I went to Bangalore last week to visit my brother and SIL. I had a wonderful time, but I blew all my money on the plane tickets, as well as beer, and I returned to Delhi absolutely broke.

(On a side note, Bangalore was fabulous and I want to live there. The weather is nice, the people are laid-back, it has one of the greatest book shops I've ever been to, and it's full of bars and the bars are full of beer. If anyone knows about writing or editing jobs available in Bangalore, please get in touch.)

Anyway, I had one thousand rupees left in my bank account, after paying rent. My brother is lending me money temporarily, but that money hasn't come in yet, so I was forced, the past few days, to be Very Careful.

There are standard things I spend money on: food, transport, books, alcohol and cigarettes.

I bought about six books in Bangalore, so I can live without buying books for a couple of weeks. Goodbye, books.

Food. I don't need food right now. It's summer in Delhi. I get breakfast and dinner at home, and I can live on fruit for lunch. This will also help me button my jeans without an unattractive roll of flab hanging out. Goodbye, food.

Now we come to the crux of the matter. Transport. I am lazy. I am bloody lazy except when I'm drunk, and first thing in the morning. Then I am like a bloody rabbit, ready to hop, make merry, and do, er, other rabbity things.

But it turns out there are some things more important to me. Like smoking and the means to go out and get a drink (or two or three or...) on the weekend.

When I left work on Wednesday, I looked into my wallet and realized that I could either buy a pack of cigarettes, or spend sixty rupees on an auto home. The cigarettes won. Also, I vaguely remembered that the distance between office and home is seven kilometers. I assumed that would take me about forty-five minutes to get home on foot. Oh, how wrong I was.

It was quite a painful walk. I was holding my laptop, and this made my arms ache, so I transferred it to my bag. But my bag is one of those swing bags, and I was wearing it slung across my chest, and the laptop kept banging against my thigh. And I was wearing thin sandals, not conducive to walking long distances. And I'd forgotten my earphones so I had no music.

But I did it. And towards the end, I even picked up energy, and I felt happier, lighter, like I could take on the world. It was a fantastic feeling. I wasn't even daunted by the fact that I'd walked into the house at seven thirty, when I'd left office just after six. And I'd saved sixty rupees, and if I did the same thing tomorrow, that would nearly add up to a full pack of cigarettes.

(At this point, I'm trying not to weep for the days when a pack cost 88 rupees.)

I was so prepared on Thursday. I had my backpack on, and my laptop in my backpack, and I was wearing sneakers. I had my earphones and a playlist set up on my phone.

I left office at six and started walking. It's quite a nice walk actually, in parts. The roads are broad, if not quiet, and lined with trees, many of which are the sort with low branches - the leaves brush against your face as you walk under them. The pavements are, for the most part wide, and even though it is extremely hot, by six o'clock the sun has gone down a bit, so it doesn't hit the top of your head the way it does in the afternoon.

At the second crossing, I crossed in the company of a herd of cows, but let's not go there.

Anyway, I was about halfway home, when two girls selling flower garlands accosted me.

"I have no money," I said feebly.

"No, no. You have money." They said.

"No, I don't." I tried walking past them, but they linked hands and blocked my way.

"I HAVE NO MONEY!" I said fiercely, trying to intimidate them. They were not intimidated. They smiled sweetly at me, refusing to let me pass.

"Here, look." I turned out my pockets, hoping they wouldn't notice my rucksack where my (admittedly empty) wallet was.

They didn't, but this was because their gaze was fixed on something else.

"You have a lighter." Said one of the girls - Rukmini, I think her name was - accusingly.

"Yes," I said, my mouth drying up, the way it always does when my mother begins an anti-smoking lecture.

"You smoke?"

"Yes." I said, trying to sound unconcerned.


I searched in vain for a good reason, and failing to come up with one, I muttered, with as much dignity as I could muster, something about it being a free world.

This failed to impress them.

At that moment, however, a youth on a motorcycle stopped by the side of the road, and asked me if these girls were bothering me.

"It's fine," I said, but he started shouting at them anyway.

"Look," I said to him, "thank you very much, but it's absolutely fine. They weren't bothering me." He nodded, zoomed off, and I began running down the road, trying to get away from the girls. They ran past me, and blocked my way again.

"I have no money!" I said, for what was probably the fifth time. I was beginning to feel desperate. "If I had money, do you think I'd be walking in this heat? I'd be in an auto."

"Are you from Japan? You look Japanese and you can't speak Hindi at all."

I couldn't believe this was happening.


"That's okay," said Rukmini, unexpectedly. "Here, take this." And she tore off a bit of garland and handed it to me. The other girl - whose name I can't remember - did the same.

I was speechless.

"I told you," I said, after a moment of staring blankly at them. "I can't pay for this."

"That's alright. I like you. Keep it. It's a present."

I'm not easily touched, but that touched me. All I'd done was tell them I had no money, and shoved cigarette lighters in their faces, and here they were giving me free flowers.

"Thank you," I said finally, as they tied the garland around my wrist.

"You can pay us next time."

"If I have money, then I won't be walking next time."

"That's also okay. This is a present."

We exchanged names and shook hands and they asked if they could listen to the music through my earphones. I gave it to them. Dylan was playing. For some reason they found him incredibly hilarious.

"Don't you like it?" I said, a bit sadly.

They hastened to assure me that they thought he was very good, and we parted on excellent terms.

Later that night, after soaking my blistered feet in a bucket of salt water, I took the garland off my wrist and wished that I could wear it again the next day. It was a shame, I thought, that flowers don't live longer. But then of course, they wouldn't be so precious.


Nain said...

Awwwww. :) Little everyday joys.

Anonymous said...