He hated the city and everything about it – the people, the endless expanse of grey concrete, the blinding lights, the blaring horns...
All of nine, he never understood why people, like his father, had moved from the quaint villages to the bustling city. There was so much grey and so less green. He had to walk to the park 2 blocks away just to play ball. They had just moved in a couple of weeks ago, and he had had more than his fair share of unfriendly experiences. He, who had scaled the tallest trees in his backyard, had to be content with climbing the stairs here. There was no neighbourhood tea stall where one could find the elders of the town hotly debating the Indian team’s decision to field first in the ongoing test match and half-naked urchins who had viewed television maybe a dozen times or lesser listening keenly. There were coffee shops and supermarkets and restaurants everywhere. The tongues were unusually harsh and the mouths so much louder; everyday business was marred with unpleasant haggling, and smiling faces and helping hands were so hard to find. He had made no friends in the city yet, and had made no attempts to socialize either. His parents somehow, much to his displeasure, seemed to love their new home. In all of two weeks, he saw his parents play host to atleast three hitherto unknown families. Although he had cried long and hard to go back home, the only response he got was a ‘You’ll love this place, don’t worry’. He knew was that he had to get back to the village, back to the rustic life he was so used to and liked so much.
He had made up his mind to leave back to the village to stay with his grandparents. His father was away at work and his mother in the kitchen. The only things he remembered about the bus journey to his new house apart from the fact that he was crying all along, was that the bus was red and the journey had taken about three hours. He took a look at the clock which read 5 o’clock. ‘Perfect’, he thought. ‘I can surprise Grandma and Grandpa by going to dinner tonight.’ There were some money kept on the table – 5 two-rupee coins and a 10-rupee note to be exact. He did not know the bus fare. But he was sure he could manage with twenty rupees. He took the money and set out. ‘Where’re you headed?’ asked his mother from the kitchen. ‘I’ll come back soon’ he said and left. He was going back to the village, and no one could stop him.
As he walked outside his apartment, he saw a man selling something pink and fluffy. He had seen it once before, when on a trip to the city, and had asked his father what it was. ‘We’ve got no time’ was the answer. Presently he saw a group of kids making a beeline for his cart. The cart read REAL COTTON CANDY in big, bold letters. He knew what candy was, and he liked it. He didn’t know they made candy from cotton too. But when he saw the man weave the pink magic effortlessly around the stick, he was astonished. All the other kids seemed to be enjoying their ‘cotton candy’ very much, burying most part of their faces in the pink magic in the process. He wanted one too – he wanted to see what the flossy mass had in it that all the kids liked to bury their mouths and faces in it. Although he would generally feel a little jolt whenever he heard the blaring horn of a vehicle, he didn’t care about the vehicles or their horns today – he ran across to the other side to claim his elusive cotton candy. The man weaving the magic was physically rather imposing and sported a well-kept moustache and beard – much akin to the local pehelwaan uncle back home. So he went up to him and said ‘Uncle, one for me’. ‘You’ve got the money?’ came the reply from pehelwaan uncle. ‘Yes. Here it is’ he said and gave him three coins. ‘You can’t get anything for this less. Go away’ the man roared. ‘But that’s all I have’ the boy said showing the five coins. ‘Oh alright kid. Gimme that’ said pehelwaan uncle and grabbed the money. In the next two minutes, the boy saw the greatest spectacle he had ever seen – pehelwaan uncle put some pink sugar-like things on his large spinning machine and waited. Then, slowly, the magic began to appear. Thin threads of pink ecstasy began to appear and pehelwaan uncle seamlessly ran his stick along the machine to gather the woven fluffy threads. Once the process was complete, he bit into the flossy mass – it was like heaven. Never had anything apart from pure honey tasted as sweet. Little threads of pink confection melted in his saliva-filled mouth, gratifying every inch of his tongue. The more he buried his mouth into the floss, the sweeter it seemed to get. Within no time, all that remained apart from the stick was the floss on his cheeks and his nose. He was floating in the sea of pink cotton candy beneath the pink sky with pink candyfloss clouds when he realised he had finished his candy. Without second thoughts, he handed over the ten-rupee note to the man and said ‘Uncle, one more’ and there he went again, sailing on the pink ocean of candyfloss. He scaled the pink cotton candy mountains and kissed the pink flossy clouds. But within no time, the second one was over too. ‘You’ve had enough. Go back to your house, kid’ thundered pehelwaan uncle. The boy, who was trying frantically to get the last bits of floss off his cheek and into his mouth, crossed the street, continuously looking back, hoping pehelwaan uncle would offer him another.
Still looking back, he climbed the stairs to his second floor home. His mother was on the couch. ‘Where were you?’ she asked. He smiled and said ‘Just here, taking a walk. I love this place.’