"Come on, Jamal! Wake up!"
Jamal swatted his hand at the hand poking him and rolled over onto his side. He was sleeping in a cardboard box in the middle of an alleyway. The boy poking him was not his brother. He was a sixteen year old street kid by the name of Yatin. Ever since Jamal had been left to his own devices three months ago when his brother abandoned him, the twelve year old had turned to Yatin for support. Yatin was 5"9, with brown hair cut very short. He had brown eyes and was extremely tanned.
"Jamal! If you don't get up, I'm not sharing with you."
The two boys had taken turns stealing from various areas and were barely scraping by. People here were quick to spot thieves and two dirty kids automatically sent off the warning bells.
Yatin had found Jamal crying in an alley close to the hotel he had been staying at with his brother. The older slumdog had taken it upon himself to take Jamal under his wing. Truthfully, Jamal knew it was because Yatin just wanted someone to boss around. It could get lonely not having a companion on the streets.
Jamal propped himself up on his elbows to look at the older boy. His eyes widened.
"Who'd you steal from to get all that food?" Jamal said surprised by Yatin's sudden success.
"I didn't steal it! This guy gave me it all." Yatin said. "He says we'll get more if we come by later today."
"Really?" Jamal said. This was the first stroke of luck the duo had ever had.
"Yea. All we have to do is a couple odd jobs for him." Yatin said.
Jamal knew instantly it was too good to be true. Whatever this man wanted would be dangerous. But looking at all the food Yatin had, he knew they had no choice. It was this or nothing. It wouldn't be long before they caught and were sent to jail with the poor luck they had been having recently.
They ate quickly, leaving nothing behind. The two had been starving.
"Well we better go, hey? Don't want someone else to get the job." Yatin said with a grin at the prospect of more food.
They set out immediately. Soon Yatin was dragging Jamal through the most run down areas of Mumbai. They passed brothels, gang members and drug dealers. They were easily the youngest boys around. People sneered at them as they passed. The drug dealers regarded them with knowing eyes as they approached a decaying building that looked like it could fall down at any minute. There was no door anymore and the roof was partially missing. The brick was gray and crumbling, but by some miracle the building was standing. There were gaps on both sides of the building, and no one was hanging around it. People seemed to keep as much of a distance as possible from the building.
Yatin entered first and Jamal was soon to follow. The lighting in the building was poor, only getting light from the large ceiling hole where the sun shone through. The inside was completely open and in the centre were four men playing cards on a large box. They all sat on barrels.
"Rushil?" Yatin called out, unwilling to move further than the doorway.
"You're back! And you brought your friend!" A potbellied man answered abandoning his card game in favour of approaching the boys. "Good, good."
Jamal figured that the man must be Rushil and their soon to be employer. He unconsciously shifted so he was only half-visible behind Yatin.
"Your friend will hardly be suspected…" Rushil muttered. "Yes, you two are just what we need."
There were chuckles at the table and Jamal noticed that the other three men were all observing them. There were some nods in his direction and they seemed to agree with Rushil's decision.
"Now," Rushil began. "You two do a few deliveries for me when I ask and I will make it worth your while."
"We'll get more food?" Jamal asked.
Laughingly, Rushil answered, "Food, yes! And much, much more. There is more to this world than just food my little friend."
Jamal was confused by what he meant, but the men at the table erupted into fits of laughter.
"Well, may as well give you two a test run." Rushil said before moving to get a sack that was placed by the table.
He threw it at Yatin and grinned darkly. He then approached Jamal and handed him a piece of paper with an address on it.
"Take this to the man at this address. His name is Sujay. Don't give it to anyone but him. You'll recognize him, he's the only one with one eye."
Both boys nodded eagerly and quickly headed out of the building. They didn't bother asking the man for directions. Living on the streets for so long gave them a good sense of where things were in Mumbai.
They were quick to figure out that they had a long two hour journey ahead of them to get where Rushil wanted. They ended up cutting through many alleyways. Soon the slums turned into middleclass and middleclass turned into the high end area. The two looked extremely out of place in the midst of gorgeous buildings and well dressed people.
The building they approached was fenced and they had to talk to a guard just to find Sujay.
The guard seemed to accept that they were here because of a delivery when he saw the sack in Yatin's hands.
A man approached the gates and like Rushil had told them, he had only one eye. Where his right eye should be was a mass of scar tissue and a sunken eyelid. Besides that and the redness under his nostrils, the man was relatively attractive. He had curly brown hair and his remaining eye was a strange shade of blue. He was very dark and taller than Yatin.
"So you are Rushil's new runners." Sujay said after finally reaching the gate. "You are on your test run?"
Both boys nodded at once, not trusting their voices.
Sujay nodded and said, "When you return tell him I said 'Sunesh is dead'. It is extremely important that you do so."
Both boys agreed and headed back to the slums where Rushil was. They were already exhausted, but the thought of more food motivated them to continue on. They really only cared about surviving at this point.
As the sun began to set and they were still travelling back, Jamal could not help but think that his life would be a lot easier if he had a colt like his brother. He figured his brother just had to threaten people to get food— not travel obscene distances.
When they finally arrived, the area around the half-destroyed building was busy and they had to squeeze through people just to get though the entrance.
"Rushil?" Jamal called as the duo entered, being unable to see the man without any lighting.
"Ahh, you two are back." Rushil said appearing out of the darkness. "Did you deliver the package?"
"Yes," Yatin answered.
"And did Sujay have anything to say?" Rushil asked.
Yatin said nothing, so Jamal quickly stammered a quick "Y-yes," out.
Rushil looked a little annoyed as he said, "Well, what did he say?"
"He said Sunesh is dead."
Rushil laughed and said "Good, you actually delivered the package. A reward is in order."
It turned out that they were told certain messages by the receivers that were used to prove whether or not the runners had actually gone to their intended destination.
Rushil lead them into them further into the building. The man was able to navigate through the room by sheer familiarity and the boys stayed close enough to see his back in the darkness.
Rushil pushed aside the table that he and his friends had been playing cards on earlier and to the boys' surprise, there was a trap door beneath it.
"Come! Come!" Rushil said as he lifted the door, revealing a long and narrow set of stairs.
Following Rushil, the boys began to hear this pounding that got louder and louder the further they got down. Eventually, they realized that the sound was from speakers. They reached a hallway that had a series of rooms connected to it. Down the hall the door was open and the boys noticed a large party taking place in there.
Rushil went in the opposite direction and opened the door to a smaller room where there were two beds. In addition, there was a small table that had a couple bags of chips on it.
"Wow!" Jamal exclaimed. "Is this for us?"
"Of course," Rushil said. "The best for our runners."
"We get all this for delivering stuff?" Yatin said.
"Delivering and not getting caught." Rushil said. "Those bricks need to get where they're intended."
"Bricks?" Jamal said, "it didn't look that heavy."
"It wasn't." Yatin pitched in.
Rushil laughed, "You two are so naïve. Bricks of cocaine…"
Realization dawned on the two.
"And now for the best reward of all…"
Quickly, Rushil set up two lines of cocaine and handed the two boys rolled up pieces of paper.
"Go on, try it." Rushil encouraged.
While both boys were unsure, Rushil was insistent and made it seem like it was necessary. Eventually they both snorted.
Rushil grinned and even laughed. Hook, line and sinker.
While Yatin and Jamal did not realize it at the time, they had fallen into an old scheme that dealers used to traffic drugs. Runners used to be unreliable, selling the drugs that they were given to deliver. Drug dealers began to get their runners addicted to a drug and then use them to deliver other drugs. This would ensure that the runner kept coming back to get their fix. While it did cost them a bit extra to do this, it made up for the fact that they weren't losing high amounts of their goods.
This would be the only time the two would be used to deliver cocaine. After their addiction developed, they would be used to traffic other goods.
Yatin died from an overdose two years later. Jamal and Yatin had easily become the most successful runners that Rushil had. While Rushil was angered that he had lost one of the best, he was quick to get replacements. This was the wake up call that the now fourteen year old Jamal Malik needed.
Overtime, Jamal began to wane himself off. It was hard. He was overcome by high fevers whenever he tried to go without the drug. He couldn't focus enough to plan. The drug was a favourite among dealers to use on their runners because eventually their deliverers could only focus at their task at hand. He was also becoming increasingly exhausted and needed the drug to feel awake.
He was fifteen by the time he lost his dependence. Every time he even saw the drug he felt the need to use.
He was sixteen when he managed to disappear from the drug trade. He stole his last delivery and sold it to get him a head start.
By some miracle, he ended up getting a job as a tea runner shortly after. It was there he would remain until fate pulled him towards the love of his life and his wayward brother.
This is just a theory of what Jamal could have gone through between the time he separated from his brother to reuniting with him. While the viewer is given a general idea of what Salim does during this time period, we are left to speculate on Jamal.
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