Every story has its struggle. Its fall. Its glory. It is the plucked string that renders a melody. A hymn that lasts for eternity ~ Glass Ceilings
It was an October evening. An evening adorned with rain and shimmering street lights. Pakia had been crying for hours now. He was craving for ‘Jelli’s popcorn’. Probably, he would have seen it in the hands of my master’s son, Aarav.
It is a funny thing with children. They do not recognise stature and scale life on the balance of idealism. I have been working for Mr. Seth for three years now. I am his driver during office hours. I am the gatekeeper during night and the cook during November, when his relatives usually turn up. Since Pakia’s mother expired, I have become a father too.
There is very little you can do when your four year old cries. Who knows? They might want to go for a walk? Or watch the birds? Or play drums on your chest? Nevertheless, I have my own measures. Whenever his cries turned to growling, I took him to the shop. The one with the four storeyed glass ceilings which dwarfed the provisional stores alongside. “Pakia always wanted to walk on the moving stairs. I, myself, was scared. Little did I know that the four year old would hold my hand and tug me towards the elevator. I remember, how I taught this little one to walk on his two. That day was my learning curve. He taught me how to perch on an elevator.”
Inside the mall, I admired the irony that garlanded people for their well being. They had the privilege to draw a trolley and pour down essentials on whims and fancies. Well, essential is a strong word. Quite relative, from my perspective. I walked down the aisle. Pakia was excited. He would look over people. Make faces at them. Clinging onto his father’s shoulder, he would scream aloud. There are very few things as comforting and secure as you father’s lap. Gradually, we realise the fallacy in the premise.
But carefree Pakia would wave at the toddlers, driving the dummy car trolley. Pakia always insisted on being driven in one. I never took one. “Who knows? What price might they charge for it?” I, sometimes, told Pakia about my childhood, though I think, he understood very little. How we used to meddle in the mud, tear our rugged trousers around the knee and breathe our sweat. “That was some character building, Pakia. You ought to learn it.” He would continue giggling. Singing his rhymes, he would cling onto my beard. And today, I see these younger feet running on the marble floors. Pompous decorations. Too delicate. Parents seem to be too concerned. There is no mud. No bruises. No emotions. The wild west seems to have dried up from our lives.
Surfing through my memory galleries, I entered the food aisle. Crowd seemed to hoard up for the upcoming winter. I took Pakia into my arms. Clinging his arm around my neck, Pakia bent towards the Popcorn boxes. Quickly, I picked up the box and glanced over its circumference to find the price tag. Unable to find and with embarrassment, I turned towards the counter boy. “How much for it?” “Thirty Rupees, sir” No sooner did I hear the price than I felt the coins dangling in my waist pocket. Pakia heard the price and still turned towards me in expectation. His immature north eastern eyes met mine. I could see consolation brushing aside hope. There was a small flame of desperation. That, soon, flickered away, too.
Just as a mother fools her child into having another bite of food by distracting him with stars, I quickly diverted his extended arms towards the jelly bubble gum. “Look Pakia, They are so colourful. How about them? Huh?” “Even Aarav loves them!” I added. Chaining pakia’s happiness through a rich boy’s affection made me feel guilty. But this guilt was less embarrassing than the unaffordability of thirty rupees.
“How much for Jelly Bubble gums, sir?” “Oh! Them! Just 3 rupees” replied the counter boy, carelessly. Shrugging off our happiness that trailed his reply. Little did he know, that meant world to me. To us.
Even Pakia, knew that somewhere.