He stood there in a dirty kurta and pant, holding on to his cycle which was decorated with balloons of all hues and shades. He was part of the scenery outside the mall and I didn’t spare him a second glance as I tried to get an auto to go home.
“Memsaab, please ek balloon lijiye.” I was startled to hear him speak so close to me. I turned and shook my head. There was no one young enough at home to play with balloons anymore.
“Please memsaab. I have not sold a single balloon today and I need to buy something for my kid to eat.” He pointed to his cycle. There tied to the bar was a tiny mite, about 2 years old, gazing at everybody with quiet intensity.
“I don’t need a balloon,” I shook my head again, “there are no kids at home to play with one.”
“Please memsaab, for my child’s sake. He is hungry. I need money to buy him food.”
“A scam if I ever heard one,” I thought to myself as I shook my head again. But then I made the mistake of glancing at the little one on the cycle. “What the hell,” I thought to myself. “It’s just one balloon. As it is I spend on so much other unwanted stuff.”
“How much?” I asked . Sensing a sale, he quickly replied “Only twenty rupees.” And that is how I was the owner of a cheerful yellow balloon.
I got an auto almost immediately and as we passed the other exit of the mall, I saw another balloon seller who also had a baby tied to his cycle. I smiled wryly as I admitted that I had been conned into buying the balloon.
But looking at the balloon, I could not feel angry. There it sat next to me in the auto, tied to my bag, bouncing happily at every pothole. I giggled at the sight, forgetting what it was I was supposed to be worried about. I wondered what is it about balloons that make your heart sing. They just have the ability to change a bad mood into a better one.
I reached home and went about my work, unusually happy. Memories of childhood and evening walks with Dad, which were never complete without buying a balloon and eating an ice gola at the talaopali, flitted through my head.
And then when I finally saw my teddy bear, Fred, playing with the balloon, I knew it was a good buy after all.