Lorry Raja

What happened was that my older brother, Siju, got a job as a lorry driver at the mine and started acting like a big shot. He stopped playing with Munna the way he used to, tossing him into the air like a sack of sand, making him sputter with laughter. When Amma asked him anything, he would give her a pitying look and not answer. He stopped speaking to his girlfriend, Manju, altogether. He taunted me about playing in the mud, as he called it, breaking chunks of iron ore with my hammer. With Appa especially he was reckless, not bothering to conceal his disdain, until he said something about failed drivers who are only good for digging and drinking, and Appa wrestled him to the ground and forced him to eat a handful of the red, iron-rich earth, shouting that this was our living now and he should bloody learn to respect it. Siju complained to the mine’s labor officer, Mr. Subbu, but Mr. Subbu dismissed it as a domestic matter and refused to interfere. After that, Siju maintained a glowering silence in Appa’s presence. When Appa wasn’t around, Siju sneered at our tent, a swatch of blue plastic stretched over a bamboo skeleton. Never mind that he was being paid half a regular driver’s salary by the owner of the lorry, a paan-chewing Andhra fellow called Rajappa, because Siju was only fourteen and could not bargain for more.

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