muffled, high-pitched voices. That's what the local kids call me, call many older men, out of respect. 
At first I thought it was in my head, as when a song you've been listening to repeatedly starts to play on its own. I hear that refrain often, from neighbours and strangers. I stopped and looked around anyway, and didn't see kids tugging at my shirtsleeves as I half expected. There were just a few men working nearby. 
Then I saw the shell of a car next to me. No wheels, but cabin and windshields intact. And inside were two small children, banging their fists against the glass. I walked closer and saw their dusty faces streaked with tears, their mouths twisted into pleas. 
I walked around to the passenger side and opened the door. The kids poured out. The inside door panels had been removed. They had entered the car to play, and couldn't get out. I don't know how long they were in there. 
I followed one boy as he ran to his nearby dwelling, the kind of small shack, with tarp flaps for a door, that is common in this fishing village neighbourhood of Bombay. His mom was squatting outside, washing dishes in a bucket. He was explaining to her what happened. 
I don't think they were locked in there for a long time. Though no one was close enough to hear them, it's a busy street with people passing frequently. Surely someone would have heard them eventually. But they were pretty freaked out when I opened the door, and ran away from that car as fast as they could. I don't think they'll be playing there again. 

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