Book Fair was there in the town and excitement was at fever pitch among the book lovers.
The car raced past Gandhi Maidan and my eyes caught hold of the sight of a hawker surrounded by little children. The man kept ringing the bell he was carrying along with the bamboo pole of pink coloured fluffy cotton candies. It brought back many past memories of childhood days when after cleaning the house of all the waste materials as like, read newspapers, old copies, books etc., we waited eagerly for that Tunnnnn tunnnnn...sound followed by the cacophonous voice of the candy man. Out we spilled of the door into the street carrying the sack of the unwanted, unusable things, And what could be a better reuse of those unusable things than selling them to the kabadiwala (the scrap dealer) who just be-fooled us giving only a small lump of the fluffy cotton candy on a piece of paper in return for that whole sack of wasteful things.
We asked for more," Why are you giving us so little? We gave you that whole sack of variety of things." But, in vain.Our hungry and desperate gaze kept following him till he vanished round the curved lane.
It was the same look in the eyes of that little boy who had come to visit the book fair with his school mates escorted by two teachers. He was rather the youngest in that group. My husband, son and I had taken a whole round of the book-stalls, browsing the pages, reading the reviews and selecting them to buy. Finally we were so tired and exhausted that we dropped down on the grass listlessly with the load of books in our carry bags. My son went to get a bottle of mineral water for us. People around us just ambled, mostly thronged at the food stalls or the coffee stall. Some young couples were enjoying themselves being a part of that milling crowd with no one to identify them. A platform was raised in the middle of the ground for some plays to be staged and from there someone was announcing the names of the winners of the Lucky Draw. A slight chill had crept in the air. The slanting rays of the sun falling on the grass and the thin film of dust mingled with the crowd lent a sort of detached look to the whole scene. The little boy stood there with his hands in the pockets and legs placed slightly apart. Near to him, were two boys with pink cotton candies. I saw the boy moving in the direction of those two boys. I thought he would ask for that candy but he didn't do anything like that. He simply stood there with his face drawn, mouth slightly open gazing intently at those candies. His school teacher saw him and asked him to join the line, rather took him by his shoulder. Though the boy obeyed his teacher but, unwillingly, his gaze never for once veering off from those fluffy cotton candies. He was too young to prefer books to those candies. Those fat, leather covered books with gold binding meant nothing to him but boring bricks before those tempting mouth-watering candies..
Something churned and created a tumult of feelings inside me. My heart went out for that child, one in the rambling crowd. It felt to me as if I was seeing my own child craving for those pink candies. I couldn't take it any more " Just look at that child...the looks in his eyes...how he is craving for those candies!" I said to my husband (who himself was a great child-lover) who had also been looking at that child for sometime. As if waiting for this,he readily got up and bought a whole bunch of those pink fluffy cotton candies and placed them in the child's hand. I can never forget that confused yet contended look in the boy's eyes. The teacher came to his help because till then he had become an object of envy for his group mates. She distributed those candies among them letting the boy have two of them for himself.
My son had come back till then with the bottle of mineral water and we took our leave from there carrying a part of the book Fair in our mind and heart never to be erased-"The Boy and the Pink Cotton Fluffy Candies."