I desperately begged for a break. Sitting all day, laced in webs of painful boredom and somewhat with snakes of a secret terror. It is soo tiresome. I was not wrong to plan an evening walk despite of the sticky weather. Maybe just for the sake of some new emotions but I needed it. So we went away happy, breaking into lonesome streets that now seems to be applauded by sounds of cheers.
We cousins, are really noisy when it comes to walks. we were argumentative but in humor. We would yell nonsense and could easily lose track of time. We circled upon the same topics again and again. Things that were dumb for lengthy discussions yet stirring competitive debates.
We were not very far when we noticed a narrow street gleaming out at us from dense trees. Though dinky in usual commotion, this irregular road left fresh and blooming aromas in the air. I realized my mother was heading us towards that direction.It was so narrow that I could count its width in mere five steps. It accommodated something like a fruit fair. And then I remembered, today was Tuesday.
Tuesdays are part of weekly market routine where the poor migrants would put up their stalls of various items ranging from turmeric and pickles to Gucci bags and fancy curtains.
And apart from the main market, the school-side street was exclusively for the fruit and vegetable fair. It had a considerable length and noticeable crowd providing “delusional feelings” that it is but a never-ending road, as my cousin brother pointed out.
The street was sufficiently lighted, though with some cheap golden bulbs which dangled like Christmas lights, overhead. The keepers looked sweaty yet enraged from the sales. They sat upon their wooden carts gazing and sometimes attracting the alien crowd. Many a times throwing buckets of water on their fruits, yelling orders at so called assistant and very rarely leaving their place. The former was a cheerful effect, I remember how little tomatoes had shone like rubies under golden lights. What kind of joy it projected, I still cannot decipher.
The crowd was equally an eye-turner. I saw a Japanese couple mumbling about the heat to each other. She complained to the vegetable seller with a frustrated look in her eyes and then eased up when she came to knew he understood little bit of English.Her husband, then mentioned they were from Japan. The women wore tattered denims in contrast to the traditional-Kimono image which was my sheepish perception of them Japanese folk until now. Later I saw an Englishwoman emerging out as the tallest, almost as pale as the fulia tant saree she bargained for. Her friends were not far away. They all were recognizable, not because they were foreigners but by the look in their eyes- an eye of a voyager; constantly making their way through the crowds and somehow struggling for it. Then their were middle class Indian women who roamed in their cotton sarees with all business-looks. So you see, market is a place of women, they organize dealings, meetings and occasional strategical information about other competing companies.
But I was not interested in much observation. The scene is not new to me and I don’t really eavesdrop on gossips. My eyes constantly traveled from mysterious corners of the abandoned school towards the wooden stalls while my brother kept babbling about his job interview. My mother and cousin sister were now buying mangoes-to-die-for which were surrounded by heavy crowd stacked like a goodie in the box of crisp bushes. Therefore, me and my brother decided, not to get lost.
Beside the mango stall, the red melons were no less than the former, polished as if with honey. Their smell enveloped the air and my eyes easily shifted to them. And after that, what I saw is still looping in my mind like a never-ending scene.
A little boy, fair skinned and chubby enough for a delightful kiss, stood their hand in hand with an immigrant-looking teenage girl. I loved him for I had a remarkably striking dream about similar-looking little boy. He was hardly 4 or 5 year old, perhaps the cutest being on earth. I noticed how he demanded or rather murmured for a piece of melon from his father. “Papa, melon”
And in return, what he got?
A harsh slap.
His father looked shabby. His shirt was loose, hairs tousled, piercing in the left ear and underneath a dull-check shirt.
This little boy started sobbing mutely and I stared helplessly. His father could not notice my stare but the teenage girl did as she started reconciling the little one. And my looks turned from pity to anger, sharp as a knife. Like a pain transferred through an unseen connection. As if I was slapped. I started feeling as I wanted the melon too. But the fear remained with the boy. His father can’t slap me and neither can I. I wanted to petrify his father even if it would make a scene. I just could not find the will, my own memories were provoked.
Just then, something came to me as if I am an over intelligent-psychic. Or Maybe it was just a scene from a crime show. For a moment I felt the teenage girl was bought by this guy in his thirties and the boy was an outcome of his sin. For he talked to him like a slave or a kidnapped child. Trafficking?
I could not do anything, call me coward, but I could not.
But one good thing, the girl convinced the man and the little one got the melon.
Though still sobbing and recovering, he ate without a sound.