A golden Honda City halts at the red signal. The rear window on the right side lowers just a bit. A hand peeps out and disposes off a chocolate wrapper. Even before anyone notices it, the hand withdraws itself and the window runs up to shut the world out…
He sees this every day. The whole affair doesn’t take more than a few seconds; yet this boy, all of eleven, noticed every small detail about the car and the mysterious hand. It fascinates him to no end. He waits in anticipation every day for the shiny golden Honda City to wait at the signal. To his young eyes, it looks like a huge goldfish, shining in the morning sun. There was not a scratch or speck of dust on the car. Ever perfect, spotless, pure. It so did not belong to the ugly weekday traffic - full of rickshaws, Municipal buses and push carts! It belongs to some Rajmarg, where it would be the only car to parade in a grand manner, he often thought.
The hand that sent chocolate wrappers flying on the road, no less, impressed him. The hand belonged to a lady. Who else could a dainty little hand with long artistic fingers painted in hues of colours belong to? There was a sparkle on one of the fingers. He guessed it was an expensive diamond ring. Imaginative that he was, he was adept at guessing a lot about the Memsaab, based only on the features and characteristics of her hand.
He was amazed at how Memsaab changed the colour of her nails every day! One day it was bright orange, the next it would be olive green! Yellow, soft pink, blue, red, brown, silver, black, purple and sometimes even golden, just like the car! Shades of pink were his favourite, black turned him off! Ohh! So many colours! He had never seen so many colours in his drab, lackluster life! He would sympathetically look down at himself. With a filthy shirt torn in half a dozen places, held together by tepid sewing attempts by chachi- ji; he never knew what the original colour ever was. In fact he didn’t even remember when he started wearing it! His shorts were no less a joke. Uneven zip and broken button forced him to tie a rope around his waist for it to stay in place. Clothes were unwashed for weeks, or maybe months; he abhorred his pitiful image.
These few minutes of guessing kept his spirits high. Although, he never liked it when the signal was green and the car sped away even before he had the chance to take a good look at it! He longed for the week days as much as he disliked the weekends. Perhaps the Memsaab doesn’t have to go to work on weekends, he thought. But if she is so rich; why does she have to work even? He mentally patted himself for his logical thinking and concluded that she must be a student. Yes, working hands are never so delicate. He had seen chachi-ji’s hands; rough as the tar road he was standing barefoot on.
So mesmerized was he by Memsaab, that one day he decided to collect those unwanted chocolate wrappers. He ran to grab them before they were sent soaring into the sky by other vehicles. He could almost sense the touch of Memsaab’s delicate fingers. He kept them carefully in a “Pan Parag” container. The stench of pan masala was so strong , that the intoxicating, sweet aroma of chocolate eventually faded. How he wished he had another dabba to store his treasure! But he had to make do with what he had. It was after a great deal of boisterous begging that chachi-ji had finally relented and parted with something that had belonged to her.
By and by, he had come close to collecting seventy wrappers. Alas, he would never know. He could only count ek se dus (one to ten). That too, he had learnt from chachi-ji when, at the end of the day, she distributed biscuits bought out of begging money to four others like him. He longed to study. His horizons never faded with the end of the day. It just about began then, when he yet again fantasized about going to school and making it big! Who knew? Maybe one day he would own a golden Honda City! His thoughts always reached a full stop at the golden Honda City and its Memsaab!
‘How odd!’, he thought. ‘I have never made an attempt to even take a look at Memsaab! I never even went close to the gold car!’ With that thought fermenting in his mind, he started devising ways to encounter the car. He started approaching it with odd jobs. One day he maneuvered his way through other haphazardly strewn vehicles. He felt delirious to be so close something that he thought was unattainable! For almost three seconds he forgot he was supposed to clean the wind shield and windows of the car, allowing him to take a good look at the person whose hand was such a beautiful piece of art! He stood stupefied facing the car with a big grin on his face. He only came to, when the signal turned green and the chauffer rudely shooed him away.
He was not disappointed though. So what if he couldn’t get a glimpse of the Memsaab today; he would try again tomorrow and again the day after and again, till he found the satisfaction of seeing her.
The next day, armed with cloth and Colin(which was bought a few months ago with the children's hard earned money; diluted umpteen number of times to make it last longer), he wasted no time in rushing towards the car. He wouldn’t make the same mistake as the previous day. He would not gape like a fool. He would start his mission immediately.
This time, the moment he sprayed a little liquid onto the windshield, the ever irritated chauffer pulled down his window and gave him a earful, ‘Gaadi saaf hai. Haath mat lagao!’ (The car is clean. Don’t touch it!’) The words seemed to be painted blood red, just like the driver’s spit. Taken aback by such a sharp retort, he ran to safety. Day 2 was indeed a flop. And what more, he had been told off; never to touch the clean beauty. What could he do now?
After days of anticipation and brainstorming, he decided he would sell magazines. People buy those. They sell like hot cakes! He would carry the filmy magazines. Surely, Memsaab would be interested in those! With these happy thoughts, he started counting the stars… he melted into peaceful sleep just before he counted dus.
Pumped with new enthusiasm, he gathered the glossy, glamorous books in his small hands and waited for what seemed like hours. The moment he noticed the car in his peripheral vision, he made a dash for it. He had also learnt some broken English words from his friends. He thought he would use them to impress Memsaab. Maybe he should call her Memsaab-ji for that added respect.
He was careful not to bang on the window, for he knew the red spit driver too well for his curt manners. He softly knocked on the right window, knowing only too well that Memsaab was on that side. He peered through the tinted glass. All he could see was his own reflection of foul clothes and sweaty, dust-streaked face. He knocked again, this time firmer, but gently. No response. He squinted and tried to see inside. With a lot of concentration, he managed to see beyond his own image.Memsaab was busy reading newspaper. He could only see her same right hand holding the newspaper in air, covering her face entirely! Dejected and cursing his luck, he turned back.
Next few days too were a stroke of bad luck for him! Some days the signal would jump to green even before the car halted. The other day the driver admonished him yet again for touching the car with his sloppy fingers. It was when the car did not turn up for three days in a row that he was genuinely scared and worried.
On the fourth day, he saw that unmistakable shimmer of gold that seemed to float in the mid-week rush. The royal beauty gently braked and he was promptly by its side. Success was almost licking his feet, when he saw Memsaab was already digging into her purse. Certainly she was looking for exact change. He was smiling ear to ear. His dream would come true today, he thought gleefully. Meanwhile, he was busy being enthralled by her below the shoulder length hair. He could see the softness of her hair, curls at the end dangling beautifully below the right shoulder. He was instantly reminded of the shampoo ad hoarding that was put up just three days before at the junction. She must look like Bipaasa Basu. Within minutes, horns blared and he had to get out of the way. In his reverie, he forgot that Memsaab did not once look up at him. He had missed the opportunity for what seemed like the thousandth time.
He tried several times; every time a new problem was posed to him. Probably sensing his presence,Memsaab started sitting on the other side, facing to her left! It was next to impossible to be on the left side of the road, since it was dug up pretty deep. ‘Why do they keep digging every now and then?’ he thought bitterly. He almost gave up on his dream.
Today however, he woke up with an unusual reassurance in his mind. You will see the much awaitedMemsaab today, said a voice somewhere deep within him. He smiled at his confident thought and wondered if it would come true. Looking back at the turn of events in the past few days, he was hardly feeling optimistic! Well, what did he have to lose? He would try again today like the rest of the days.
It was almost time for the goldfish to come gliding down the road. He thought it would be best to stay on the left side of the road. Miscalculating the time today, he started running down the street without even once looking at the signal which was nowhere near red. Within seconds, he heard his bones crunching. His pretty goldfish had hit him. The pain that shot through his entire body was coming in waves. He was feeling drained, as if someone was methodically sucking life from him.
He was in and out of consciousness. In one of the fading moments, he saw the Memsaab, holding his profusely bleeding head, screaming hysterically at people who had gathered all about them, ‘It’s the signal boy! It’s the signal boy! Oh my god! Please don’t die, don’t die! Please help!’
In those morbid moments he thanked his inner voice. How it told him that he would see his Memsaab today! Oh, how beautiful she is! And her hands, ever so soft! Her voice, though loud was silken! And she called me the ‘signal boy’, she recognized me.
With these parting thoughts, he smiled, for the last time. His dream was fulfilled. At last, he slept. Peacefully!
If you liked this, then the credit also goes to my good friend, Nishanth, who saw to it that the article came out better than how I had originally written it. Many Thanks to you, Nishanth! :)