I remember the time when I was a child. I had gone to a balloon seller in the neighborhood. He had come with his cart after a long time. He rang his bell, signalling his arrival in the vicinity. I was in the kitchen counting the Chinar leaves on the curtains. As soon as I heard the bell, I ran from my home.
I spotted this old man, with a Haji cap and a Kashmiri coat. He was sitting at the parapet. Blue, green, red and yellow colours waving in the air. Like they were desperate to be free.
Huffing and puffing. I gave him a 5 rupee coin, which I had saved for a biscuit. I asked for the red coloured balloon which had ‘I Love You’ inscribed.
As I ran towards home. A proud smile weaved around my happy face. Looking at the neighbourhood kids with a sense of pride. They looked jealous. I saw Tariq a childhood rival (now a dear friend) negotiating with his mother to give him money. I was tugging on it tightly. Showing off my skills.
As I neared the gate of my home. I tried to avoid the pot-hole. As I jumped, the thread slipped from my hand.
The balloon flew in the air. It turned out to be a helium filled balloon. My heart was broken. My heart was sinking with every second, it went higher.
Tears were almost pouring out. I felt down on my knees in a pot-hole of mud (I didn’t realise it until my mother scolded me). I started crying, all the joy i had minutes ago flew with that balloon.
As everybody on the street tried to comfort me (I was cute), the balloon seller came too. He asked me, “Kyah goy tchya, yet kya tsuk Karaan?” (Oh son, what are you doing?”). I told him about the heart wrenching story with hiccups. Tears had blocked the air in my wind pipe. He took my hand.
And I followed him with my arms covering the tearful face. The tears had passed on my face like a river through the terrain. Tears had made a way around the dust.
I was feeling hurt and embarrassed. I didn’t want the kids to see me crying. So I pushed my face into my arms out of shame.
He entangled a thread of a balloon. Handed it over to me. A blue one. I said “Su oas Wazul” (It was a red one). He smiled. He gave me a blue one which had ‘I Miss You’ inscribed this time. There was an eerie silence. The kind-hearted balloon seller grinned and said “You shouldn’t hold on it tightly, loosen your grip. It won’t fly way. If you hold onto it tightly, it will slip away”
Years since then, I realised what he actually meant.