I was walking across the road the other day in the vicinity of the Noida Sector-18 Metro station when a child came running towards me. He looked like any random rag picker carrying a rugged bag with a begging hand. His eyes had lost the childhood sparkle and reflected apathy strongly. He etched on while I tried to look away from his eyes. Then finally I asked him-
‘What do you want kid?’
He looked at me like I had asked if he knew my name and said-
‘Like you don’t know’
I searched my pockets for change and gave him a 5 rupee coin. He took it and left. I moved ahead towards G.I.P. The place has a liquid grandeur. It loses its importance as quickly as spent money. Money! Did I pay that kid enough money to have his lunch? Did he have extra money? Did he have lunch? Does he know what ‘lunch’ is?
Shit! I was falling in the guilt-trap this country offered like a welcome gift to anyone born with a conscience. I had to get out of it. So, I ambled towards the supposedly largest McDonald in the country when I heard someone call my name-
‘Karan, didn’t you have breakfast this morning?’
I turned around and was more than pleased to know that my thoughts will find an amiable change
She looked beautiful in her white lehnga with a matching PJ’s and a red scarf round her neck. Winters in Delhi are transient but a treat nonetheless. She smiled looking at me and held my hands tightly. Then, she stood by my side we started walking the long driveway towards the Bowling Alley. I looked at her again. Sneha never wore earrings. She thought it made women look too attached to ornaments. Whenever I argued back saying it added to her beauty, she replied too quickly-
‘You want me to forcibly have my ears pierced so that I don’t sleep for 24 hours out of pain and keep pinging you on every messenger Mark and his co. has every made?’
And I always jumped to her nose after that. Aquiline is one thing, but hers looked like a woodpecker’s desperate attempt to get a round one. She looked a beaut with the slightest shade of mascara and eyeliner. The bangles accentuated the feminine charisma. I kept staring at her when a thought struck me.
I always wondered what it would be like having a girlfriend- Someone with a matching intellect and a distinctive persona, beauty with brains, live and let live. But I wondered wrong. The first thing about a girlfriend is that she never lets you have a bloody good word of your own. She has to be in it. It doesn’t matter if it is right or wrong. She needs to be a part of you. She asks for your word and depends on it. She needs you to believe in her. And with this thought, she said her very first words-
‘So, did you like the shoes?’
‘Yeah baba! You chose them. Does it matter if I like them?’ I said with a chuckle.
She let go of my hands and started off in the opposite direction. I caught hold of her arm and turned around and said-
‘I mean I liked them very. Yes! Me! Not because you chose it. But because I liked it.’
‘You know me too much, don’t you?’ she replied with an evil laugh.
‘Too much to forget’
‘Well, you are a good partner’
‘And you are a good girlfriend’
‘That’s very good. Now, what do we do today?’ she stopped midway and asked.
‘Hmm let’s go bowling first and then think about it’, I tugged her along.
She snorted and made a face. ‘So that Mr Bowler here could display another one of his tricks while his girlfriend will try not to put the ball in another alley.’
I did laugh a bit. She never ever had a straight go. Once, I had to talk her down when a neighbouring alley guy started yelling as he saw two balls rolling in his alley. It ended on good terms with us leaving the game midway.
‘Okay then! What else?’
‘Let’s have some Wenger’s bread and cake’
‘Nah! Too dry for winters.’
And that very moment a boy came running with rugged clothes and tousled hair and asked for money. It took me 10 seconds to realize it was the same boy. And before I could interfere, Sneha picked him up and made him sit on the nearest table. She offered him a Centre Fresh and he galloped it like a candy. I was watching the whole thing when she reached for her purse and took a hundred rupee note and handed it to him. I raced to her snatching the note and said-
‘What’s wrong with you? He will waste it or lose it. Let us buy him lunch.’
She got angry at first but then agreed. We went to the nearest Dhaba and ordered a thali. He ate like a starved deserter and left the moment he finished the plate.
I was again shocked to see the furtive look in his eyes- Like he had committed treason by eating food. He looked around and took off running.
Sneha looked at me and said-
‘It feels good to know that there will be one less hungry child because of you’
I smiled back and we also ordered a Thali for ourselves. She insisted on a single plate and we ate like a couple married for years. That’s the second thing I love the most about her. She has this vibrancy in her thoughts that make you go gaga over her. I fell for her the day she shared her lunch with me in the 9th grade. She was just the perfect girl for me.
We finished and I went for my wallet. And I was shocked! It wasn’t there. I stood up and checked the table I was sitting on. No! Not there. I asked Sneha. She didn’t know about it. Then who………..
And that’s when it struck me. That bloody rag picker had stolen it. Sneha paid the bill and tried to calm me down. I was too angry. I wanted to curse myself. She held my hand and we sat on the roadside railing. She told me it’s not a big deal and we can work it out. When I told her that I had lost my credit cards and a couple thousand bucks, she got worried too.
At that very instant, I saw a boy resembling him running towards us. He stopped short in front of us and was about to say something when I picked him up by his collar and thrashed him twice. He fell on the floor and everyone started looking in our direction. Yes, Indians love a spectacle and will start another one if they don’t get to see one. Sneha stopped me short and I resisted kicking him out. She picked the boy up and held him close to her height. A brown coloured thing fell from his hands. I looked down and saw my wallet. I picked it hurriedly and checked the contents. Everything seemed to be in place. I sighed and was about to turn around when Sneha called me.
She had a look in her eyes which reflected anger and disappointment at the same time. I studied my nerves and asked her about the matter.
She glanced around the boy and whispered something in his ear. I was standing too far to comprehend a word except- ‘You, go, afraid, tell’.
The boy stood on his legs and wiped the tears off his cheekbones. He said-
‘You had dropped your wallet last time you gave me 5 rupees. I didn’t know what to do with it, so I looked for you and found you with didi.’
He started sobbing again while Sneha looked at me with a sullen face.
‘I was about to return it to you when didi asked me if I had anything to eat. I had a roti two days back. I was very hungry. So i ate quietly and ran away. I came back to return the wallet when you slapped me bhiaya!’ with that, he broke down again.
I felt like a jerk standing among a crowd of not-minding-their-own-business people and being represented as the ***hole. Sneha got hold of him and mellowed him down. Then she took her to bowling. I kept standing the whole time and wondering what was in her mind. She threw almost every ball into gutter. The child played better. She kept calling him by the same name she called me. She kept calling him Karan every time I glanced around. I was too ashamed to ask her why.
After an hour and a half, she bade him goodbye with a couple of hundred bucks in his hands. I was too fearful to protest again. She turned back towards me and said-
‘You both had the same name but different positions; same conscience but different way to prove it. But he seemed wiser to me. Do you think so?’
I kept looking in her eyes, trying to outmaneuver her sarcastic attempt at my pride. I couldn’t.
She held my hands again and said softly-
‘The crowd and dispersed and you have money in that Wallet. Do you want to grab some food and show me your bowling skills?’ with a mischievous grin.
‘I am so sorry….’
‘Don’t even try to say it!’
And with that I conclude that a perfect girl will find a way to make you feel guilt-free. She will be like valium at time of disdain.
When you find all three in one, you will stop ogling!