Brandishing a stick in her right hand while a toddler clung to her emaciated body, the petite sari clad figure was running after a small girl.
Pigtailed and tear streaked, the six year old wearing a frock two sizes too big for her, and frayed at the sleeves, was running with all her might, while the woman chased her, mouthing invectives with aplomb.
“Why are you scolding her?” I asked her as she raced past me.
“Just”. She said, walking away and giving me not even a withering glance.
Not the one to be deflated by the brevity of the response, I persisted and ran up to her with a smile, she smiled back, I mimed a query.
My persistence had paid off.
“She hates her tiny brother, when I am not looking, she pinches and punches him”. She said outracing me, the stick held high.
There was love in the air. Cupid’s arrow seemed to have hit everyone, the young and old, the cowardly and bold. Where was the need for the stick?
There was love in the cafes, there was love in the ice-cream parlours, in the malls, on the roads, near the momo centers from where tempting vapours rose, enticing boys and girls who stood splurging on them, balloons proclaimed love, flowers wafted love, cards screamed love, soft toys spread love, music blared love, eyes spoke love, hands felt love, everyone seemed to be freaking out with love and more love. The gift shops overflowed with gifts of love, chocolates and roses.
Valentine’s Day seemed to have sent everyone into a tizzy.
A small love lorn puppy followed me with small whelps, I bent down to pat it on its tiny head and it went into staccato bursts of love, threw itself all over me, licking and nuzzling me .A small dose of love had turned the sad, droopy puppy into a canine beauty, fluffed with love.
With so much love all around, the tiny girl’s hatred for her brother stood out like a sore thumb.
Now I headed towards the girl who had stopped next to a “backer”, from where a mouth-watering aroma of freshly baked cakes and pastries made an assault on my olfactory senses. A vendor of heart shaped balloons stood next to the baker. The girl was casting looks of intense yearning in the direction of the baker. A florist sat hidden behind a crowd of young couples who had converged on him chattering and laughing away.
An old couple sat on a bench near the florist in companionable silence. “The wrackful siege of battering days” had left its marks on those two faces, but the spark of love in those eyes was intact, immortal. It shimmered and sparkled. Lines from Walt Whitman’s poem A GLIMPSE flashed through my mind:
“A long while amid the noises of coming and going, of drinking and oath and smutty jokes
There we two, content, happy in being together, speaking little, perhaps not a word”.
The twosome sat there, enjoying each other’s company when suddenly the old man got up, a pair of fond eyes following him.
He hobbled towards the florist, fumbled with the money in his purse and bought a rose, a balloon and some chocolates. The young boys and girls standing there sniggered, nudging each other.
“Chadi jawani buddey nu” [look, how the old try to foolishly emulate the young], one boy with a huge tattoo on his right arm and a huger girl on his left arm, quipped with a wicked grin, and the rest of them guffawed.
I watched curiously as the man headed towards the girl, handed the things to her and lovingly ruffled her hair. The girl quickly wiped her tears, now her eyes sparkled with a new light and she hugged the old man in a spontaneous gesture of love. The tattooed boy sheepishly looked away while the girl’s grip became tighter on his arm.
By now her mother had also come there. In another spontaneous gesture of love, the girl handed the things to her mother and whispered “give them to my brother”. The mother fondly whacked her on her head, the girl took her hand and both walked away towards their hovel just a stone’s throw from the railway track.
I picked up the stick that she had thrown away and broke it into two.
The old couple also got up, held hands and walked toward their home. I watched them go till they were a speck in the distance.
The shades of the evening were falling; we also headed home, certain scenes permanently etched in my memory.
The irresistible lure of Facebook beckoned me.
A dear friend had posted a song.
“I know how lonely life can be, shadows follow me …don’t let the evening get me down …I…. love you so.” Don Mclean was singing his heart out.
The next morning I got up with the lyrics of the beautiful song still ringing in my ears, and headed towards my favourite place in the house-our terrace.
A tiny little bird was singing away -and believe me, this was no marketing strategy, no consumerist exercise .I took a couple of cautious steps towards her, she cocked her head to one side and greeted me. Just below the tree on which the tiny winged creature sat there was a clutter of dead leaves. I picked up a broom and swept them away.
Love was in the air, in the trees, on the roads, the clouds were pregnant with love.
Heavy and ponderous, they soon went into labour.
And delivered –huge raindrops- and drenched me with a profusion of love.
For some time I stood and stared.
Romance was rampant, love was everywhere; I opened my eyes to the love around me, inhaled it, splurged on it and ignoring the heated discussion and the thundering statements that the clouds were involved in, decided to go in.
Today was another day.
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