For no discernible reason, someone grabbed my hand from behind as I was strolling around the market. In a flash, my mind’s eye perceived the girl that often comes in my dreams. No sooner had I turned than I realised my ridiculous dream would still remain a dream when I saw a balloonwallah, endeavouring to buy one of his heart-shaped balloons for my made-up girlfriend.
Amid the discontentment, I didn’t even notice the boy coaxing me to buy the balloon for my children or my girlfriend. I didn’t see him blessing my family that the good fortune will yield if I buy one. Observing my numb & frozen body he politely pulled my shirt, tacitly hinting that I must buy one for the sake of humanity. Indifferent to any for the boy I, still being encapsulated by my dream girl, screamed “I don’t want any balloon” & then quickly checked my voice (after realising I was standing in a public place) and said, “I am sorry & please don’t follow me again”.
I wondered what did he, being victim twice- first of poverty & circumstances, and then of ignorance by the society (socially & financially affluent ones)- do wrong.
Without even heeding to my rudeness & surely not taking the comments personally he switched to a new potential customer as he serenely handed a balloon out of the flock to a 2-year-old baby. Observing the incident, baby’s father shouted: “How dare you touched my baby?” & handing back the balloon moved away frivolously.
Witnessing the entire incident from the same place where I screamed at him, I wondered what did he, being victim twice- first of poverty & circumstances, and then of ignorance by the society (socially & financially affluent ones)- do wrong; if I had been he, wouldn’t I have been doing the same.
Feeling disturbed by that heart-rending incident and watching the boy wandering forlornly under the gloomy evening light, I called the balloonwallah to assuage his agony. Balloonwallah – a boy not more than eight,having clumsy hairs,a school-bag hung on his shoulders- came hurriedly as his balloons swerved in the air, realising his earlier efforts to persuade me were not unfruitful. I asked for his name & whether he is coming from school?
Unheeding to my first question he said from his toothless mouth “No, I am coming from my tuition class & I study in the second standard at K.P.N. Public School, sector-28 near the by-pass road”
When I asked about his family he described it for an hour as if he was always longing. I didn’t interrupt him in-between, thinking it to be a sin as he told me with his bewitching tone “I have one mother, who goes to her office in morning & returns around eight; I have one father, who works at a shoe-shop in the same market; I wish had a little sister & a big brother as I am the only child in the family; Dadaji & Dadiji lives in our village”
Looking at a child passing his story got interrupted as he applied the same trick which he unsuccessfully did a few minutes ago, as he handed the balloon to it. But, this time to taste success as he returned with ₹10 more in his pocket when the child refused to give back the balloon & his mother had to pay.
Coming back, he repeated his family story again. Then I asked him how much balloon does he sell in a day & why he gives the balloon to a child?
Stroking his clumsy hairs he replied, “15-20 balloons I can easily sell in a day” & added, “If a child cries after seeing the balloons or if peeps at you with wide eyes, then I get to know he wants the balloon; & I sell the heart-shaped balloons to young couples”. His eyes glittered when he said “I like ice-creams & can eat as much as one can provide” after seeing a stranger having it.
Before I could ask another question he said, “why don’t you buy the balloon & give it to your girlfriend because today everybody has one, & I too will have at your age”. Meanwhile, I realised he wanted to go away, as he wasn’t able to sell his balloon or might have been getting bored with the conversation or wanted to go home & have dinner. Who know?
I was left stranded with heart-shaped balloon wondering what to of it as his “Thank you” still echoed in my ears!