I see a girl at the traffic signal near my home. Her name is Radha. She’s in her early twenties; short, slim, dark-haired, brown-eyed, and with a whitish complexion. You’ll see her in a faded salwar-kameez selling small jasmine garlands. From morning to evening she stands there, earning just about enough to stay off the streets.
One day I was waiting for a friend. To while away the time I began to observe Radha. Every time the signal turned red she would weave through the vehicles gracefully, coaxing people to buy the flowers she was selling; a smile on her face, a pleasant tone to her voice. Some would refuse outright, some would take a look at them but not buy them, some feigned interest in the garlands simply to get a chance to stare at her openly and pass sultry comments. Occasionally someone would buy a garland or two. Her eyes would light up then, gratitude shining through every feature!
A vegetable vendor gave Radha a waved invitation for a quick cup of tea at a nearby tapri (small tea stall). She crossed over to the pavement I stood on. Fond greetings were exchanged. The two of them then lapsed into conversation.
The vendor asked Radha as to where she had been for the past two weeks. She explained that she had had to go to her native village because her mother had taken ill. A patient of asthma, the old lady had been suffering from bronchitis. This obviously led to complications. Radha described the long hours spent in the hospital, the anxious moments trying to comfort her father and her brother despite herself being upset, and the relief when her mother pulled through it somehow. The hospital bills had been stupendous. Radha had pawned her wedding jewellery to pay the first installment.
“But then, ornaments aren’t more valuable than the life of a loved one, are they?” Radha said. They moved on to other topics
Radha’s husband, it transpired, was an alcoholic. There had been a good many drunken brawls. Eventually the neighbours had called the police. Luckily the police inspector’s sister was a social worker. She suggested moving Radha’s husband to a rehabilitation centre run by the NGO she worked for.
“Once he gets better he will be able to find decent work. After all, who doesn’t feel more confident when they’re cured of addictions?! Our financial problems will get solved!” Radha’s face glowed with the anticipation of happy days.
The two ladies quickly drained their cups. Both of them had to get back to their stands after all. Just as Radha was about to cross the road it started raining. The fragrance of the jasmines mingled with the sweet scent of moist soil. The rain trickled over Radha’s body, soaking her completely. She spread her arms wide, turned her face up towards the sky and closed her eyes, relishing the experience thoroughly!
“Come and stand in the shade my dear! Otherwise you’ll catch a cold!” the vegetable vendor exclaimed.
“Don’t worry mavshi, I’ll be alright! Let me just enjoy the rain!” Radha said.
“The monsoon has started. It’ll rain every day. Are you going to get drenched like this all the time?!” the vegetable vendor rebuked.
“Sure! Why not?! Each moment ought to be cherished, ought to be lived to the fullest! Who knows what tomorrow might bring. Isn’t it better that we enjoy whenever we can today?” Radha said.
The rain stopped. My friend arrived. Radha turned towards us.
“Tai gajra deu ka?” (Would you like to buy a garland?)
“Ho de don gajre.” (Sure. Give me two.)
“Hey ghya! Masta taaji-tavani, sundar fula ahet bagha!” (Here you are! See how fresh and beautiful the blooms are!)
“Pan tujhi sar nahi tyanna…!” (But they are nothing compared to you!)
She smiled shyly and crossed the road. I left with my friend.
In that one afternoon I learned something that seventeen years of formal education had not imbibed in me. I learned to have the right priorities, to have faith and to live in the present moment no matter what Life throws at me.
I learned how to live!