Out of cash / Spandan Pandey

It was like any other Sunday. I was walking on one of my favourite streets in Mumbai. I never understood why I loved it so much, but I think it’s because it reminds me of the things I love about Kolkata. It has a vitality to it, an old world charm about it. The old buildings are reminiscent of the lost time and age and of our colonial history marked with the bloody freedom struggle. I have a strange affinity towards buildings which are old, because they no longer remain a building they became something of a monument.

I was walking there and like always, I felt a sense of serenity something which I am unable to find during my cumbersome working weekdays. It was around noon and the sun was shining and warm in all its resplendent glory. I saw an old woman dragging a worn suitcase. With one arm broken, wrapped in plaster, she was using her other arm dragging the black suitcase whose wheels were wobbly and almost about to come off as it rolled on the concrete. I didn’t know how long she had been doing that but she seemed indubitably exhausted. Her hair wasn’t completely white but had intermittent specks of grey, her glasses precariously placed on her nose. I wondered for how long she had been traveling like that and why no one was there with her to help. I went forward and in the midst of several onlookers,bowed, and asked her if I could help her reach her desired destination.

I was hesitant. I didn’t want to insult her independent spirit and I feared if she will not trust this stranger who was really a stranger in this new city. She smilingly accepted my offer and thanked me.Then repeated the same phrase again and gracefully handed her baggage to me. I grabbed it as tenderly as I could. It was something probably precious to her, I thought and I didn’t want to damage it in any way. “A firm but not a tight grip”, I said to myself.

I asked her the destination. She told me that she was heading to a bank across the street. I wasn’t surprised. Due to our apathetic government’s fatuous and parochial decision of demonetization, which made two of the highest denominations of our currency invalid, we were all heading there. Either to get some cash in new notes or in order to exchange the older ones. I understood her reason to go there instantly. I nodded and we went to the bank,crossing the street lights, walking slowly on the pavement. Suddenly, she looked at me and remembered that she never asked me my name. I told her. She repeated it twice to confirm if she got this unusual name of mine right and then another time to preserve it in her memory. Slowly, this odd couple reached the place.The adventure was reaching its conclusion. She couldn’t climb the few steps leading to the bank. She grabbed my hand and with my assistance,she was there. The people made way for her. The security guard of the bank took the suitcase from my hand.He immediately recognized the old lady and asked someone to bring a hot cup of chai. My task was complete. I was no longer needed. Just before the door was closed, she turned and thanked me.

A few minutes later, I was walking again on the same streets but this time with a bit of content that supplanted the ordinary and usual nostalgia of the weekend.

Spandan Pandey observes the world around him,and writes when he is not irredeemably lost in literature, cinema,or poetry.

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