The hotshot designers can take some leaves out of Kanchan’s ‘dejiner’ collection of masks and umbrellas. They are more than just what they look – they bring hope and assurance in these trying times. 🙂
After being seriously caught in the horns of a dilemma, (horns more twisted than the milkman’s cow) I finally ventured out today morning. Last night’s rains had made the temperature plummet from 34 degrees to 24 degrees. I felt almost cold, the touch of the buoyant wind warmed me like the touch of a long lost lover, making me feel fuzzy all over.
A female sparrow playfully chased her partner into a bush, and before I could try to eavesdrop into the goings-on in the bush, my eyes fell on a lapwing walking gingerly towards a rain water puddle to admire itself in it. I had never been fascinated by narcissistic lapwings, so I walked on, looking at the surroundings with a new passion, with new eyes. It was as if after being locked inside the four walls of the house for an abnormally long time, I was learning to walk once again. With slow, faltering steps I walked on, afraid of slipping into the water puddles.
I wondered whether Kanchan would come today. I had asked her to get vaccinated, and after a lot of dilly-dallying she had agreed. Maybe she would not come today. But no, there she was, looking resplendent in pink. I was fascinated by the stole that she had covered her face with.
I heard her incoherent speech through her pink stole.
“There are no free vaccinations available, madam. I will go after a few days. There is a camp in my sister’s school, she will take me along. She has already had her first shot.”
“Okay, but don’t take it lightly. Masks are a must – and vaccination too.”
“Yes, I know. I am making masks for all the neighbourhood women. Didi, I bought cut pieces at throwaway prices from a shopkeeper who was winding up his business, and I even bought this stole from him, is it not good? Should I get one for you? I have made some dejiner (sic) masks. I saw how to make them in YouTube. I made masks from discarded socks, discarded T- shirts, you know, the sleeves of T-shirts make wonderful masks, I will show you one day.” I loved the way she Kalpanised the word designer. 🙂
“Good, you will earn some pocket money,” I mumbled through my mask.
“No, no didi, I don’t charge money – I am giving them the masks free. They cannot afford money. They are very poor slum dwellers.” If she could see through my mask, she could find me gaping at her. But, nonetheless, I am sure she saw my eyes smiling.
“You know didi, my childhood friend has also come from the village. Her husband had lost his job, so now she has also shifted here, and we helped them set up a sort of business.”
“Umbrellas are very much in vogue, because of the rainy season, so we gave them some money to buy umbrellas, which they now sell at Malviya Nagar.”
“Oh that is wonderful! Are they selling dejiner umbrellas?”
“Yes, they are,” she beamed.
“Are they making some profit?”
“Yes, yesterday, they sold ten umbrellas,” she chirped with a bright smile. I felt a glow inside to see her happiness at the success of the dejiner masks and dejiner umbrellas, the rays of hope.
“When the rains are over, we will think of something else for them. Look, I will show you the picture of her umbrellas.” And she quickly showed me the pic in her mobile – colourful umbrellas all lined up on the pavement. Her emaciated face seemed to reflect the flamboyance of the umbrellas.
In the meantime, I noticed that the lapwing had inadvertently taken a false step and tumbled into the puddle, and as it waddled out almost drunkenly, fumbling for firm ground, I could not help breaking into a grin.
The joggers were slowly regaining their lost spunk and trying to get used to the new way of life in the masked and sanitized world.
A woman, whom I had never seen before, sparkling in an orange and yellow ghagra-choli, was hastening towards the construction site, a shy smile on her lips.
The construction work in the mall in front of our house had started in fits and starts I noticed a table on which there were bottles of sanitizers, masks and gloves and the masked laborers were vigorously washing their hands, slowly having become acclimatized to the new lingo, the new restrictions and the new ways of the Covid Age. The New Normal.
I missed my old labourer friends, the toddlers whom I had struck friendships with, and those couple of women who had invited me to bathe with them at the community tap.
“Aap kahhan sey aayey hain?” [From where have you come?] I asked them.
“We are not migrant labourers, we are from the neighboring villages and the contractor is providing us all facilities, even food.” A middle aged labourer remarked, vigorously washing his hands and heading towards the gate of the sprawling construction site.
As I turned towards home, I could hear the rhythmic beat of the hammer blows of construction and reconstruction. It was nice to hear these happy sounds of a new beginning.
But, I heard something else too. It was Raj Kapoor singing in my head. That song from Anari.
Kissi ki muskurahaton pey ho nissar.
Kissi ka dard mil sakey to ley udahar
jeen issi ka naam hai.
I also started humming along with him, as I noticed the lapwing all dried up, and more confident, and Kanchan dashing towards the neighbour’s house.
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