I was up before our neighbor’s rooster started crowing. I had made many ambitious plans of roasting this rooster for ruining my sleep on countless days but none of those plans came to mind that day. I was too excited about my first train journey to the big city. I had never been outside of our little village before. All I knew of the world was what I had seen on television; big cars, big roads and wealthy people who spent more money in a day than my family did in an entire year.
The charpoy creaked as I placed my duffel bag on it to once more examine its contents. Few shirts and a worn out pair of trousers were all I had. Uncle Bilal assured me that once I started earning money, I would be able to buy nicer clothes for myself. The thought of being able to earn money thrilled me. My father would no longer be able to complain about my laziness. I was about to become useful to my family. I thought it was about time. I was fourteen after all and fourteen was more or less an adult in my dictionary. Uncle Bilal had secured a job for me as a gardener. He had told me that it would be easy work and good pay and that my food and lodging would be taken care off.
I believed him since he had been working as a chauffeur for many years in the big city. He had started dressing up differently and his once wild beard was now replaced by a tamer one. I knew it was the influence of the big city and wondered if I too would change. When I told my friends about my recent employment I could see the envy in their eyes. They asked what would happen of the cricket match that was scheduled next week. I replied that they would have to find someone to replace me. I felt a minor pang at the thought of being replaced, at what would happen in my absence.
At the train station, excitement prevailed in the air. All my friends had shown up for my farewell journey. My parents stood beside me, a look of worry blatantly obvious on their faces. Uncle Bilal once again reassured them in his quiet voice. After receiving hugs from both my parents I boarded the train enthused but also feeling a pang of separation anxiety. My new life was about to begin.