Raj pulled a tissue from his bag and wiped away his sweat. He adjusted the airconditioner to its maximum. Though he had managed to leave his office earlier than usual, he had had a tiring day nonetheless. It was such a relief to step into the cool ambience of his car from the scorching heat outside. As his driver maneuvered the car through the thick traffic, Raj opened his office file and began to go through some papers. As the car turned into a signal free street, Raj put back his file into the bag and looked out of the window. Déjà vu.
Dirty knees. No shoes. Brown torn shorts. Matted hair. Parched throats. Red sweaty faces. Fresh air. Mayhem. Excitement.
Some boys were playing on the mud piled in front of a construction site. One guy stood by the corner of the road winding thread around his top and then let it go in a swift snapping fashion. The others around him exclaimed ooh's and aah's. Another young fellow was rolling his cycle tyre with a long stick and seemed to race with the car. Few girls, threw stones and were hopping on some sort of a matrix* neatly drawn with a piece of brick. They quickly ushered one another to the side of the road as they saw the car coming.
Suddenly, Raj jolted in his seat as his driver honked the car loud. His driver was desperately trying to overtake an overloaded autorickshaw carrying school children. The automan literally stood on the pedal trying to move his rickshaw forward. Raj was stung with anger at his driver, but simply gestured him to stop honking and wait until he got enough space to get past the slow vehicle. When he finally reached home, Raj for a moment thought he had either entered a battlefield or an INOX theatre playing a war movie. He was wrong. It was his 10 year old son, seated by the edge of the chair and ever so sincerely engrossed in his Play Station. His son was too absorbed in the game to even notice his father. Raj felt a lump in his throat and a surge of guilt. Raj slid his hand onto a game CD in his bag, a gift from one of his colleagues for his son's 10th birthday. He wished it had been a top. Raj pushed the CD back into the bag. No. Not this time.
He told himself, 'Never underestimate the power of denial.'
* That's the best I could describe the street game 'Paandi'. I loved playing it! :D