I passed a girl of probably fourteen,
sitting on the dusty pavement selling cheap, painted crockery,
the colours on the ceramic trying hard to make up,
for the lack of it on her drab brown torn dress.
I wanted to buy a plain yellow coloured vase
for my money plant
that would take up a post on my desk.
But she gave me a blue one with green flowers
and said “Didi yeh zyada acha hain.”
A month later passed the same dusty pavement,
and received a wide-toothed smile of recognition,
honest and sincere, as a the petals of first bloom.
This time a cup or two in peaceful pastel shades,
the steaming cup of morning tea reminding me,
of the coarse hands which offered it.
On Diwali eve, when I wanted to give her a salwar kameez,
the rough hands returned them back with that same unwavering smile.
Then winter came, when a shawl was also refused.
By spring, the pavement was deprived of her presence.
Worriedly I would scan the spot where she would sit,
every time I crossed it.
Then one day, I saw a boy sitting there with a scowl,
with the same colourful crockery surrounding him.
With no urge to suggest or sell.
Gently inquired about the sunny sibling,
whose choices adorned the nooks and corners of home.
Got a stubborn stare in response.
Repeated visits made him relent with bitter words.
The girl had passed away during childbirth.
The girl who could dare to offer and make choices for strangers,
had been rendered a voiceless entity in her own home.
The money earned lost, the dignity she wanted to keep lost.
Only pain and questions given to her to keep,
and for the soul to carry into the next realm.