Begging for love

The weather was vintage Bangalore. A cold breeze flirted with the otherwise warm atmosphere. A cute, shabby dog ran back into the safety of the house he belonged to, bullied by the barking street dogs. Crisp, golden-brown leaves sat on the road like a carpet laid out for god’s children. The footpath was lined by flowers so tender that they’d been felled by a gentle passing breeze.
There was almost no activity in the houses on either side of the road. There were cars parked on one side, still as water. An unfamiliar tune was playing in the air- that of a beautiful silence. Somewhere in the distance a trumpet played a more familiar tune, breaking the stunning calm that had engulfed the area.
Holding a copy of some class notes in one hand and a pencil in another, I sat staring into pure nothingness. A couple of friends sat beside me, trying to study. It was the perfect weather for anything but studying. A wrinkled middle aged lady walked up to the car begging for money. She persisted for a while and then crossed the road to turn her attention to the house on that side. The shabby dog barked at the unwelcome visitor, scaring her off. Then, she moved on.
A while later, she sat on the pavement at the end of the road, tired from all the walking she had done all morning. She counted her earnings. A few coins. Too few for lunch. Famished, she sat there, shoulders drooped.
The familiar tune played once more- A classic hindi movie song. It had been composed many years before youngsters of my age were born, yet it brought with it a magic missing in today’s songs. The two of us who knew it, hummed along for a while. The one who didn’t, was beginning to get annoyed by the noise it made. As the sound got closer, its source became clearer- An old man, looking for alms. “So you’ve to pay him to shut up?” the third one said.
As the old man approached the car we were seated in, everyone turned their heads in unison to their respective books. The dog barked at him too, as if he was now protecting us too. The man moved on to the next car. And then the next.
He walked to the end of the road and stood near her.
“Did you get anything?” he asked.
“A sore throat, yes” she replied, head in her hands.
He giggled and looked around. “I need to cover another couple of streets, are you done with those?” he asked, pointing to his left.
“Not now. I can’t” She said.
He walked around in circles for a while and then sat down by her. He reached into his bag and took out a plastic bag. “Here, you can have this” he said, offering it to her.
She accepted it, not knowing what was inside. Inside, was a stainless steel lunch box. She opened it to find two rotis, stale and rubbery. But it didn’t matter as long as it filled her stomach. She took one and gave him the other one. “I don’t eat much anyway” she said. He took it, smiled and put it back in the box. “I had some already” he lied, “You can have this later if you want”.
“What are you doing?”, my friend asked me, knocking my head.
“Oh nothing. Just wondering what those two must be talking about” I replied.
“Do you have nothing else to do?” came the reply.
“Think about it! They just met, neither has probably had a proper meal in weeks and yet, he’s giving her something to eat and they’re talking and giggling! “ I romanticised.
“You do have nothing better to do, do you?” they concluded.
It was the perfect weather for everything other than studying, especially romance. I looked at them again, the dried leaves being crumbled under their bare feet, the flowers acting like a cushion to their tired bodies and the breeze rejuvenating their weary souls. He played a different tune, another classic that inspired romance. I smiled to myself and took to my books again, lost in thought. When I looked up a couple of minutes later, they were gone and with them, the song too. Somewhere in the distance, that old tune still played- that one of beautiful silence. The street resonated once more with that calmness. Only now, the magic of romance was missing.

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