“Have you spotted him yet?” asked mama Hornbill, sporting a worried expression on her face.
“Not yet! But let me call out” said Papa Hornbill and sent out a high pitched call to his missing teenage son.
“Perched atop this Neem tree out in the jungle (read City) is not the safest place for us” said mama Hornbill. “Look at that swinging branch. Is that our son?” Said mama, looking towards the overhead wire crisscrossing the road from one tree to another.
“Naaa…” Said Papa, ” He was swinging there with Crows yesterday, but not today! Bad company, I tell you, exposing himself in the middle of the jungle with noisy animals (traffic) all around!”
“You look this side and I’ll try the next tree.” said Mama Hornbill worried about her missing son and wondering if he had breakfast .
She gave one last desperate call before flying off to the next tree.
Her name is Saneedha. That’s what she told me. After the morning encounter, she was totally on my mind.
“Will money suffice?” I asked myself.
The feet took me towards her “dwelling”, which was an occupied strip on the pavement, on way to my evening stroll on the promenade. After a brief chat I parted with a crisp note which I hoped would alleviate her misery. She was smiling. I then asked her to explain what had happened in the morning. Reminded of the incident, she burst into tears again.
The next evening on way to the promenade, I glanced in her direction. Her toddler was playing with a brand new toy truck and a tiny airplane. The mother was lost in the joy of the play to notice. Feeling happy I continued my walk on the drive till the sun set and a hue of reddish pink became the sky.
On the way back, she saw me and beckoned me.
“I lost the money you gave me yesterday!” she said with a smile.
I nodded towards her and continued to go back towards the gated building compound leaving the noise, dust and poverty behind me.
I never knew her name. Not in the two years we have maintained eye contact. Sometimes in the early morning of the sun, she wouldn’t still be awake as I’d pass her makeshift bed on the pavement. But sometimes she would lift her head and wave to me. Some passersby thought that she was insane were ready to help me out and to “shoo” her away. But my smile and the wave back would puzzle them.
Today was different. I started in the same usual way. Stepped out from the wicket. Waited for my cab.
Then I saw her approaching my direction. With tarpaulin slung over her shoulder, I expected her to give me the same sweet smile that she had been giving for months and I was eager to smile back to her.
She soon came within an arms distance and recognized me. Instead of a smile she burst into tears.
“He stole everything” she cried, pointing at a group of men on the other side of the street.
Amazed, I looked at them in shock and they reciprocated the same. The building security guard waiting to wave her away from me. Time seemed to stand still.
“That one!”, she said pointing at the group hidden by the bushes on the other side. ” I had left everything under a tree and he stole it and put it under his. Even the ( couldn’t understand this word) that my mother had given me. Report him to the police. He is a thief! ”
A cab arrived and I stepped in while consoling her that I would. I saw her move forward with her only belonging, the tarpaulin, slung from one shoulder, brushing the ground against her petite frame. The cab sped off.
“She lost her husband a couple of years ago,” I told the cab driver. ” Stays on the street.”
He gave me sympathetic nod and asked me “Where to?”.
I told him the way to the design insights class and we proceeded on a quiet journey ahead. Discussing about technology, for people, who already have everything, was the last thing on my mind today.