the kid lolled in front of the entrance to the store. he looked up at the ceiling, and then down at the floor, and then up again. partial reflections were fascinating to him. the light caught his eye, he saw all at once, multiple lights were visible due to just one. now he starting scraping his foot, angled away from the floor, on the floor in front of him. following the lines between the tiles, reaching the intersection with another tile, and scraping back. it was a game. how long could it be done? far longer that you’d think possible. a call came. he turned.
“come here and help me.” mothers. always wanting help. especially when they came to the store. so boring to get him all the way out here, and break him away when he’d discovered the quickest way between stones, without moving the foot.
“come here now!” this was the command. oh well.
the kid went over, the mom unloaded the two bags onto his reluctantly waiting hands, and walked on. he had had to enter the store, as they exited, he tugged at the saree. “amma.”
“come, come fast, we have other places to go.”
“amma, that.” indicating the machine, and the man standing in front of it. he smiles at seeing a regular customer. a stick is produced, the humming machine examined momentarily. then in an expert flourish, the stick dipped into the vessel and twirled, even while it is swept along the inner rim of the bowl. strands magically form on the stick.
“no, no, you had it yesterday.” she keeps moving. “now come fast, appa will be home.”
“please please please, ma. pleaase. next time…” he looked up, trailing reluctantly behind. the man still grinning, the stick accumulating the strands, now a lump, now a pile, and even now, a heap on the stick; which barely seems able to hold onto it all.
“you need to come fast.” she has already given in, she goes to the seller, the stick passed down to the boy. the bags are in her hands, she is already looking to the next store.
he looks at the stick, wondering how it was made so neatly. the final twirl, makes it point up, the other strands seem to have been constructed from making that final shape. he looks up, the seller is making it for someone on the other side of the machine. the strands seem to jump on the stick, quiver, and then fall in a pattern only they know about. unbidden, the mouth moves closer to his own stick, and a mouthful warmly melts on his tongue. he looks at it funnily. he could never figure out how it was made, or even how it disappeared. another wad is pulled off, and dissolved. a hand comes down on his wrist holding the stick.
“ayyo walk faster, we have 2 more stores. and appa will come. and i have to buy things. now come.” alarm that the wisps will fall because the all-important wrist is grasped and pulled onward, is replaced by contented calm. the boy moves the stick to the other hand. bites are taken, some leaving the sugary mark around his mouth as they are ingested. some are licked, some are left. a look of bliss descends, as he walks beside his mother unattended now, the cotton candy disappearing.
the slightly greying hairs of the lady are swept back into a bun, as she sits on the bench. shade dances around her, she is feeling extremely warm right now. sunglasses are perched on her head, the salwar kameez is comfortably draped on her. the walking shoes complete the ensemble. “amma !” she looks inside her bag, then her hand for the kerchief. “ammmmaaaa !” she looks around while mopping her face. it was a warm day.
a youth runs up to her, and gathers the few bags around her. “we have to go, the next place is in 5 minutes.” she looks up. “you want to go, you move. i will come. if not now, then later. i can’t run.” he looks a tad exasperated. “oh c’mon”.
she takes her own time gathering up, and getting up. “i am old now, you know.” grimace from the youth. “okay, okay. come now, we will miss it.” once ready, she starts moving at the pace she has learnt is best for her. the youth races ahead, and suddenly looks around. comes back. “come na, ma.” she smiles at him. “i am.” the youth stands around, and then starts walking next to her.
carts abound around them, cool drinks, snacks… they are all there. she pulls his arm. “look, there.” he is busy fiddling with his camera. without looking up, “where?” “there, that shop. how much are those?” she is pointing towards the plastic bags. her face is looking towards him, that she would like it is obvious. he looks up, and puts away the camera. “oh, that. probably like three, four bucks. why?” she is now looking in front, and trying to keep going. the sun is beating down. “nothing, nothing, just wondering.”
he looks at her, a store, a stick and a wisp come to mind. a stride here, and he’s swiping a card. a stride there and he’s thrusting a bag of cotton candy in her hands. even as she holds it, he’s ripped it open. “now have.” she’s smiling. he keeps walking, chivvying her forward.
“you must be thinking, amma has the weirdest wants, no?”
he smiles, and looks at her, while pulling a piece of candy for himself.
“not that weird, ma. who doesn’t like cotton candy?”
The detail simply because, that’s my mom. And me.