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They are chased by the villagers from one corner to the other because they have earned the reputation of being notorious. They pick up the sticks lying on the sides of the road and hit them on the walls of the houses. They pick up stones and throw them in the air. And when they see an innocuous visitor in the village, they show them the victory sign.

Their clothes are torn and covered in mud. In an entire day, they cover the geography of the village called Bachanal Thanda. The mother of the two 5-year-olds says that the victory sign is them asking for a two-rupee coin. They run around the village asking for coins from people. “Try giving them a hundred-rupee note. They won’t take it,” she says.

The entire village knows them as Mokkas or the dumb ones and only a handful of villagers know their names. Santhosh and Harilal can’t hear or speak, but they are constantly communicating with their frowns, smiles and gestures. Their tiny bodies bear scabs and scars which are left unattended and they are constantly bullied and beaten by children and grown-ups alike. “Recently a haystack was burned in a farm and the buffaloes had to be rescued,” Ram Chandra Rathore, a villager says. “They were around. They did it.”

Their father, a farmer, sounds apologetic, “I will send them to school but I haven’t collected enough money,” he shakes his head. The poor man reeks of alcohol.

The headmaster of the government school nearby, Mehboob Matki, a respected figure in the village, complains that the father of the children is perpetually drunk and doesn’t care about them. The headmaster claims to have received training in sign language and says he can guide their education. “I give training to resource persons in sign language. Our school is not equipped to handle mute and hearing impaired children but there is a special government school for such children in Gulbarga city. I have asked the family to get the children admitted there next year. ”

The villagers claim that Santhosh and Harilal aren’t blood brothers, but cousins and that Harilal’s mother was beaten and chased from the village by his father in a drunken state. There are nine children in the family, five boys and four girls. Except the two handicapped children, everyone goes to school.

The children attend the Anganwadi School in Bachanal Thanda but their teacher Anita Venkat Rao informs us that they don’t come regularly. She adds that she would rather prefer them not attending the Anganwadi as they are a pair of trouble-makers. “They come during meal times without fail,” she says.

They have grown familiar with us and follow us wherever we go for reporting, sharing the food and the chocolates we buy. We try to make them understand that they shouldn’t beg and they nod their heads.

But they show their victory sign to us, again and again.

Created: May 15, 2017

Tags: prose, script, non-fiction, remix, request, story

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