This is my first attempt at story-writing. This story is based on a real incident. None of the characters is fictitious.
Please be patient and read it till the end, if at all you start reading it. 🙂
I gave him a second look and then continued to look for a couple of seconds. He was dressed in a pair of khaki shorts and that was it. His dark brown skin, with layers of sweat, shone in the sun. He was holding two red roses, which were wrapped in a cellophane sheet, in his little hands.
I tried to look away but I could not. He seemed to gaze into nowhere, or may be somewhere. I guess he could he sense my gaze on him because he moved and looked in my direction. “How innocent!”, I thought, as I looked at his eyes, which kind of twinkled when they saw me. I stood there, amazed, and didn’t even realize that he was now standing in front of me.
“Didi, please take them. Only 10 bucks each.”
“Huh?” I was still standing in a half-amazed state. “I don’t need them”, I said.
“Please Didi. Please take. Look, they’re so fresh.” He said, holding those two roses towards me. I looked at his hands, cracked and muddy, holding the tender roses. I felt like cleaning those hands with soap and water; dry them with a soft towel and expose the tender skin hidden behind the mud.
“Look, they’re of no use to me. What will I do with them?” I said, trying to look away, which I couldn’t. It was hard to resist his eyes.
“You can gift them to someone, may be to any of your friends, or anyone. They’ll be happy to get these roses. Please take them.” He sounded quite convincing.
“Hmm, so how many roses have you sold since morning?” I showed some interest.
The twinkle in his eyes disappeared. “None”, he said, looking somewhere, “my sister and I haven’t sold any since morning.”
“Where is she?" I asked, looking in the same direction as he was looking.
“There”, he said, pointing towards a little girl, who was trying to convince yet another person, who looked unwilling and irritated. She was wearing a brown frock, which looked browner with the deposits of dirt on it.
“Ah! Why don’t you call her here? I don’t think that person will buy the roses.” I said.
“Hmm? Tara!!” He called out as loudly as he could. “Oh, so she’s Tara, and you are?” I asked, smiling.
“Mitthu”, he grinned.
“Sweet!” I smiled even more.
Tara was there while I was still smiling in amazement. His twinkle reappeared and I could see a slight one in her eyes too, adding more to my amazement.
I wondered on how similar they looked. Shabby hair, dirty brown clothes, cracked and muddy hands holding two red roses, and not to forget, the twinkle in their eyes.
“She’s Tara. We haven’t had anything since morning. And we’ve not even sold anything. But these roses are still fresh. See.” Mitthu was again holding the roses towards me.
“Hmm, would you like to eat something?” I ignored the roses and asked.
“Umm”, Mitthu looked at Tara who was staring at me. It seemed as if she had forgotten about her roses. I smiled again, even more amazed with that look in her eyes. “Aye Tara!” Mitthu shook her a bit. She looked at him, without saying anything, and then looked back at me.
“But will you buy these roses please? They’re still fresh. No one will buy them in the evening.” I could see the twinkle fading away. I didn’t want to let it go.
“Okay, I’ll buy all four, both yours and hers. Fine?” I said, smiling, waiting for the twinkle to come back. It did, followed with a grin.
“Great, so what would you two like to have? Juice, chat, fruits, or burgers? Tell me.” I guess I gave them too many options so I decided to remain quiet and let them decide. I noticed Tara staring at something again. “Water balls?” I popped in again. Tara nodded and Mitthu followed.
“Okay but wash your hands first.” I wanted them to wash the mud from their hands instead of having them wash it down with the water balls. They seemed a bit reluctant.
“What? Come here.” I said, opening my water bottle. Mitthu kept the roses on a bench, came, wet his hands and moved aside, fluttering them. “Wash properly”, I said. He moved forward, grinning, and struggled hard to remove the dirt from his hands.
After doing the cleaning act for a couple of seconds, he looked back. “Aye Tara, come fast”, he said, grabbing her hand. She almost dropped her roses on the bench as Mitthu pulled her.
Tara stood with her hands stretched forward, staring at me again, as I poured water on her hands. Mitthu did a “hmph!”, grabbed her hands again, and cleaned them vigorously. He almost shook Tara but she continued to stare at me.
“Okay, done!” He said triumphantly, with a more prominent twinkle in his eyes, fluttering his hands again. Tara fluttered hers too after realizing that her hands have been washed.
The water balls wallah gave Mittu and Tara a weird look. “Two plates please.” I said, handing over the token to him. He gave them a plate each, still maintaining that weird look. “What is it? Any problem?” I asked. I didn’t like that look. “Nothing Ma’m”, he said, grinning.
“Less spicy and put some sweet chutney as well.” I instructed, and looked at Mitthu and Tara who were almost drooling at the sight of the water balls. I smiled and it stayed as I kept looking at them in amazement.
“Here”, said the water balls wallah, giving them one each.
Mitthu tried to gulp the water ball but it was too big for his little mouth. A part of it fell down in his plate and the water trickled down from the sides of his mouth. He munched the part that was inside and grinned again when he saw me looking at him.
Tara drained the water from the water ball in her plate, took a small bite, and munched slowly. She wasn’t staring at me this time. I guess she was too busy enjoying the taste of the water ball. She finished the water ball in two bites and then drank the water from the plate. I kind of liked her style of eating the water ball. I stood there watching both of them, amazed and amused.
Mitthu was gulping down the water balls one after another and Tara was taking her own sweet time eating them. She was enjoying the third one while Mitthu had already finished eight. The water that trickled down from the sides of his mouth had reached all the way down his neck. A few bits and pieces of the balls were sitting on his bare stomach. He kept cleaning them from there in between, grinning and looking at me, as he did that. Tara, unaware of what Mitthu is doing, was kind of happy, as she munched slowly, looking everywhere but at me. I could see the slight twinkle in her eyes.
“Over”, the water balls wallah said, wiping his hands with a cloth. “Okay, do you need more? Or, something else? Some chat? Ice cream?” I gave too many options again, I guess.
Tara looked at Mitthu now. Mitthu stood confused. “Umm, okay I’ll buy you some ice cream, fine?” I tried to remove the confusion. They nodded, which meant an okay. Mitthu picked up the roses from the bench and followed me, holding Tara’s hand.
I couldn’t find an ice cream wallah nearby so I decided to buy them two cones from McDonalds. I instructed them to stand outside as I went inside. While I was standing in the queue, I looked at them from the glass door. They were standing, holding each others hand. Tara was trying to wipe something from her frock with another hand. Mitthu was again gazing somewhere.
I handed over a cone each to both of them. Mitthu took it, grinning. Tara took it, staring at me again. I wanted to see her grin.
“And these roses? You’ll buy them, won’t you?” Mitthu asked as he licked the cream from the top of the cone, holding the roses towards me again.
“Yeah, 40 bucks, right?” I confirmed. Tara nodded this time. I took out four ten rupee notes, amazed at her response. “Okay, here.” I handed over the money to Tara, smiling, expecting a smile from her. She did, as she took the money. A twinkle and a smile; I loved the sight of these two on her face.
Mitthu handed over the roses to me, grinning, and licking his cone. “So shall I leave now?” I asked, as I closed my bag, realizing that I’d come for some work. Mitthu nodded in an okay again.
“Bye”, I said, as I made a move. I didn’t feel like going but I had to. I waved, expecting a wave from Tara, as Mitthu waved back.
“Didi!!!” That was Tara’s jingling voice. I turned around. “We come here daily.” She said with a grin.
PS: Some people have been wondering if the "I" in the story is me. Yes, the "I" is "ME". Some more have been wondering if the story is REALLY true. Yes, it is. 🙂