Goa Rescue Stories Part One
When my children were younger, I think probably the twins were around seven years old and Hope nine, Peter and I used to take them down to Colva beach just before sunset for a bit of a play. Colva had a small, pretty unremarkable, play park which the UK health and safety department would’ve had a field day with. Just over the bridge, there was a little stream which wound it’s way across the sand and into the ocean. The children used to like to try to catch the tiny fishes in old mineral water bottles before immediately releasing them again.
One afternoon, we noticed a young scruffy lad sitting on his haunches and watching my kids play. He seemed all alone in the world and looked wistfully on at my kids playing. My children were never shy and always welcoming and approachable with other children so they offered him a bottle one day and he began to play with them. Peter and I looked on until it was time to leave but the boy always seemed so sad when my children said goodbye to him. And me being a sucker for a sad face, broke my own heart each time too.
It was on the fourth consecutive evening that my children and this boy were playing when I asked Peter to speak to him ( assuming he knew no English) to see if he could get the lo-down on this kid. He was clearly homeless, or at best, a slum kid. That much was obvious. He had long matted hair, a filthy face, and wore dirty, oversized clothes and flip-flops which were a large man’s size.
This kids’ story went that he was originally from Karnataka. His name was Brumm- something, Brumm for short, and he was 10 years old. A few years back, his father and he had left their home village and travelled to the bright lights of Goa hoping to find work on those glittery, gold paved streets. A common story. Anyway, it didn’t happen, the dad became a drunkard and had buggered off somewhere and Brumm was left alone to fend for himself. He had the occasional washing up job in one of the beach restaurants but mostly he was just alone. And hungry.
Well, it was more than I could bear. I imagined his mother, probably desperate in her wondering where he was and if she was ever going to see him again. I had to do something. Peter relayed to him that, if he liked, he could come home with us where he would be fed, washed and have a warm bed. Obviously, he jumped at the chance. He rode on the back of Peter’s scooter, my kids on mine, and on the way home we stopped to buy fish at the roadside. When we got home, we fed, watered and bathed Brumm and gave him a safe space to sleep. In India, sleeping on bamboo roll mats on the floor is the norm and there were only enough beds for my kids, so he slept in the lounge.
The following day, Peter took Brumm to the barbers for a very short haircut. You could literally see the bugs jumping in all directions as they fled the deforestation of their home. Next, it was clothes shopping. Nothing costly, just some basic shorts, tees, trousers and sandals from the local market. It was all as cheap as chips but Brumm looked great!
The highlight of the day was our visit to the train station where we booked Brumm his ticket back to Karnataka! It wasn’t due to leave Goa until three days later and you can imagine how interesting it was to have a VERY excited boy staying with us. Those three days must’ve seemed very long to him but we managed to fill the time constructively. Although Brumm didn’t speak any English, he was always interested in my children’s homeschool lessons and projects. A lovely game they used to play together was Picture Pairs. For anyone not familiar with this game, it’s a simple picture card memory game. All the cards are laying face down at the start and the players take turns in turning two cards at a time over. If they match, that player gets to keep those cards. If they don’t match, the cards get turned down once again and the next player takes their turn. It became a game of languages as well as memory. Whenever the cards were turned over, my kids would tell Brumm what the English word was – bus, car, house, dog etc – they were very simple pictures. And Brumm would teach my kids how to say the word in Hindi. Many games of picture pairs were played during those three days. And Uno, also.
I really enjoyed having Brumm to stay. I took great pleasure in feeding him and watching him eat. I liked the way he now looked. That whole transformation from being a street kid who was all alone in the world, to being loved in a family and playing games and just generally being a kid, was a beautiful thing to witness.
On the morning of Brumms departure from our house and the state of Goa, he was restless, as you can well imagine! He was so eager to leave that at one point he burst into my room and spoke very fast in Hindi about getting a move on! Peter told him off for speaking that way to me and entering my room in that way but I told him not to worry, don’t be cross with him. He was simply unable to control his excitement, that’s all.
On the way to Margao station, we stopped at a local cafe and bought Brumm packages of snack foods. Veg patties, drinks, sweets, that sort of thing. We also gave him money to buy food on the train, should he need to, and a little bit extra for the end of his journey.
At Margao station, we found a bench to sit on and waited for the train. I was worried about Brumm because he was just a kid and the fact that he had fended for himself as a street kid for years on his own, made no bloody difference to the way I felt about him. He was a vulnerable child and I was about to let him go off by himself! A man was sat on the bench reading his newspaper and we asked him if he could keep an eye on Brumm, and he agreed to. He probably didn’t in all honesty. On Indian train journeys, the seat number is written on the ticket and Brumm might not have been seated anywhere near that guy!
Now, the end of the story is a mystery to me. Looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t just buy tickets for us all and physically travel with Brumm and deliver him to his mother. But I didn’t. Nor did we see him safely onto the train and wave goodbye as the train left the station. Again, I don’t know why. I certainly would do either one of those things if I was faced with the same situation now.
What actually happened was that, for some reason – maybe I had to be somewhere with my kids – we left Brumm with his pocket full of money, his hands full of food packages on that bench, waiting for the train which would take him back home.
To this day, I never knew what happened to him. But this is what I hope happened. I hope and pray he arrived home safely. I have this lovely vision of him walking into his village/town, or wherever he lived and him and his mother seeing each other again. Can you imagine that moment? Can you imagine how they both must have felt?
I can’t be sure that’s what happened but I’m happy to leave the story with that vision.