It is up to me, Mom said
to get Dad to buy the things which I really need
A math notebook, socks, a new inkpot and so on
I remember him shaking his head at the list
asking me if I really couldn’t do without them but he took me
that Sunday on his bicycle to the market in the mango grove
He got a shave from an old man whose shop consisted
of a cracked mirror hung on the tree trunk, a comb, a scissor
and a small cloth round his neck with which he thrashed
his customers for free after they were clean.
We had sweet lassi and roasted peanuts under the trees
and puffed rice ball sweets. We wandered
through the vegetable and fish stalls listening to the price
of baby sardines but not buying much. There were plump chicks
under brown baskets and goats tied in the winter sun. I wanted one of each.
He laughed. We returned home with spinach and green peas.
It was only Mom who remembered the things that mattered least
Thirty years later
I am at a market in Trivandrum
to buy sketch pens for my kid and return home with 10 newly-hatched
chicks and 2 packets of groundnut chikkis.
Sketch pens can wait. Childhood desires cannot.