She missed the bus. This was why she hated monsoon. She stopped. The bus had picked up speed. There was no use running after it anymore. Wobbling through the sloppy road, carefully avoiding the potholes, she reached the bus stop. She took a seat and propped the umbrella against her right leg. Her sea green attire was now dotted with mud stains. She squeezed water out of her wet dupatta. She looked down at her flipflop and exhaled in despair. It had turned black. How could she turn up like this?
10:30 AM. She glanced at her wristwatch. She had to reach there by 11. Her mind started racing. Why was the next bus not coming yet? She rapped her feet on the ground nervously. Not a single soul was around. They might be enjoying this rainy day, sitting on their balcony, sipping at their tea cup. She didn’t have such luxury. Rather it worried her as she thought of her slum; the narrow lanes might have been flooded by now, and the power supply? It, sure, would be out for hours. She twitched her mobile out of her bag.
‘Madam…I’ll be a little late. But I’ll come for sure.’ She uttered in a pleading tone.
‘You don’t have to. We’ve already hired a nanny for our baby. Thanks.’ The beep that followed numbed her senses. She stared blankly at the raindrops thrumming on the street. Her hands shook vigorously. Her vision went blurry. Right then, she felt a soft tug at her dupatta. Startled, she looked sideways.
A boy, about 6 or 7, stood next to her. He was drenched, his clothes had frayed, mud stains covered his slender, bare legs. Another hapless fellow, she thought. He was holding a bunch of colorful sticks. She met his eyes. Unusually shrewd, inky black and glimmering – were his big, round eyes. For a fleeting second, she forgot her grief.
‘Take a magic wand.’ He said briskly. ‘Only 20 Rs.’
She felt bad. The hundred rupees note she had, would be needed to buy her husband’s medicines. She looked up. The boy stared at her expectantly. She fished and found one five rupee coin.
‘Listen, this is all I have.’ She rose to her feet. ‘Take this.’
The boy retreated. ‘I’m not a beggar.’
‘What would I do with it?’ She sighed, her tone irritated. ‘Does it do real magic? Would I gain anything out of it?’
The boy silently turned around and began walking. She was taken aback. ‘Stop. Take this umbrella.’ She hastened.
He turned back.
‘Don’t get drenched. You’d catch cold.’
‘Then you take this.’ He held out one magic wand.
She bent over and cupped his face. ‘I don’t have money.’
He smiled. ‘My sister says you should believe in magic. I don’t though. Why should I? See, other kids are playing with paper boats and I’m out selling these. But today I did…when I saw you. I didn’t sell a single stick since morning. The roads are empty. And then I saw you. That gave me hope. I know you can’t buy it. But you need it. I saw you crying. You need magic. It’s nothing but hope.’
He turned and walked away, leaving her gaping at his retreating figure in awe.
Written by Chirasree Bose