“We have been quite lucky today”, declared the white girl in a white dress. Well, the girl wasn’t really a “white” and it wasn’t really a "dress”. The girl was an Indian, a semi-whitish, semi-pinkish girl in one of those dress-like-tops. Going back home after what was supposed to be a long, dull day at work in a big blue car. She had the company of two more young people - another pinkish-whitish lady dressed in deep crimson, seeking the cupid's blessings and a semi brown, semi black boy, who was also dressed in white.
(Who dares to call Indians 'brown' - we are available in all colors!!!!)
The evening was like any other Delhi evening, an orange sky lingered over a dusky, grey earth. & the lowest layer of atmosphere that touched the earth was just marginally breath-able as per WHO standards. Yet it was amazing how one of the most inhabitable areas of earth (as per WHO) was also among the most densely populated ones.
Rows of buildings edged the broad roads, that narrowed down only to accommodate the construction of Metro rail. Flashy metallic shade cars honked on the streets. Yellow-green busses exhaled smoke on the pale faces of skinny kids… Yes, those little kids trying to sell toys to grown ups, every time the signal went red. Less read people selling books to the more read people. Beggars with hyper animated appearances and expressions, begging for mercy, which you could only give in the form of money. It is bizarre how the red signal which means “stop” to some, means “start” to others.
“So true Ann, it becomes damn congested after 530. Life would become so much more easy if you could leave everyday at 5…” Ann stands for Anandita, the girl in white.
“But Mish the point is that you cant leave at 5 everyday, with your Boss bossing over your head. Moreover its cool today, otherwise you know that the scenario is like at 5PM in a June evening...”
Mish is short for Mishka. And the temperature was swinging in early 30's, cool for a Delhi-June-evening but enough to cause a heat wave in far away France or Finland.
“Anyway whats the plan now, it’s a Friday yaaa?”. "Yaaa" is a four letter Anglo-Indian word which means ‘friend’.
“Nothing yaaa, a quick little dinner at home and then a drink with friends in of course Friends (colony) only. Cant drive down again after this long day”.
“True yaaa, I so feel like going to Saket or Priya on Fridays but then this traffic. It makes it so freakin’ impossible. Saket demands a Saturday.”
The black-brown boy was also thinking about his weekend plan. He had to catch up on some good sleep tonight. On Saturdays and Sundays he had his UPSC classes in one of the congested North Delhi areas known for coaching classes that sell dreams, much like any other industry of our time and age. Had he not got this job of driving Ann’s car on week days, it would have been impossible for him to fund his preparation. Ironically, there are so many financing schemes for funding education, but none for funding preparation-for-education. And it is in these times that skills like ‘bearing-the-burden-of-inherited-poverty-without-even-grudging’, ‘managing-life-with-5-hours-of-sleep-a-day’, and of course, ‘driving’, that come handy.
“I hope am not looking too red, like my dress. Am nervous, just hope things work out today. Proposing a guy for marriage after 2 years of dating is not going overboard naa?”, stammered Mishka nervously.
"Not at all Mish. And remember, guys only propose gals for dating. It is the girl who proposes or imposes marriage"
“Hey by the way which place you goin tonight Mish? I hope I don’t bump into you and Abhishek with my gang”, giggled Ann.
"Donno yaaa... With Abhi we only end up in a sports bar".
This last piece of Ann-Mish conversation caught the brown-black boy’s attention. Alcohol and women never fail to get a guy’s attention. And here the combo was deadlier – ‘girls talking about alcohol-serving-institutes – the bars.’
But our brown-black boy wondered what a sports bar could be: The name of a bar or a type of bar. And as the rest of the conversation flowed between Ann and Mish, the boy quickly deciphered that sports bar is a genre of bars which serves sports along with drinks, much like dance bars which serve dance (and….) along with drinks.
“Ann, did you manage to see the new collection of Mango? Its awesome. To die for types yaaa”
“Oh! Is it? I’ll take a look at it on Saturday. Anyway, at the moment my wardrobe sucks. Its full of UK stuff. Its been 3 months since I returned from London, but I haven’t been able to bring my wardrobe out of its university and Brit-phase”.
“Then do take a round around South-Ex for Moja and Allen Solly also, their formals are mouth watering…”
“I hope it helps. Maybe I should have shopped in London only. I was in love with the Bridgewater formal collection, which is a distant dream in India”.
“Hey Ann, look there, that magazine has some cool pictures of spring collection… Oh it reads Ritu’s formal collection, looks like worth a look yaaa…” said Mish, looking keenly at one of the magazines held by a little girl, as the car halted at the red light.
A little girl, maybe 7 or 8 years old with dry hair and dry skin stood near the car holding a bunch of fashion magazines in hand. The girls on the cover pages of magazines wore little but colorful clothes. The little girl selling them wore a dress with a color 'difficult to decipher', may be it was green or maybe red, who knows… dust and smoke had covered it all.
“Mish grab it”, yelled Ann. “40 Rupees”, said the little vendor.
“I only have 100 Rupee notes... Ann you have change?”
“No yaaa, I just have plastic money, damn”
“Girlie do you have change?”, asked Mish to the little vendor.
The little vendor started started counting. Yes, she had adequate number of 10 Rupee notes to give to Mish. She counted her change twice and then gave 6 notes of 10 Rupee and the magazine to Mish. Mish also took her time to count the notes, but before she was done, the light went green.
Our young brown-black boy who was dreaming of sitting in a white, chauffer driven, ‘red-light’, Govt of India car one day, was not following the Ann-Mish-vendor conversation and so he zoomed off as soon as it showed green on the light. But wait, Mish had not given her 100 Rupee note to the little vendor. As the car zoomed, and the little vendor yelled, Mish gave a ‘I-donno-what-to-do-now’ glance to Ann. Ann yelled after a 5 or 6 seconds, “just throw the 100 bucks outta the window naa, the girl will catch it.” As if, the 7 year old girl was some Johnty Rhodes in full form amidst Delhi roads.
But the little vendor girl was also a gymnast par excellence. Like a Yuvraj Singh she lapped the green note flying near the road and found her way elegantly between the swiftly moving cars towards the pavement. She was accustomed to selling stuff to crorepatis in big cars who would first examine the product from all angles and then count the change before parting with their 100 bucks. It was normal and usual. So, Mish and Ann were not worth her anger or curse or after thoughts. She was just happy that the minute spent at the red light was productive for her. A minute that tested all her skills - marketing, ac-counting and even athletic skills.
Mish and Ann were also not in a mood to discuss whether the girl could or couldn’t catch the note. They became busy discussing the beige and azure shades of Gucci's brand new bag collection.
The brown black boy did think about the ‘difficult-to-decipher’ colored girl for a while, guilty that he speeded the car without waiting for her to get her money… Then as usual he got mentally transported into his Govt of India office and car.
& life with all its colors moved on…