The clock struck 11.59 and the party at le Meridene New Delhi went wild. The countdown began as a chorus, 59, 58, 57, 56……. The high and mighty was celebrating New Year’s Eve 1998. Everyone was on a high! High on spirits, high on success, high on page three glitterati glittering more tonight than ever.
It hurt. Shivering hard and rubbing against the tarmac hurt his ankles. Cold steel of the icy winter of Delhi cut through his tattered blanket through his shirt penetrating the pages of the Hindu and Economic Times he had stuffed in his shirt. The cold steel. Suddenly, the skies opened, pulled apart by a glow so warm that he had to smile! “Thank god! Now I can sleep” he said to himself. Maybe it was the winter or maybe the fumes from the vehicles but he had been feeling sick for the past few days now. So sick that he had not been able to collect enough from the bin to eat. “The bin!” he reflected, it was a lucky stroke that he chanced upon the bin. “I hope it remains a secret”, he thought. He did not want the other roadside urchins to know that even a big name like Le Meridiene in the middle of Lutyon’s delhi was flouting all the rules and dumping leftovers in the trash bin. You see, they were not supposed to that, they were supposed to dispose the leftovers as biological waste in a prescribed manner and carry to a large dump just on the outskirts of Delhi. But they bent the rules often! And thank God they did that!
Food. He suddenly remembered how his parents would leave them every morning and return late at night with food. Food. He remembered how it feel when he ate for the first and last time in a day at night. Food. “And food made you feel warm…… or is that just my imagination….” Food…… Filling and war, just like his mother’s hug! That brought a smile to his face, the thought of food and his mother seemed to increase the warmth and the glow! “What is the winter weakening already?” The pain had also disappeared. He was not shivering anymore. The warmth. So comfortable, so enveloping. The warmth, like the embrace of a beloved he never had. Her warm breath tingling his senses, her fragrance lilting, sensuous, so full of life.
Who was she, he had never seen her on this intersection before. Strange! She was actually smiling! And that too at him! Maybe she is one of the guests at the big party inside, maybe she decided to step out to experience the chill. But still, strange! Her touch was so warm, she smelt so good, fresh like the blossoms they threw away every evening after a VIP left. She was smiling, beckoning him! Was he dreaming? He had not even used the roadside paint remover fix others used. Then she held his hand and draped herself around his frail frame. In an instant his entire life flashed in front of his eyes. Such pleasure, such joy, such contentment. Who was this woman he wondered one last time before falling asleep in her warm embrace. Who was she?
7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, WELCOME 1999!
The next day, MC Delhi added another unclaimed body to the endless list already had.