Story Contest 2019 #1 - Highly Commended Stories »

Highly Commended Story - Somebody’s Nobody

“Somebody’s Nobody” by Sanjana Shankar, Gear Innovative International School, Bangalore, Karnataka, India, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2019.

Sanjana is an avid reader, compulsive writer, singer and artist. She enjoys playing with animals, photography, and even dabbles in coding. Her favourite pastimes include creating art, writing, listening to music and reading books. She writes to express her views and opinions in a way that will (hopefully) change the interpretation of topics, and inspire people to commit small, but meaningful acts of kindness. As a slightly introverted person by nature, words are her refuge: making her laugh, grumble and cry just as a friend would. Her friends and family are her primary inspiration.

Somebody’s Nobody

That day was special.
I could feel it in the air.

My feet weren’t aching as much, thanks to the freshly paved road. The few solitary vehicles on the road honked aimlessly at the wind. I sighed.

Within a few minutes, a large daunting building moved into sights. It was plastered with pictures, some bright and others dark, but all of them altogether unrealistic.

When I was little, I used to wish I was one of those kids in the large pictures, dressed in perfect clothes with perfect smiles, surrounded by amazing toys and luscious food that I’ve only seen in my daydreams.

But that life would never be mine.

I sighed wistfully before lugging the bright pink carton back into the crook of my arm. It was lighter than normal. Today I was selling pens with tiny plastic plants on top of them. They were beautiful, but extravagant. Given that I had no use for them, it was so much easier to beg people to buy them, from vehicle to vehicle.

Pranav anna (South Indian word for older brother) loved this job. Both him and I used to take turns deciphering the life stories of passers- by. Those were the good times.

The job typically started at 8 AM, when most people were rushing to their jobs or schools. By the time I got home, it was usually 10pm. Amma (South Indian word for mother) worked at the nearby tea stall and Appa (South Indian word for father) was a laborer at a construction site, so both of them left earlier than me and returned later. Anna used to help in the house of a landlord, but later he was switched to doing the dishes of restaurants in the mall. He was never home before 12am and he earned the most money out of all of us.

The family cars were the most susceptible to buying what I sell – either the kids inside would want it, or their sympathy for people like me. Either way, it meant more cash.

When I was younger I despised this life – the long hours, the meagre income, and absolutely no breaks.

But eventually I learned to be on good terms with it. I enjoyed calculating the odds of sale based on factors like how rich they looked, young or old, and many other things.

I wrote my theories down on scraps of papers and tissues I find on the road, but I never took them home with me.

The roads were lonely tonight, unnaturally so. The breeze was gentle, the trees swaying mildly in the wind. I threw my papers into the air, watching them fly like delicate birds. I enjoyed nights like these.

Soon enough, I was home. There was a package shabbily clad in white wrapping paper. I knew, I should have left it alone, but my curiosity got the best of me.

I opened the package as slowly as I could, careful to leave the paper intact.

Inside, was a stack of books and a letter, addressed to. . . me?

Well, they did not use my name specifically, but they addressed me as “The girl who writes the notes”, with one of my notes attached to it. The books were all about probability, and looked pretty interesting. I opened the letter as meticulously as I could. Basically, the letter asked my name, and for more of my notes. They told me that they would send money, as much as they could provide me. In the end, it was signed – “Yours Truly, Nobody”

Before I knew what was happening, tears started leaking onto the page. The rage and disappointment that were stewing in my mind were set free. All the pitying stares and murmuring or horrified glances, they all faded away.

Till date, I haven’t understood who Nobody really was. But all I know was that they gave me the opportunity to pursue what I loved, and make a career out of it. The letters and material kept coming. They helped my family and I to live better lives.

It is ironic, how “Nobody” had such a big impact on my life, but they also taught me a lesson. No matter how insignificant you may feel, you are making a difference. You matter.

I think that all of us should help and inspire people in whichever way we can. We should all be somebody’s Nobody.

This story is dedicated to all the children who are forced to beg or sell goods near traffic signals and malls in India. I hope they see a much better future free of their burdens, very, very soon.

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