The Balloon Sellers

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The Balloon Sellers

She hated the sight of the new boy in her area. His charming Smile! The way he ran expectantly towards every potential customer and with just his winning smile made them buy the colourful heart-shaped balloons that he carried in his tiny little hands.

She- Manikya had conquered and ruled this area for the last ten years. She would go around the place selling her balloons to people who stopped their cars as the traffic signal turned red. Fancy Cars with tiny little children gaping outside the window at the colourful balloons she carried were always her target. Those filthy rich bastards could afford to buy her measly ten-rupee balloons and satisfy their 5-minute craving of these spoilt brats. It meant nothing to them!

But for her and her son, Anik, it meant the world. Every balloon she sold would get them closer to the chances of them having their three meals a day. Married at the age of 16, widowed at 18 and pregnant and homeless at the same time she had been through the worst that life could dole out to her.

But she had conquered it all. During the day she would sell balloons for a living. In the evenings she would pick up Anik and would wash vessels at a tiny little hotel to help meet ends. The pay wasn’t much but it was a safe place for a young woman like her. Anik, would tag along with his mother and keep himself pre-occupied by building sandcastles or entertain himself by watching the customers eating at the hotel. Manikya did worry about Anik staying all alone in their tiny little hut, but her neighbours had always stood by them and kept a watchful eye over him.

She had taken life with a pinch of salt, actually, a sack full of salt but life’s problems kept pulling her down. Anik couldn’t afford to go to a school, she could never take the help of anyone without them trying to take advantage of her youth and beauty so she had stayed alone fending for herself and her son. And the last nail in her coffin was this new boy who had entered her world and was doing pretty well for himself and making more money than her. She wished for once to be a dog that could mark its territory and chase away any outsider.

He was a mere 7 year old boy but it was his unending enthusiasm, energy and cheerfulness that she lacked that was affecting her and her trade negatively. He would jump and sprint and run around the cars and before she had even managed to catch her breath he had already managed to sell half his balloons. Though twice or thrice she had swallowed her pride and confronted him and politely told him that she wanted him to look for customers elsewhere, he would stare at her wide-eyed, give her a broad grin and run away to catch his next customer. While she struggled to sell her balloons she couldn’t help but notice how he effortlessly have all his balloons sold.

One afternoon, as they stood by the almost deserted street, in the glaring heat of the burning sun, an unexpected gust of wind, blew across them. She held on tightly to the strings of her balloon , to prevent them from flying away, but the little boy found the strings slipping through his fingers and floating across the street helter- skelter. He ran around helplessly trying to gather them together as fast as he could.

Even as she watched him struggle to pick up the scattered balloons, with a mean smile on her face, she watched as a blue car was speeding towards him at an alarming rate. All she had to do was call out to him and warn him about the impending danger. She gave him one last look, and then slowly, very calmly she turned her back on him and walked her way home, even as she heard the sharp screeching of the brakes. He could take care of himself. She was not his Mother or Caretaker!!! Let him fend for himself, over smart that he is!!!

The next morning, she was in a happier mood than usual and as she kissed her son goodbye she noticed that she was humming a tune to herself. She stationed herself at her usual spot with her bundle of balloons and looked around for her little competitor. Maybe the near-death incident must have frightened the poor little one she thought. She laughed wickedly as she was sure that he for sure would have survived the accident as she had heard the driver honking like crazy just before he applied the brakes. Evening came and she still did not see her foe. She smiled happy at the thought that the boy must have found a “safer” spot away from her zone.
It was late evening and she noticed with satisfaction that almost all of her balloons had been sold. As she turned back to leave for the day her regular customer, who usually passed the same way on his way home stopped his car, rolled down the window and picked up a balloon for his little daughter.

She knew she would never sleep in peace for the rest of her life as she heard his words slowly sinking into her ears like hot lava. “Really sad to hear about the boy who stood by you selling balloons all day. The Driver could not apply the brakes on time and the poor boy died in the accident. Someone said that he was born deaf and dumb and had not a soul in the world for a family. Did you know him???”







Rachitha Poornima Cabral
Assistant Professor
School of Social Work, Roshni Nilaya

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