Monday, July 08, 2013

Sharing the light

The hawker had an affected, rasping voice. It wandered through the coach, waking the weary women wending their way home on the western line. When they turned their tired heads, they saw his wares - glowing plastic light-bulbs on a key chain. Each flick of a button turned on the light and then changed it to green, blue, yellow, red and more colours. It looked cheap, and at 20 Rupees, it was. No one was impressed. No one was interested. They all looked away, heads hung low in an inertia of exhaustion. 

And then a gnarled hand with uneven fingernails stuck out to touch, to feel. The hawker promptly detached one ring and handed it to the ancient woman. In a quivery voice that shook as the train rattled, she asked "how much?", in a defeated voice. 

Even as the hawker intoned the price ("bees rupaye"), she was looking down at the blinking little object. It glowed in many colours, lighting up her leathery fingertips and her weathered nightgown. She clutched her walking stick and a fraying bag in the other hand. Her permanent grimace eased a little as she narrowed her watery eyes to better take in the flashing wonder. 

He waited. She wanted. They locked eyes in a silent negotiation. The compartment watched. The old lady blinked first. She lowered her eyes and handed the object back - and the hawker reluctantly accepted it. 

But then another hand shot out - holding two tenners. Green bangles shone on the wrist. A cotton, well-washed salwar kameez stretched on the woman's ample frame. In a quick exchange she handed over the money and took the bulb, passing it on to the old lady sitting opposite her. 

A gummy smile and a head nod was all she could manage as she grasped her toy. The other woman smiled back, and got off at the next station. The bulb glowed on...green, blue, yellow, red...

8 comments:

Sue said...

This makes me smile. Well written, Ana.

Thinking Cramps said...

Thanks, birthday girl!

sukanya said...

paying it forward...
lovely Ana.

dipali said...

Aww, lovely!

Thinking Cramps said...

Sukanya - Yes, it made me want to!

Dipali - isn't it! Made me choke up a bit.

Tuhina Adit Maark said...

I really like your writing. Looking forward to more posts on your blog.

Mallika Ganguly said...

I like to think of her wanting to get it for a grandchild ? Or was it for her ? Maybe the child , then . Such things you see on your journeys Anamika . Will you write some more please ?

OrangeJammies said...

This made me shed a tear. Not just for what happened, but how you described it. Beautiful.