He wasn’t able to stand erect, and managed to maintain his straight posture by leaning against one of the pillars that mark the enigmatic ambience of CP, Delhi. Quack! Quack! The sound came prominently if one passed near to him; he was trying to sell off certain toy pieces. Those were in the shape of a duck’s face and when worn on your arms, with the flapping movement of one’s four fingers held together at one end and thumb at the bottom that sound came inadvertently from the whistle fitted in the mouth of the toy itself.
It’s not a rare sight in the bustling circular trajectory of Connaught Place, one bumps into dozens of such salesmen, trying to sell varied sorts of things from bling to belts, toys, books, magazines, not to forget spicy & savory delights like bhelpuri, sprouts and boiled shakarkandi that is often accompanied with the gushing smell of the incense roll (dhoopbatti as we call it).
He was also one among the crowd of hawkers trying to eke a living by selling those bizarre toys. Don’t know why my gaze was settled at him. Instead of moving past him, (well I don’t seem to harbor a penchant for any toy whatsoever and don’t bear a familiarity with any kid too) I tried inching towards him. There was a forlorn look beneath those wrinkles, the eyes behind the spectacles seemed to yearn to every passer-by of attention and if possible lure him enough by the sound of the piece and compel the on-looker to buy it automatically. He must have been in the age bracket of sixty to seventy, I thought so.
“How much for each piece”, I asked, forty-five beta came the reply, the eyes yet to show a glint in the hope of a prospective transaction. “Ok I’ll buy one, give me the one in blue color” (I never forget to display my inclination towards my favorite color). “Yeah! Sure ! Sure!” He said as he ruffled through the pieces kept in a large cloth-bag hanging from his hand. “How many do you sell in a day”, I asked hoping that he wouldn’t mind those questions since he owed a polite reply to his customer. Not much on week days, I was informed, difficult to dole out even dozen or so, however weekend comes with a bundle of relief for sure. I was handed over the packet and as my hand slipped into the wallet for currency notes, the question hour continued. “Where do you live”, my final query; Haryana, came the reply. “No! No! Where do you live in Delhi?” I rectified my final take again; “I come from Haryana daily”, he went on, “starting from 7 in the morning, try selling few pieces out here and leave by 7:30 in the evening. I have my Mrs., a daughter and her child in my family. I have to feed them…”
Shocked and saddened by the helplessness of this man, I gave him the money and turned around as he said thank you and leaned against the pillar once again, his frail body-frame unable to withstand pressure of standing for long duration. Where do all the government schemes go hiding when it’s about providing economic aid to such people? Perhaps it is this ‘last mile’ fallacy, the lacuna between the aid and the beneficiary that mars the social policy of this country as pointed out by Sunil Khilnani in an article in the TOI few days back. Did someone say old age pension? You got to be kidding me man!
I wonder if the quack-quack might have boosted the sales of those toy pieces as the evening progressed. For the crowd out there was busy trying to mint the most out of flat 50% sale, caring two hoots about an aged man trying to stand straight by resting his back against a pillar. With Valentine Day round the corner, crowd comprising mostly of couples, strolled around with hands full of showy bags and jazzy labels, men & women unaware of the presence of someone, who looked forward to push the cart of life known to everyone by the name of living.