Like any other city dweller, the regular hustle-bustle on the pavement hardly distracts me. On the contrary, there’s something quite reassuring about its inimitable rhythm. Precisely why the goings-on around me never prompt me to stop and take notice, even for a moment.
So here I was, pacing through the street, feeling important and privileged for no good reason. Just as I took the turn in the mundane direction of my office building, a particular sight broke my habituated trance.I saw a frail, bubbly kid, around five, walking alongside his mother in perfect harmony. Merrily cruising along with the customary innocence of a kid, he stopped all of a sudden, his gleaming eyes stuck on a roadside Fruit Juice Stall.
The gaudy signboard above and the flowing gutter below were hardly an encouragement for a quick respite with fruits. But this was how I measured the proposition. The kid thought otherwise. His enquiring glance at his mother said it all. The lady seemed tense; a disapproving grimace already spanning her grim face in meek defense. But her son’s pleading gesture was overpowering, she soon realized, looking lost for a moment. The quandary was unmistakably working class, one that grappled with an unplanned and ill-timed expenditure that threatened to upset the forced equilibrium of her day-to-day existence. But the heart finally reigned supreme as she forced her way towards the shabby, over smiling vendor.
The menu was displayed in cheap red paint on the right corner of the wooden stall. After a moment of reckoning, she finally settled on the enticing Chikoo Milk Shake. Her kid nodded his instant approval. As the liquid slowly turned the glass brown all the way to the rim, the boy waited for his moment of splendour with bated breath. And finally, there it was, overflowing with the magic potion of everlasting bliss. The mother removed a tiny purse from the corner of her faded blouse and deprived it of 12 rupees …all crumpled notes.
The joy ride lasted for a while and then came the final moment – the glass resting upright on his lips as the last sip noisily sailed through. Having quenched his thirst at the windfall oasis, the lad now willingly succumbed to the desert of his life. Within a moment, both of them were out of sight. How I wish this bliss be eternal, as the kid had just concluded for himself.
Watching the whole scene from the adjacent bookshop mocking an arduous waiting-for-someone act in proof of my sanity – one look at the pavement followed by another at my wristwatch – was tough but worth all the while. As I reclaimed myself to face the grind, like a mesmerized audience leaving a cinema hall at the end of a gripping movie, some kind of undefined warmth gushed out of my navel to fill me throughout. Much like the juice in the glass that the kid relished just a while ago. The sultry sirens and handsome hunks of Bollywood seemed to stare at me from the glossy magazines behind me, dangling in disbelief.