The Boy With The Tray

She sits on the roof. He wanders in the streets. They never meet. Read more to know their story.

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Reena sat against the faded blue wall and looked down at the street. This was her favourite place, the roof above Lalaji’s sweet shop, alongside her house. She did not like the walls of her house. The off white walls with black and grey splotches and stains on them, were a mundane reality for the ten-year-old Reena. She liked Lalaji’s building which next to her building, looked majestic. It was blue in colour with red railings and window panes and grills. Whenever Ma used to scold her or whenever she was happy, she would go to her room’s balcony on the second floor of her house and carefully sneak out onto Lalaji’s roof. There, she would spend hours staring at the pristine blue sky and figuring out the different shapes the clouds took. And when she would get bored of the sky, she would look down from the roof, and observe the street with people passing by and if she would be lucky, she would also spot a posh car or two, other than the usual rickshaws.

That particular day Reena was in a mood to observe the hustle bustle of the street. So she decided to lay down on her stomach and peek down at the street from the roof. She could see Lalaji’s men unloading big, fat sacks from the truck and the halwaais setting up big utensils for preparing evening snacks and sweets. She started counting the number of jalebis the halwaai was piling on a huge platter. She was in the middle of her humble mathematical project when she noticed a boy, of about her age, standing on the opposite side of the shop. He was dressed shabbily and had a big tray hung around his neck. The boy stood there, his back against the wall, in a slouched position waiting for someone to notice him and buy something from him. Reena eyed the colourful toys the boy carried on his tray. He must have been eyeing Lalaji’s jalebi pile too because suddenly he noticed two pigtails, with bright green ribbons hanging from the top roof of the sweet shop building. There was a short eye contact between the boy and Reena. They stared at each other for few minutes before Reena suddenly withdrew herself and disappeared from the roof. The boy continued staring at the roof for some time. He then turned and left the street without selling anything.

A few days later, Reena bagged first prize in a race at school. She wore the gold medal and flaunted it the whole day and did not take it off even at the dinner table. After dinner, she decided to climb the roof and stare at the sky while playing with her medal. As she climbed the roof and made herself comfortable, her eyes eluded the sky and darted towards the street. She noticed the same boy with his tray whom she had spotted a few days ago. She decided to wave at him. Hesitated, she raised her hand and gave a small wave. She was thinking whether she should smile at him or not when he suddenly waved back at her. She smiled. This time he did not reciprocate. She took her medal in her hand and pointed towards it. The boy looked down at himself. He seemed to be searching for something to point to in return. After a brief second, he raised his tray with one hand and pointed at it. Reena smiled at him. This time he reciprocated. Then as if shy from delivering the eager smile, he turned and swiftly walked away. Reena continued staring at the corner where he had stood. She then got up, dusted her frock and climbed back into her balcony.

One Sunday, Reena’s father took her to the club in the car. Reena was happy to accompany him to the club. She liked visiting the club because it meant a long ride in the car which she enjoyed the most and also a break for her from studies. After making its way through the narrow streets, the car had started picking some speed when it got stuck in a traffic. There was a lot of commotion on the street and Reena could hear people cry. Father rolled down the window and asked a man standing near about the commotion.

“There has been an accident. A small boy has died and so people are not letting the truck driver go. It would be better if you take a U-turn sahab”, the man said.

Father was disappointed and turned the car back towards home. Reena was disappointed too. She wondered how she would spend the evening at home.

That evening, Reena decided to climb onto the roof again. She also thought if she would see the boy with the tray again. Reena spent the entire evening on the roof, ignoring the different shapes the clouds took in the sky, her eyes pinned on the street, focusing on the corner where the boy had stood. But there was no sign of the boy with the tray. Disappointed, she climbed back into her balcony. She sat on the swing and toyed with the gold medal while thinking about the boy. “Why did he not come today?”, she wondered as father watched the news on the TV which had images of the boy and his tray full of colourful in a pool of blood, all over it.

 

Pic Credits: Shambhavi

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