City Moment – The Girl With Red Roses, Near Sai Baba Temple
The beautiful Delhi instant.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The Delhi Walla was one afternoon traveling in an auto rickshaw when it stopped at a traffic light near Sai Baba Temple, central Delhi. Suddenly a girl emerged from the temple’s shadow and stood by the auto. She could not be more than 13. Wearing a yellow floral print salwar suit, the girl was holding about a dozen red roses. Each flower was wrapped in transparent polythene.
Children like this girl are a common sight in Delhi’s traffic lights. The cars stop, the little boys and girls appear by the windows to beg. Some make cute faces and thrust out their palms, some gesture towards their bellies pretending that they have been starving for days. The commuter reacts in two ways: either he pretends that there is no child standing outside the car window, or he rolls down the glass and throws a penny into the child’s palm. The parents of these children are often migrants from the countryside. They sit unobtrusively on the pavement, watching over their ‘breadwinners’ at work. Sometimes, instead of begging, the children hawk magazines (Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Marie Claire…), or pirated novels (Chetan Bhagat’s One Night @ the Call Center, Vikas Swaroop’s Slumdog Millionaire…), or fountain pens, or red roses, like this girl.
Standing still, she was silent. A ring glistened on her nose. Eyes cast down, her expressions were distilled of all impurities. It was odd to see such grace in a girl who must have been living in crude settings. Can the inner life of a poor uneducated person separate itself from the real world of ugliness and reach a vulnerability that comes with refinement of emotions?
The girl would not smile. Just then she was joined by another child, younger than her, who was also selling roses. The new arrival grinned, and the solemn expressions of the older girl instantly melted into a shy smile. It was a beautiful moment.
The rose seller
Her bright light
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