The balloon seller’s daughter

The balloon seller’s daughter
Pinky
just loves balloons. She loves to see them grow big and mammoth from a tiny
little rubber when air is blown into it. She loves watching them soar into the
sky when she releases the delicate thread which keeps them captive. She loves
pricking them once a while with that little twig and to hear that deafening big
bang.

Why
wouldn’t she be? She is all of 8 years. Every kid of her age adores balloons
and Pinky is no different.

*********

But
then unfortunately Pinky was different. She was way different from the other
kids of her age. She surely loved to do all these things that the other kids
do, but sadly she couldn’t.

Pinky
lives around balloons her whole day but still she can’t do what those other
kids can. Any other little 8 year old would have dreamed of being always around
balloons. Pinky does, but still sadly she can’t do all these that she loves.

Pinky
is the daughter of Munir, a balloon seller.

*********


Munir
sells balloons for a living. He buys balloons from a local shop every morning
and then roams around his worn out cycle throughout the town, as far as his
legs could enable him to pedal. He waits at the gate of the parks and gardens
and at strategic junctions at market place.

He
waits anxiously to be spotted by enthusiastic kids who would then pester their
parents to get them a balloon. He ties his balloons on a long bamboo stick
attached to his cycle and hoisted high so as not to miss out the probing eyes
of the little kids on the streets walking with their parents.

Though
he mostly sells those small balloons, mostly in demand, into which he blows his
heart out to fill air before he hands it over lovingly to any kid, he carries a
little hand pump too for the few over-enthusiastic ones who demand the mammoth
ones.

*********

Pinky,
or whatever her name was kept, if at all there was any, when she was born, was
not as fortunate as she is today to have Munir as a father.

The
less fortunate, perhaps a child of a lesser god, she was born in one of the
most influential business families in town, the Khannas’; a family, where
perhaps, without knowing the real truth, every child would wish to be born.

“Congratulations!
Lakshmi aayi hai”, the nurse had exclaimed rushing out from the labor room,
much to the discomfort and gloom on the faces of those eagerly waiting outside.
The grandfather had stormed out of the hospital, the grandmother sunk to the
floor in despair and the father had rushed to his mother’s aid rather than
rushing inside the labor room, as soon as the announcement of the new born was
made.

*********

The
discharge from the hospital was a hush-hush affair and as the family returned
home, the news spread that the daughter-in-law from the rich family had an
unfortunate miscarriage.

It
was the same fateful evening, when Munir was walking back home after a tiring
day with brisk business that his eyes fell on a bundle wrapped in spotless
white cloth and lying in the bushes covering the thin lane that he usually took
as a shortcut back home.

Something
in that bundle had caught his attention and Munir was sure that he won’t be
wrong. How could he miss that? He drew his bicycle to its stand and bent down
to have a closer look. It was indeed what he had guessed. Two tiny twinkling
eyes and a well chiseled nose peeped out of a small opening in that bundle.

“Oh!
It’s a baby”, he cried out loud in angst. 
Quite late in the evening, when few dared to tread those empty by-lanes
for fear of the stray mongrels, there wasn’t anybody who could hear or notice
his anxiety.

*********

Munir
was married for almost six years now. Not that he and his wife never wanted a
child, they longed for one or many, to be fair. But somehow, every time his
wife conceives, the good old stork doesn’t seem to be patient enough to see
them through the full term.

Complications
during the last time, and the doctors had warned him that any further attempts
for parenthood would be disastrous for his wife. They had reconciled to fate
and his wife was happy getting the neighboring kids home to play and forget her
sorrow.

Munir
earned his living selling balloons and so children were his customers. Every
time, he hands over a balloon lovingly to a child, he looks at the child and
wishes if God would gift him one with those tiny fingers, whom he can call his
own.

*********

Munir
leaned forward and looked at the tiny bundle once again. He saw the gleaming
little eyes staring at him, as if asking him to carry it. With trembling hands,
he picked up the bundle and lifted it close to his heart. He knew it was a
baby, a new born infant, maybe a few days old. He held his ear close to the
baby’s chest and felt its heart beat. Munir was sure he had seen the baby
battling its eye-lids, but he had to make sure.

He
looked around to see if there is someone nearby. His eyes wandered far but he
couldn’t see a soul in sight. His heart was pumping fast and his mind running
wild with thoughts.

“Who
could leave such a little child in the bushes and forget”, he thought to
himself. He twitched the cloth and pulled it down the baby’s face. As Munir saw
the glowing face of the little child, he was mesmerised by the smile. He felt
the baby was staring at him and smiling, as if it was waiting for him.

*********

Munir
was quite sure in his mind, what he had to do. He picked up his bundle of joy
and took long steads towards home. He was anxious to show his prized
possession, the gift to him from Almighty, he thought, to his wife.

Munir
pedaled on his cycle as fast as his aching legs could manage. He was clinging
on the little bundle close to his chest with one hand while holding the bicycle
handle with the other. He would stop a while in between to adjust his posture
and ensure that the tiny little creature in that bundle is not suffocating.

*********


Pinky
was a name Munir had always had conjured up in his mind for a daughter, if at
all born to him. It was a name which had fancied him. But ungrateful fate had
deprived him of that honor. Till that evening when it was fate again which
brought him face to face with an angel, with a face whose beauty radiated so
much that he was mesmerised by it.

It
was an angel, Munir was sure. An angel sent across to him from above so that it
could fill up his life with happiness. Munir had fallen in love with the little
thing at first sight.

Pinky
was destined to be Munir’s daughter. God had destined her to be there because
God wanted the tiny little life to be bestowed with all the love in the world.
God knew that there could be none better than Munir to be the King for the
little angel.

**********

Munir
hadn’t ventured out of his house for the next one month. He always used to be jolted
up from his sleep with nightmares of people chasing him looking for a baby. He
didn’t want to lose that gift that God had bestowed upon him. Munir was scared
that someone will snatch away his happiness and take her far away.

It
was slowly but surely that reality dawned upon him that the little angel had
been abandoned by its legitimate parents and left to die. Munir was the chosen
one as her savior.

Munir
brought up Pinky with whatever little comforts that he could bestow upon his
princess. But unfortunately he hardly had any. The little that he earned
selling those balloons was hardly enough to just make ends meet for him and his
wife. And now he had another mouth to feed. But Munir ensured that if there is
a last morsel in his house, his angel would get it.

**********


Seven
eventful years had passed since that fateful evening.

Munir
had just got home after another day of brisk business. He was happy that with
the little extra money that he could earn that day, he would be able to take
his princess out to get her that little doll she had always stared longingly at
the shop window whenever they passed that way. She had never asked him to buy
her that doll, but Munir had always sensed that she longed for it. It was as if
she knew that she wouldn’t be able to get it ever. But Munir was sure that he
would be able to see that glee on his daughter’s face when he would surprise
her with that doll one day.

As
Munir approached home, he could sense a commotion in front of his tiny
shanty.  The entire neighborhood was
around and as he neared the door, he could hear his wife wailing.

Munir
couldn’t even keep his bicycle on stand; he just threw it down with all those
unsold balloons hanging on the bamboo stick. The loud bang with which the cycle
fell or the sound of the few balloons that burst as it fell to the ground was
not audible to Munir. He jostled through the crowd gathered, and ran inside as
fast as his legs could carry him.

Munir’s
wife was wailing uncontrollably and as he looked around, his little princess
could not be seen. Imagining the worst, Munir just stood there speechless
staring at the crowd, as one of them came and put his hand over Munir’s
shoulders and took him aside.

*********

Pinky
could never imagine that such fate awaited her seven long years after she was
unceremoniously abandoned and dumped in the bushes as feed for the stray hungry
mongrels.

She
was playing with the little urchins in the neighborhood, when these cars came
screeching in and stopped just in front of her little hutment. The people who
got down seemed to be aliens to her and as she looked at them in bewilderment,
the only woman in the group an towards her, snatched her away from the other
kids and lifted her in her arms, planting kisses all over her.

Pinky
tried her best to free herself away from the clutches of the intruder but the
hold was very strong. The neighborhood gathered as they heard the scream of
the child and that perhaps prompted the lady to put the child down. Pinky ran
towards her mother and clung on to her.

*********

The
old man who took Munir aside was telling him that a few people had come and
taken Pinky forcibly away with them claiming to be her real biological parents.
Munir just stood there as if without life as he was told that they had come
with various documents and papers and with police protection.

“How
could anyone just take his princess away from him”, Munir thought to himself as
he was sensing his entire world coming crashing down in just a few minutes.
“They have left their co-ordinates with us”, the old man explained. “They have
told you to go and meet them and settle the matter”, he continued.

“What
matters to be settled”, he wondered. For Munir, the matter was already settled
and it was that Pinky was his daughter and nothing else.

*********

It
was repentance or convenience, or perhaps both, which might have prompted the
Khannas’ to go in search of a lost child after seven long years. Lost, that’s
what they had mentioned in the complaint lodged with the police, how could they
say abandoned.

The
tracing of the child all  the way to
Munir’s little hutment was not a big task for the police since all birth and
growth records were available and could be tracked from the municipal
corporation’s records. In not time, the “lost” child was identified as the one
living her life as Pinky, Munir’s daughter.

Being
one of the most influential families in town did help a bit in the swiftness
with which the authorities swooped in and “rescued” the child, as they claimed.
The child handed over to her legitimate parents; the police promptly closed
their file as having successfully completed yet another assignment.

**********


All
appeals and pleadings could not even make the new found parents budge an inch
about their thoughts on handing over the child back to Munir and his wife.
Munir had just requested that he may be allowed to see his daughter and let her
make the choice she wants, but his plea was outright rejected as that perhaps
might emotionally influence the innocent child.

Munir
tried approaching the police authorities too but then unfortunately he could
not make up a case to defend himself. The fact remained that Pinky was not his
legitimate biological daughter and he had no documents to even prove her legal
adoption. The truth that Munir had “abducted” the little infant kept staring
back at him.

**********


Pinky was bestowed upon with the best of all a child could dream of. She was offered
the best of dresses, the best of toys, and the best of dolls that she could
ever imagine or dream of.

Her
claimants ensured that she be provided all that a little child of her age could
ask for. Her room was decorated with balloons of all shapes, sizes and colors.
Unfortunately, none of these balloons could interest her. For Pinky, the little
colorful balloons that she would see her father, Munir, blow his life and
heart into, every morning, before he set out on his bicycle to sell them
lovingly to the little children, would only be what could fill her life with
color.

Pinky used to cry whole day till she would be tired and fall asleep. She would be
woken up to eat, which she would do reluctantly and then cry again till she
would fall asleep again.

***********

For
Munir and his wife, their world had come to an abrupt end. Ever since Pinky went, Munir had never stepped out of his house, except for that one occasion when
he had gone begging and pleading the to the Khannas’ household and had ran from
pillar to post from one police station to other requesting a little help from
the authorities.

Munir
wouldn’t eat or drink anything, whole day he would just lie quietly on the
little cot to the side of the window in the only room hut that they could call
their house. He would just keep staring out of the window as if in expectation
that his little princess would come running in and cling on to him.

Munir’s
wife was worried too, but she knew she had to take care of her husband. He was
the sold bread earner and she knew that their household would be devastated if
he wouldn’t reconcile to the truth.

She
would plead with him to eat something, and he would relent once a while, just
gulping a few morsels of what she lovingly serves perhaps just to make his wife
a bit relieved.

*********


Was
it a dream or was it reality? Munir rubbed his eyes and looked out of the
window again. He was sure he saw Pinky running towards his home. He looked out
and couldn’t see her again. A passing vehicle had just parked outside his
window and the vision outside was obstructed.

Munir
jumped out of the bed and ran towards the door, screaming “Pinky” at the top of
his voice. As he reached the door, he saw his little princess running towards
him. Munir slumped to the floor on his knees and Pinky just came and clung on
to him.

*********

Pinky had run away from her new home, she told her parents later. She had ran to the
local police station and a good “uncle” there had dropped her back home and
gone, that’s all she remembers.

The
Khannas’ never came back, neither did the police authorities. And Munir did not
care if they did or not. He had got his beloved daughter back.

**********

Pinky
still lives around balloons her whole day and still she can’t do what those
other kids can. She can’t play with those balloons herself because she knows
that only if her father sells them, he would be able to get her that little doll
or the shop shelf that she dreams of having.



But
Pinky loves seeing her father blowing his breath into those colorful balloons
every morning and see them disappear by the time he comes back home to her
every evening. Those images of the colorful balloons surely fill her life with
all the colors she wants.

Pinky
is the “real” daughter of Munir, the balloon seller.


**********

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