Tejinder Singh looked unhappily at his little purse. It was in its usual place under a pile of peanuts， but today it held only the three coins his mother had given him for lunch. Usually the purse was half-full by this time of the day. But today no one was buying his peanuts - not even a coolie. Tej saw his mother's anxious， waiting face - how could he go home and tell her he hadn't earned a single rupee today？
The station was silent. There was no crowds， no roar of sound， not even the calls of the chaiwallas. And without them it did not seem like a station at all. The strangeness of it only came home to him now. Could it have something to do with what had happened to the Prime Minister？ Yesterday， while he was on the platform with his cart， the train announcements had suddenly stopped. Instead a very serious voice announced that the Prime Minister had been assassinated. Her own body-guards had fired at her， the announcer said， and she had died instantly.
Confusion broke out on the platform. All the stall-owners quickly closed up their stalls； and seeing this， Tej went home too.
When he set out with his cart at four this morning， he saw little groups of people huddled together all over the street. And there was a small crowd of coolies outside the station. His friend Kishan was there， so he smiled and waved. But Kishan didn't come whooping along as usual for handful of peanuts. Maybe he didn't recognize me， Tejinder thought， or maybe they're talking about something important.
Suddenly he saw a bigger crowd of people at a distance. One of them might want to buy some peanuts. He began tidying the piles on the cart. But what was this？ Why were they all standing still and staring at him？ “Run， son. Just run，” he suddenly heard. Somebody was shouting and waving at him frantically from the over bridge. Then he saw that the people staring at him were armed with sticks； and now the menacing figures were slowly moving towards him. He picked up his purse and ran. He could hear them running and yelling behind him - all he could do was to run faster.
Then he saw a man with a stick before him， blocking the way. Tejinder was shaking with fear. Where could he go now？ In a flash he divided for the little hidden entrance into the railway yard.
The yard was full of empty trains. He crept past them one by one. He was passing a goods train when he heard tat yelling again. One of the doors of the train was open； he leapt in.
The box was full of straw. And pitch-dark. It must be a cattle-truck. What else could explain that terrible small？ The shouts were coming closer. “Where could he have gone？” someone shouted. Tej just could not understand. Why were these people his enemies？ He had never even seen them before！
Just then， the door of the box opened and a man got in. Tej began to say “Wahe Guru” over and over in his head. The man struck a match. This is the end， thought Tej - but suddenly， he heard the lowing of a buffalo. Obviously he was not alone in the cattle-truck. The man blew out his match when he heard the buffalo and jumped out of the truck， shutting the door behind him.
Crouching in that dark little truck， hungry， frightened and every bone in his body aching， Tej did not know how many hours had passed. If only he were at home. His mother making hot pakoras for him. Tej got up opened the door cautiously and peeped out. There was no one there， so he went out and looked around him.
It was dark. But why did the sky look so red behind the station wall？ And then he saw the plumes of smoke rising from that great red patch. And more smoke， and more. Something huge must be on fire. But - behind the wall is the taxi-stand， the one in which Satnam， the neighbour's son， works. Strange and frightening thoughts filled Tejinder's mind. Being chased by those men. And now this fire. Something was wrong， terribly wrong， and he had to get home.
He was sacred to leave by the station exit， so he found a place where the station wall was broken and slipped through. What he saw there was like a nightmare. Burning piles everywhere， twisted pieces of steel， half-burnt leather seats， blackened fragments of glass， chappals.
Tejinder raced home. This must be an ugly dream. Soon he would get home and everything would be all right again. He didn't hear the cries and screams in his path as he ran blindly， purse in hand， he only had to reach home， that was all.
And he was nearly there. He could see the imli tree near their hut. His mother would be waiting for him. He was safe at last.
But - was it the wrong tree？ The old imli tree stood there， but no hut. Then he saw the hand-pump under the street lamp down the road. Yes， that was their hand-pump all right， its handle slightly broken. Tejinder went cold all over. He forced himself to turn and look at the place where the hut should be. In the dark， it took him a while to see the smoke. It was rising from a pile of ashes.
And as if in a dream， Tejinder walked towards it. Something was gleaming among the ashes； he picked it up and wiped the ash away. It was the bangle he had given his mother. He had saved up his lunch money， paisa by paisa， and bought it for her.
One hour， two hours， heaven knows how many hours， passed and Tej still stood there as if turned to stone. He felt nothing - nothing at all. Neither fear nor pain. And that was how the night passed.
When the cock crowed， he came to life with a start. The first rays of the sun were visible， and the air was full of the twittering of birds. A new day was beginning. And Tej realized his mother would never come back again.
Then the tears came， and once they came they would not stop. Sitting on the road， by the little pile， Tej cried as if his heart would break. The purse and the bangle fell from his hand， he did not know when.
“Bhaiyya， why are you crying？” He heard a soft voice， and somebody put a tiny hand on his shoulder. It was Guddi， the little daughter of the Sethji who owned the shop. He didn't want to cry when the little girl was watching， but Tej couldn't stop.
Then Guddi put something into his lap. She said， “When my mother went away to be with God， my father gave me this doll. He said that she would help to look after me. Bhaiyya， you can have the doll now.”
The doll was already wet with Tej's tears. But now someone else had joined them. “My son，” said Sethji's deep voice， “I have warmed some milk for you and Guddi. Come along. And you'll help in my shop later， won't you？ But for now， come along and drink your milk.”