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24 April, 2017

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Filed under: Literary excerpts — csa1 @ 12:27

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 There was a simple spare bed in the back of the shack made out of straw, and I slept there almost as comfortably and happily as if I was in my own bed. The railway worker had mentioned that he knew someone who might be able to help me, and that he had arranged for this man to visit. I was overwhelmed with relief—already it seemed like the whole experience was a bad dream. Soon I would be home. I spent the day in the shack after the men headed off to work waiting for my savior.

As promised, the next day another man turned up, and he also spoke carefully in plain terms that I understood. He was well dressed in a neat suit, and he laughed when I pointed at his distinctive mustache and said, “Kapil Dev,” referring to India’s cricket captain at the time, whom he looked like. He sat down on my bed and said, “Come over here and tell me where you are from.” So I did as he asked and told him what had happened to me. He wanted to know as much as possible about where I was from so that he could help me find the place, and as I tried my best to explain everything, he lay down on the bed and had me lie down beside him.

Many lucky and unlucky things happened to me on my journey, and I made good and bad decisions. My instincts weren’t always sound, but they had been sharpened by weeks of living on the streets making conscious and unconscious decisions based on a perceived cost/benefit analysis. When we survive, we learn to trust our instincts. Perhaps any five-year-old would have begun to feel uneasy lying beside a strange man on a bed. Nothing untoward happened, and the man didn’t lay a hand on me, but despite the marvelous, intoxicating promises I was being made about finding my home, I knew something wasn’t right. I also knew that I shouldn’t show him that I didn’t trust him, that I should play along instead. While he was saying that the next day we would go together to a place he knew and try to get me back home, I nodded and agreed. At the same time, I knew beyond question that I should have nothing to do with this man, and that I had to make a plan to get away.

That night after dinner, I washed the dishes in a worn old tub in the corner near the door, as I’d done the previous two nights. The men went into their usual huddle for their chai and a smoke, and were soon completely distracted by their conversation and jokes. This was my chance. I picked the best moment I could and bolted out the door. I ran as if my life depended on it, which in retrospect I fear it did. I hoped that by taking them by surprise, I’d get enough of a head start to escape pursuit. Once more I was fleeing into the night past the railway tracks and down streets I did not know, with no idea where to go, no thought but escape.

 I was quickly exhausted and slowed down once I was in crowded streets—maybe they wouldn’t even care that I was gone, and even if they did, surely they couldn’t have followed me this far. Then I heard someone call out my name from quite close behind. That sent a jolt through my body like an electric shock. Immediately, I ducked down, although I was already much shorter than the people all around me, and headed for the most crowded parts of the narrow street, near the bustling stalls hawking food along the curb. When I looked around, I could glimpse a couple of men who looked like they might be following me—grim, hard-faced men looking around and moving fast. Then I realized one of them was the railway worker I’d first met, who no longer looked much like the kind man who’d taken me in. I hurried away from them, but the street soon became so crowded it was hard to move fast, and I felt that the men were getting closer. I had to hide. I found a small gap between two houses and ducked into it, crawling back as far as I could before I came to a leaking sewage pipe large enough for me to hide in. I backed into it on all fours until I couldn’t be seen from the street, ignoring the cobwebs and the foul-smelling water running over my hands. I was much more scared of what was out there than I was of the dark pipe. If they found me, there was no way out.


Saroo Brierley, LionA Long Way Home, 2013



Imagine what happened to the narrator next. (300 words)

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