A Bridge

Oh how they laughed

I HAVE managed to give myself a black eye trying to do back handsprings, so I couldn’t help but be impressed by the 6 year old girl doing them repeatedly and with ease, in the middle of the street in sweltering Delhi, barefoot and smiling at me.

She also dislocated her shoulders to put her entire body through the closed loop of her arms, and I couldn’t think of anything else I would do with my 5 rupee coin, so I handed it to her.

She smiled a gorgeous smile, the kind only kids can shape; but her face instantly turned into a mask of adulthood as she shoved another girl, who had joined us on the side of the road, as she tried to reach for money as well. There was real annoyance in that face, with dismissal, the kind of expression you would see an annoyed adult pulling before saying ‘oh fuck off’. Maybe she did, in Hindi.

The second girl performed the same front-and-back-flip routine, but i had no coins left. She kept begging as the lights turned to green and my rickshaw sped off. Just before I got away, however, she scowled and pinched me, hard.

ON RICKSHAWS, it’s a constant game of monetary feints and shimmies, bids and bets and recycled knowledge. “What, 120 for CP? It’s 30 for defence colony and that’s half the distance! Chalo, chalo”.

But even when you bargain a fixed price with them, they still turn the metre on. As if to say “this is how much you would have spent if you were better at haggling, fool.”

I swear the other day my driver amused a rickshaw load of locals by shouting at them, while speeding down a roundabout, how much he was charging me for the trip. They looked back at me and laughed.

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