Street Encounters

Contributed by: Angana Prasad
Dated: 10th June, 2013

The Biscuit Girl:

So, right outside Pappoo Store in Gole Market, there was this little 7 year old sitting in one corner of a huge column, holding a 1 year old on her lap. I had seen her often. On my good mood days I have shared ice creams and pani puri with her too. But on that particular day she was sitting quite gloomy with a swollen left eye. Out of sheer curiosity I went close to check if everything was fine. At first she refused to reply but when I began asking if she had been beaten up by someone, she quickly responded with a “no, it’s a honey bee sting” and looked away. I did not have the guts to know any more than this, so I just checked with the sleeping baby and left. Coming out of Pappoo Store, Son (colleague) offered her a new packet of Marie Biscuit. I insisted that he tears off the wrapper, so there is no way that she could (be forced to) return it to the shop for some money. On reaching home I realised I had left my helmet in the deposit counter of Pappoo Store, so I rushed back. Just where I had parked my scooty, the entire packet of biscuit lay thrown open. At that time, more than my helmet I just wanted to find the girl and ask her why. I haven’t seen her again. I went that way today too, but I could not find her.

The Parantha Boy:

There is this thela wala a little away from office, who sells some amazing kulchas with lots of butter. Till the beginning of this year, it was the pet lunch place for our team. With the onset of the cruel sunny days, we hadn’t been there for ages now. As it began raining a couple of days back, it seemed a good time to go there for breakfast. As we waited for our meals, a little help of the thela wala bhaiya caught my sight. He couldn’t be more than 7 or 8. Possibly he was even younger than that. He was doing the dishes there. Once we managed to make an eye contact, he hid his embarrassed face away. A couple of days later, when I went back there for lunch, I saw him again. We exchanged broad smiles, but he still managed to shy away every time our eyes met. As I had my food, I tried not to look at him, but at the same time kept taking note of what he was doing. He had another tiny next to him, probably 3 or 4 years old. He seemed to be just hanging around there. He probably was his brother. I don’t know. They were talking about me. I smiled back at both and they both giggled away. Before leaving I waved at them but they did not wave back. I went ahead.

Street ChildrenThe Raju Srivastav-faced Boy:

Once I had emptied my tiffin box in a little boy’s hand. I do not remember what food it was, I just know that I couldn’t finish it and the boy looked like Raju Srivastav. I saw him a number of times, once outside the ice-cream parlour I had been to. He was there with 4 others. I shared an icicle with them. He introduced me to his older brother. He looked like Raju Srivastav too. We spoke for a while, enquiring where they stay, which school they go to and so on. I haven’t seen my little Raju Srivastav again, but I met his elder brother today. I stopped him on the way. Said hi. Asked him how he was doing. He replied. I asked after his brother, he gave me a ‘you’re so weird’ look and left. I wanted to think ‘why’ but I also did not want to.

The Balloon Boy:

Outside Pappoo store again, I saw a 12 year old boy selling balloons, paper swords, plastic bow and arrows, etc. I saw him the first time today. It had always been his grandfather (I am guessing so) who had been there till the previous day. I kept looking at him for long. He made no attempts to sell his stuff. He just stood there, speaking to no one, looking here and there, he just stood there. I really wanted to go talk to him, but Son (colleague) told me that if I go, he might expect me to buy something off him, which I cannot, currently dealing with a blocked atm card. I left for home after that.

In all the cases, I just left the scene or went back home, without thinking much, without writing much about what I could have thought about these street encounters… I didn’t know their story, I didn’t know their lives. I didn’t want this piece to be of what I thought but only of what I saw.