Arjun didn’t know where he was going. He was walking, holding the finger of his grandmother with his tiny hands on the sidewalk. He preferred walking over being carried in arms. He could see the fascinating crawling things his parents called insects. He wasn’t supposed to touch them, so he never did. Yet, he always watched them in fascination. He was 3 years old, that’s what his parents told him. He didn’t know what that meant. He was able to tell his parents when he was hungry and he wanted to poo-poo. They took care of him. His favourite however was his grandmother. She would take him out for a walk and give him a chocolate every evening. Today was one such day. However the road he was walking was different.
After a few minutes, they stopped. He looked around. A man sat next to him. He was taller than him even when he was sitting. He had hair on his face. He’s not papa. He’s not grandpapa. I don’t know who he is. Arjun worried. He looked around. There was a round thing in front of him. he looked close. There was a red colour pin on top of it. There were many black lines, he recognised 1,2,3 in it. He looked at his grandmother puzzled. His grandmother asked him to step on that object. He obliged. The numbers behind the red needle began to move. Soon they were going back and forth like the hanging big spoon on the clock at home. The numbers stopped. He looked at the man sitting next to the machine. He was still unfamiliar to him. Granny asked him to step down, he did. She called for the man, Bhai, she said. He lifted his arm, granny gave him a coin. He closed his fist, brought it closer to his chest and felt the coin with his other hand. Arjun watched it closely. The man smiled. Arjun smiled back. As they walked away, Arjun waved his hand to say good bye. His granny said, “He can’t see it Arjun, he’s blind”.
When they were home he asked his grandma, “What was that?”. His granny knew what he was asking about. He had to always repeat his question for everyone except his granny. She understood him. She replied, “We went to check your weight”.
“My weight?” Arjun asked, clearly confused.
“Yes, your weight. That round machine tells us how much you weigh. You have chocolate right, it is 50 grams. You eat 1 bread, it is 10 grams. You are 13 kg. When you were little, when you were born, you were 2 kg”.
“How much are you?”
“I am 65 kg”
“Because you are big”, he replied opening his hands apart
“Yes, because I am big”, she said chuckling.
“Okay. When will we go again?”
Granny had to think before replying. She finally responded, “We will go next month”
1 month later, he stood in front of the man again. This time he stepped on the machine without being asked to. The numbers went into motion, then they stopped. He looked, the red pin was between 13 and 14. He stepped down, took the coin from his granny and shouted “Uncle”. The man lifted his arm. Arjun kept the coin in his open arm. The man smiled, Arjun smiled back. Then he went a bit closer and said “Bye uncle”. The man was shocked. He shook his head in fear. Before he could say anything, Arjun grand mother shouted “My grandson. He is young. 3 years. Sorry”. The blind man smiled, “It is okay”. They left him there. Arjun stared till he managed to see the man.
The exercise continued month after month. Arjun would stand on the machine, let her grandmother notice the number, step down, hand over the coin to the blind man and whisper “Bye Uncle” before leaving. The man became fond of Arjun too. He would ask Arjun about his day, will ask if he ate something, or if he went somewhere. Arjun would promptly reply. Arjun started bringing him food and chocolates. The bond between the blind weight checker and Arjun grew stronger as the years passed.
One day, the 9 year old Arjun went for his routine weight check. He was again accompanied by his grandmother. As they reached the man, Arjun bent down and said, “Hello Uncle, I am back”. The man smiled. He wore the same smile since the day Arjun first met him. He greeted Arjun, “Good beta. I was just thinking about you. How are you?”
“I am fine uncle”
“And Madam, how are you?”
“I am fine. How are you?” replied Granny.
“Madam, everything is okay by God’s grace. Thank you”.
Arjun stepped onto the machine. 6 years had passed since he first stepped on it. The machine had shown incredible endurance. It had not betrayed it’s owner even once. Arjun looked at the pin again. 35 kilos it pointed to.
“35, granny, uncle I am 35 kilos”
The joy seemed to be reflecting from the blind man, he replied “Yes, beta you are growing up fast”.
“Thank you uncle. Take this”, he brought his arm closer to the blind man.
The blind man lifted his arm as usual and waited for his coin. The price had now gone from 1 coin to 2 coins but he always took 1 coin from Arjun. It was a way to show his affection for him. Arjun returned his favour by giving him lunch. He handed over the packet he brought from home to the blind man with the coin. The monthly visits had turned into weekly visits in the past years. Arjun would bring his friends to the blind man for their weight check to help him earn extra money. It wasn’t the time where all homes would have a weighting machine.
One day, as Arjun and his grand mother walked the sidewalk to reach the blind man, they noticed something strange. They saw that the place where the blind man sat was empty. There was no one. There was no around to ask as well. He used to sit alone in the middle of 600 meter long road. Grandma told Arjun that he must have been busy, he should be back tomorrow. Arjun agreed and went back home with her.
Next day, the blind man wasn’t there. The following day was disappointing for Arjun as well. His grandmother decided to contact the police. However she was told that the police doesn’t care about a missing homeless guy, they have more important matter to attend. Arjun remained devastated. He went to the sidewalk everyday. He began asking around, no one seemed to know where the man had gone. No one knew where he lived. Arjun didn’t give up hope. He persuaded the police to file a report. He even asked his friends to be on a lookout. Arjun’s father checked the government hospitals. There was just no sight of the man who Arjun only knew as uncle.
Days became weeks, weeks became months and months became years. There was no sight of the man. Arjun had given up hope. He just wished the man was alright wherever he was. Not a single day had gone without Arjun remembering the blind weight checker. Arjun grew up. He left his town to attend college. He never looked back. His family moved to a different city, closer to Arjun so they can visit each other more often. The memory of the blind man began to fade. Arjun tried to remember his face sometimes but he couldn’t. He had a bond with this man he couldn’t explain to anyone. Arjun convinced himself that the man must have passed away, he only hoped his passing was peaceful.
Then Arjun moved to Delhi, one of the biggest town in the country. He was fascinated by the sky scrappers, the traffic, the people, the rush and the style of the city. He began working for a big firm. 2 months passed in Delhi, Arjun couldn’t have been happier. As a routine, he would walk to a fruit market everyday to get some fresh fruit for home. It was a usual route. One day he decided to take a different route, A newly built bridge. There was a sidewalk for pedestrians on the bridge. People said the view was great from up there, he wanted to see it himself. He walked on to the bridge. He saw beggars sitting and begging. He ignored them. Soon he saw it. A round machine. A weighing machine. He looked up. A man sat there, a blind man. Arjun walked closer to get a better look. The man was in his 40s. An unwashed beard, tangling hair and no eyes.
Arjun had tears in his eyes. He took the step on the machine. The numbers moved. They stopped. 70 kilos, the red pin pointed. Arjun stepped down and reached for his wallet. Took out all the money and handed it to the blind man. The confused blind man tried to return the money, but Arjun was already walking away. As he walked away, tears in his eyes, he mumbled Bye Uncle.