- Life & Style
- Cars and Bikes
- Your Opinion
- Stories and Poems
Flowers wilted under the heat of a summer in Delhi. Buses rushed by, emitting putrid fumes, swirling like a winter’s fog on a summer’s day above the traffic. Cars crawled in slow putrefaction of time and occasionally a scream or a shout was heard above the sharp symphony of horns played by irate travelers of the city. The windows were pulled up and the air conditioning was in full blow. My car stood beside a lumbering, lazy and loud truck on the one side, and was flanked by an intimate couple on a bike on the other. Occasionally there would be a loud tap on the window and a child in rags, or a young mother with a baby on her hip, or a tragically wounded or handicapped man would be seen on the other side. Imploring stares and outstretched hands. A shuffling of coins would ensue, some resulting in a fleeting victory of the beggars, the others resolvinginto a complete ignorance of the existence of these people outside.
The truck beside my car crawled ahead, and like a curtain unfolding on a city, I saw on the other side of the road, a boy; much like the ones going round the road and tapping patiently on every car that they could see. This boy had not joined that crowd of little children, and instead of a steel bowl or pockets singing with the borrowed coins inside, he had a cardboard cylinder. Well, in my eyes, it was a cardboard cylinder. But for a boy untouched by the siphoning of imagination in the steel braces of a city, this cylinder could be anything. And this time, for this boy in rags, it was a gun.
The boy ran around the pavement with his cardboard gun, holding it in front of him and pointing it towards the slow river of cars. Like a brave soldier in rags he called out a war cry, holding his precious gun in the air and in his playful enactment of this imaginary battle, the sounds to each gunfire were added with remarkable skill. A tiny actor with a cardboard gun, against an army of cars, holding within them, perspiring, impatient benefactors of spare coins; complaining about lost time, and an air conditioning that could not beat the city heat. The battle was unfair perhaps. A gun was always handy in a battle against the unarmed.
The road woke up to a sudden movement of traffic, and as I moved ahead, I looked at the child. At the periphery of society, living on the condescending benevolence of the others, he had for a momentary frame of time, held that stretch of road hostage to his imagination. And while that road of cars, still in the line of fire by a cardboard gun, moved on in complete ignorance of the battle in this child’s mind, a question floated around with the fumes in the air.
Which side of this uneven battle would lose to death or misery sooner? A fleet of nomadic cars, with these freelance benefactors of spare change, or an impoverished boy, living on the edges of a wealthy city, brandishing a cardboard gun?