The day my mother closed her eyes for the last time, my new little sister opened hers for the first.
I remember the day clearly. Mena had told us to wait outside the room. That order was slightly difficult to fulfil, as our hut really only was one room. When you entered, you came to the living -and bedroom. Mattresses sprawled across the floor. Behind the mattresses, our sorry excuses for doors where. An ugly violet curtain full of holes separated the kitchen from the living room, and beside that, a big piece of old plastic between living room and bathroom. And between the living and bath room a simple piece of wood acted as substitute for a wall.
I stood in the small kitchen together with my three younger brothers. The smallest, Jamal, was tugging at my shirt. Only three years old, and everyone loved him.
"What is happening," he asked me. He kept tugging him, when I didn't give him an answer.
"We're having a little sister or brother," Ajay explained. Jamal looked puzzled, confusion written on his face. He then sat on the floor and started playing with the hem of his shirt. How I wished I could block everything out, like him. The noises from the room clearly rung through the thin, old curtain. Ajay was with his six years the third oldest in our little flock, together with his twin brother Tilak. Whereas Ajay was patient, always acting as the oldest, Tilak was the complete opposite. I quickly looked away from the two, wanting to block them out. Too thin, I thought. They are too thin.
And it was the truth. It was difficult being the oldest here. Mother would everyday go round, try to find a job. We weren't the ones who had least luck in the slum. A lot of people had it worse. Thing was, that those people usually were dead. It was a pure miracle that we had survived so far. It was usually Iha and I who got our food. Iha and Ajay were trying to sell things, mostly garbage, to the tourists. Sometimes I could steal thread or yarn, and then they would make bracelets. Things like that sell excellent in New Dheli. But still, there are days where we got hungry to bed, even though Iha and I always gave half of ours to Ajay, Tilak and Bansi, who with age 2 built the youngest of us five. And we were soon to except a sixth member. A sixth mouth to feed with garbage leftovers and rotten fruit. I let a sigh out. Why? Why this this happen?
Mother had got me, as the one way to keep Sanjay here. My so-called father. But as soon as I was born, he got off to his business trip. He came visiting, didn't give me a single look, and next day he was off again. Nine month later she got Iha. He came again, left again, Ajay and Tilak were born. Came, left, Bansi. He came nine months ago, next day he was gone. And now we this.
The smell of rotten fruit, blood and urine hung in the air, mothers screams not improving the already gloomy atmosphere. I could hear Mena and Iha with mum. Mena was an old woman in her 50s, and had helped with all births. She never talked, unless in these situations. She lived with us and thousands of others in the slum. How she had survived nobody knew.
Suddenly loud voices erupted, over mothers moaning and screaming. It was Iha.
"Sanjeet!" She yelled. Quickly I scrambled up, and swung the curtain beside, as I entered the living room. There, on three moth eaten mattresses pushed beside each other, was my mother. I couldn't bear to look at her, so I turned to Iha. And there, in the dim light of the morning sun. And there, laying in her arms, was my new little sister. I hated my mother for being so weak, for keep giving in to him, but at the sight of this little baby, all of the trouble disappeared. Suddenly Mena yelled out. Iha and I quickly turned around.
Her face was white, drained of blood. Her eyes stared glassy at the ceiling. Everything got blurry. I heard the boys run in. Iha cried, she ran over to her. Mena looked at her, paralyzed, like me, sorrow glinting in her eyes. She was dead. My mother was dead.
And it was all his fault. How I hated him, how I loathed him from the deepest of my heart.
I didn't notice I was running before Iha started shouting my name.