The little boy at the bus window

The little boy entered the bus and ran towards one of the window seats, followed by a man and a woman who were apparently his parents. Soon they were settled comfortably in their seats, the little boy was in the window seat with his father beside him, while his mother sat in the aisle seat. The bus would take them from Mumbai, the buzzing metropolis situated in Maharashtra, a western state of India, all the way down south to the city of Bangalore.

The journey would take approximately 24 hours, covering a distance of approximately 1000 Kms. and the bus would be winding its way across the Western Ghats into the neighboring state of Karnataka and would be passing through the cities of Pune, Kolhapur, and Belgaum to finally reach its destination, Bangalore.

The boy was very excited, he loved to travel and was passionate about sitting in the window seat of a bus and gazing out at the ever-changing landscape outside. It was about two hours since the bus had left the outskirts of Mumbai far behind and was winding its way up the mountainous slopes of the Western Ghats, a UNESCO world heritage site. As the Bus climbed, the view of the valleys below was breathtaking. The boy sat with his eyes glued to the moving landscape outside and kept excitedly tugging at his father’s hand and pointing out of the window every few minutes.

A waterfall gushing down the rocky slopes, a clear stream meandering by the side of the road, little monkeys showing off their acrobatic skills on the trees that dotted the road, these were some of the sights that excited the little boy and his eyes were shining with joy as he took in these sights. The father smiled at him and gently stroked his head, at the same time patiently answering a volley of questions that the boy fired at him: Where does the water from the waterfall go to? Can I float my paper boat in the stream? where do the monkeys live? etc., etc., and so the journey continued.

The Bus was ready to depart from the city of Belgaum, which was roughly at the mid-point of its route, all the passengers had freshened up and had breakfast and were seated in their places. The little boy who had a good night’s sleep, resting his head in his sleepless father’s lap, was as perky as he was the day before, he occupied his window seat and pressed his face to the window pane as the bus moved out of the city.

The Bus was moving through one of the markets of the city and the boy curiously looked at the street vendors who were spreading out their wares on the pavement, there were all kinds of knick-knacks, kitchen utensils, ready-made garments etc.. One particular vendor, an old man with a white beard caught the little boy’s attention, he looked at him and then at his wares. A white cloth was spread out on the pavement and on that cloth neatly arranged in a semi-circular formation were little toy Cannons.

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They looked uncannily real except for their size and were brightly painted in grey and yellow. and even had a helmeted soldier astride the cannon. The little boy’s eyes shone with excitement, as he tugged at his father’s hand and pointed his hand outside the window, shouting, “I want that! I want that”!

However, the Bus had picked up speed and had moved out of the market area and the father could not fathom what his son wanted. The little boy did not know the name of the toy that seemed to have left an indelible mark on his mind so he was crying that he wanted the ‘gun with wheels’. The father understood that the boy must have seen a toy Cannon and was crying for that, he tried to pacify him saying that he would buy one for him once they reached their destination. But no amount of pacifying, cajoling or scolding worked, the boy cried his heart out and was inconsolable. He wanted nothing, but the toy that he had glimpsed through the window. By now they had traveled almost a 100 kms away from the city of Belgaum. The father looked at the morose and distraught face of his son, his eyes which were shining like stars a few hours ago had dulled and now glistened with tears instead. The father took his decision.

“We are getting down, at the next stop”, he told his wife.

They got down at the next stop which a small town more than 100 Kilometers from Belgaum and waited for the next bus that would take them back to Belgaum.

It was late evening and the street vendors were packing their wares to return to their homes when the little boy with his parents in tow arrived. The father looked around for vendors selling toys, but none seemed to be around, he then questioned a ready-made garment vendor if any vendors sold toys on the pavement.

“Yes, there is one old man who sells toys here, but today he wrapped up early and went home as he was not well, he may not come tomorrow also,” said the ready-made garments vendor to the dismay of the little boy’s father.

But the little boy’s father was not one to give up, he probed further and got the address of the toy vendor and soon they were knocking on the doors of a small, dingy house. The door was opened by an old man with a white beard.

It was almost midnight and the little boy sat in the window seat of another bus, clutching a toy cannon in one hand and his father’s hand in the other.

“We would have reached Bangalore and would have been fast asleep by now, but for your decision to come back for that toy”, chided the little boy’s mother.

“Look at his eyes, the luster of happiness is well worth whatever small inconvenience we have borne”, said the father as he stroked the little boy’s head.

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