“Mom, we will be back by evening”, said Priya.” Hurry up now. Come on let’s go”, shouted Priya again.
Rumi replied,” What’s the hurry?10 minutes more”.
Priya resigned thinking, when will Rumi learn to respect time.
She and her sister Rumi, were going for shopping to Lokhandwala. Lokhandwala has been Priya’s favourite hangout area, as long as she can remember. They used to come here along with their mother to buy clothes. Back then, they could afford to buy only from one store. But it was not shopping, that attracted her here. The area was one of the posh localities of suburban Mumbai. The crowd was up market. She could see people buying without worrying about the price tag. She saw the carefree nature of the other girls of her age. She wanted to experience the same. Every visit made her resolve to achieve her dreams stronger. The other factor why she liked visiting here was because her favourite pani-puri stall was there. She and her sister indulged on the delicious, tangy pani-puri’s.
Today, she had achieved her dreams. She no longer had to worry about money. She could shop without blinking an eye there. However, she invariably checked the tag prior to buying. She could never buy at whim. Life had taught her to respect the value of money. How much ever she wished, she could not detach herself from her middle-class upbringing. “Hello, let’s go. Stop day dreaming”, chuckled Rumi. Priya jolted back to reality. She knocked her playfully and ran towards the door. Rumi ran to punch her. Their mother screaming,” You will fall. Don’t run”.
Both of them were gone, before she could say anything more. She smiled thinking, her girls were still kids at heart. She was worried that her daughters had matured before their age. The harsh realities of life din’t allow them the luxury of childhood or adolescent. But now they have carved a wonderful career for themselves and life has been kind to them. She wondered if the hardships of life will leave a bitter taste in her children’s life, especially Priya. Rumi was more expressive of the two. She was always ready to fight and din’t mince her words. Priya was more quiet, she observed and kept silent. She was worried, that her this nature will affect her health. She didn’t want the past to define their attitude. But she was relieved, looking at them now. She was successful in teaching her kids to not take success or failure seriously. She taught them to value every experience -good or bad.
Priya and Rumi wandered around the streets. Shopping, bargaining, giggling, chatting they reached their favourite food joint. They bought coupons for the pani-puri and stood in line, awaiting their turn. Over the years the guy who served pani-puri had changed but not the taste. They were three down, when Priya saw Rumi staring at someone. She peeped to see, who was she looking at. She felt a lump in her throat. A beggar was searching the garbage of the pani-puri stall and eating whatever leftover of the pani-puri he could find. Rumi turned around to look at Priya. Her eyes were moist and she was about to cry. Priya nodded her head indicating not to cry. Rumi managed to control her tears. The last two serving of Pani-Puri was difficult for them to gulp down. Somehow they managed to eat it. They went and bought a coupon and gave it to the beggar and left.
No one spoke, on the entire journey back home. It is not as if they had not seen beggars or not heard about the state of poverty stricken people. But watching poverty so up, close and personal had shaken them both. Rumi was crying silently on way back. That moment changed Priya. All she could think while going back home was, how lucky she was to never have faced a situation like his. For the first time, a trip to Lokhandwala made her feel lucky and blessed. All this time, she was looking at people who were more prosperous than her. She felt cheated, that destiny randomly allocated few people with all luxuries and few had to struggle to achieve the same. In all this, she blatantly ignored that there were some who struggled to even find food and shelter. Until now, she felt angry but that moment redefined her outlook.
She looked at her past with beaming eyes now. She was happy and content with her past. She had made her peace. She looked at Rumi and embraced her and held onto her. Rumi too held her tightly, letting the shadow of their past fade away.