It was a windy winter morning. Little Kalpana was standing on the pavement next to the traffic signal, waiting for the lights to turn red. She was a balloon seller, like the many other kids who lived on the streets. The one minute window of red lights on the traffic signal was the arena of her life. She held a wooden stick that had 10 balloons tied on to it. The colorful balloons dangled in the air as she ran from windscreen to window, hoping to make a sale.
That morning, an elderly gentleman named Ajay, was strolling on the pavements. He had taken a detour from his usual morning walk route in the park. From far away, he could see bright balloons hanging in the air, rising up from the stalled traffic. It was a wonderful sight to witness from a distance. He strutted slowly towards the balloons.
But as he got closer to the signal, the traffic lights turned green, and all cars moved onward. What was left was a little girl, with ten balloons, standing barefoot on the dusty road. The colorful sight of the balloons suddenly lost all its charm. Ajay, realized that the little girl was selling balloons for a living.
As he came closer to the traffic signal, Kalpana ran towards him, hoping to sell a balloon to the old man.
There were no words spoken. Ajay stopped on the pavement, and Kalpana stood right in front of him, with hope in her eyes.
Ajay smiled. In that moment, he gave her something that was denied to her all her life. A modicum of attention.
He dug into his pocket and slid out a ten rupee note. Kalpana’s eyes lit up. She quickly untied a yellow balloon from her stick and offered it to the old man.
Ajay gave the ten rupee note to her. He held the soft thread that was tied on to the yellow balloon. He smiled and offered the balloon to Kalpana.
She could not understand the transaction. The old man looked into her eyes one last time and walked away. Little Kalpana stood on the pavement with the ten rupee note and the yellow balloon in one hand and the stick with nine balloons in the other hand.
Before she could take a moment to understand what had happened, the traffic began to swell up. She quickly got to work again, trying to sell balloons on the roadside.
Later in the evening, she was left with two balloons. In her right hand, she had the yellow balloon and dangling from the stick in her left hand, there was a red balloon.
A lady in a car summoned Kalpana by blaring her car horn. She ran quickly to her, hoping to sell the last balloon and go home.
The lady asked for two balloons. Kalpana looked up at both the balloons.
At that moment, as she looked at the yellow balloon, a strong feeling took over her heart. How could she sell the yellow balloon? It was hers!
Somehow, she found the courage to say she only had one balloon to sell.
The lady in the car asked for the yellow one for her kid seated next to her. Little Kalpana was firm about her emotion for the yellow balloon. She told the lady that only the red balloon was up for sale.
The signal was about to turn green soon. Caving to the wheedling of her little kid, the lady in the car bought the red balloon from Kalpana. Soon, the car was gone, in the direction of the next traffic signal.
Kalpana was only left with one balloon. The yellow one.
A smile surfaced on Kalpana’s innocent face. She danced her way to her hut next to the pavement, with the yellow balloon, the sun of her life.
That morning, the elderly gentleman Ajay, had bought something priceless with just ten rupees.
With the compassionate transaction, he had brought Kalpana, a moment of her own childhood.
Photo by Sagar Patil via Unsplash