Polka dotted balloons

Polka dotted balloons. Red and white, red and white polka dotted balloons. Red and white because red and white are my favourite colours. Bright, vibrant, beaming with energy – red complements the soft, calm and meditative white. White polka dots on the red balloon and red polka dots on the white balloon – they make a lovely pair.

I bought these balloons for my birthday. Today is my birthday. I went out with my friends today. We had a lovely dinner at an expensive restaurant. Then we roamed the streets like vagabonds, role-playing as street urchins and beggars and hooligans. What fun!

We were singing and dancing and making a lot of noise when we saw a guy selling balloons. He had lots of them, lots of balloons in different shapes and sizes, and colours as many as you can think of. But I chose the round balloons in red and white. Because red and white are my favourite colours.

I did not like the man selling the balloons. He was very eager to get rid of them! How can anyone be so eager to get rid of balloons? Balloons bring joy to the world.

But he wasn’t laughing or smiling at all. He just put on a grim face and lazily stated the price for a balloon in a very matter of fact way. Ten rupees, he declared. And that was that! No bargaining whatsoever. I always enjoy a good haggle but it was only ten rupees. I bought two – the red and white ones.

I asked him why he was so eager to get rid of his balloons. He told me he had two kids waiting for dinner. I asked him if his kids liked balloons. I offered to buy a few for them. He told me his kids did not like balloons, but I could buy as many as I wanted. I did not buy anymore. How can anyone not like balloons?

We thanked the balloon guy and kept walking. Where we were going, we didn’t know. We just kept singing and dancing and walking to nowhere. I tied the long string of the balloons around my right index finger. They hovered overhead and I gently gave them a tug. They wobbled, bounced up and down, and hit each other like mischievous little kids! I squealed in joy just tugging at the string.

Our laughter echoed through empty streets. We talked of when we were kids and how Sally brought balloons to school every year on her birthday. She always gave us the biggest ones. Because we were her favourites. Best friends forever, she said.

I wonder where Sally is now.

In one street corner, little kids huddled around a fire with a few grown-ups. The winter cold must’ve been hurting them. Why couldn’t they just buy a few jackets?

The kids saw my balloons and ran towards me, circling around and making me the center of their ring. I had no idea what was going on but I became their leader.

The grown-ups frowned at them and called them back. “Leave them alone, you scoundrels.” They shouted. I assured them it was no trouble at all. They clicked their tongues, shook their heads and went back to chatting among themselves. They were probably happy to have the fire to themselves.

A little one pulled at my trousers. She was only as tall as my knees. She pointed at the balloons and when I gave them a little tug, the balloons jumped and danced and she giggled like she was the happiest kid in the world.

And how happy she was. All it took to make her laugh was a tug at the balloons. Such a simpleton. So easy to impress. When I was her age, I had so many toys and yet I always wanted more. Dad always got them for me. I told him I wouldn’t have dinner otherwise.

The kid kept pulling at my trousers and pointing at my balloons. She stopped laughing or giggling and just looked at the balloons with eagerness. As if I was going to give them to her. Why can’t she get her own balloons?

I pulled her away from me but she kept pointing at the balloons just the same.

I lowered my hand a bit. This seemed to please her, for she started to giggle again. I lowered my hand and untied the string. It was my birthday after all, I wanted to do something for charity. I looked at my friends and they all smiled at me. I tied the string around the kid’s tiny finger. She giggled in joy and pointed the balloons to everyone. All the other kids clapped and cheered for me. The grown-ups smiled.

How happy was the kid! She moved her arm and the balloons jumped up and down. How beautiful they looked at night- my red and white polka dotted balloons. I was almost sorry for giving them away.

My friends and I walked away, smiling, leaving the kids to their new found happiness. We talked about old times, and how we paid for poor Johnny’s schoolbooks. Everyone said we were really nice and kind kids, caring for others.

We laughed. It is so easy to impress some people!

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