City Moment – The ABCD Boy, Near Oberoi Hotel Flyover
A poignant traffic light instant.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The evening showers have stopped one hour ago, but the roadside ditches are still full of rainwater. Some prudent scooterists have actually kept their protective plastic capes wrapped around themselves, in case it rains again. All around, the homeless people living in the area have emerged from the Oberoi Hotel flyover they used as shelter. On this central Delhi avenue, pavements are alight with their cooking fires — from a distance they look like candles.
Tonight, the traffic light by the flyover is missing one of its most regular sights—a man often wearing a hat who’s used to going from one car window to another, wordlessly asking for money, and who flashes comradely salutes to most, even to those who decide to ignore him.
When the light turns red, a big white car halts, all windows closed. There must be AC inside, shielding its occupants from the humidity outside. The windows are covered with rain drops. A child appears on the road, as if out of thin air, and walks towards the driver’s window. The boy cannot be more than five-or-six years old, his head barely reaching the side mirror. He’s wearing a pink T-shirt that is too big for him, and that falls like a kaftan around his thin figure. One expects a usual traffic signal sight—the child knocking on the car window for money. But he doesn’t do that. Instead, he slowly, concentratedly writes ABCD on the misty window with his left hand. The next moment the light turns green. The car drives away., along with the rest of the stranded traffic. The boy is no longer seen.
That same evening, lawyer Rohan Agrawal posts on his Instagram a picture of a child drawing a similar ABCD on his car window—he clicked it from inside the car. But this picture, he says, was taken at the traffic light outside Bhikaji Cama Place metro station, and the boy in it is wearing a purple shirt and a chain around his neck. This means that there are at least two kids in our city who, on rainy days, practice their ABCD this special way.