Every morning, a young woman used to sit on the footpath in front of our house, selling Nagpur oranges. Just a single basket and though a little overpriced and relatively less sweet than other varieties sold in the market her wares would sell in no time. A little girl, about five years old, ragged and unkempt in appearance, her big eyes looking out of an emaciated face, would always sit by her side. I wasn’t particularly interested in either the background or the socio-economic condition of the mother-daughter duo but the fact that they never failed to sell off a single orange somehow made my day a lot brighter. Mitiya, as the little child was addressed by her mother, had the sweetest smile reserved for her Dadu when I looked out of my bedroom window every morning.
I remember that particular Sunday morning very well. It had been drizzling since the early hours of the day and the wind blowing from the lake side was cold and nippy. Mitiya had taken shelter under my balcony and the footpath appeared deserted and devoid of the early morning pedestrians who usually stopped to buy oranges. And as the day progressed,with little sign of the rain abating, Mitiya and her mother waited, patiently at first and then, a little desperately with the oranges looking a little wilted as the basket refused to be emptied out. Mitiya had begun to cry due to hunger, cold and exhaustion, wanting to go home; she begged for an orange; but how could she have one, weren’t they terribly expensive?
It would be far better then to go home and boil a handful of rice and yet she lingered; if the oranges remained unsold there would hardly be enough money to buy rice. Meanwhile, Mitiya ‘s face was growing darker by the minute, etched with fatigue, hunger and the dampness spreading through her clothes. I walked out into the downpour and approached the young woman. As I handed over the money for a pair of oranges I could see the beginnings of a smile lighting up that innocent little face, a smile that crinkled Mitiya’s beautiful eyes when I handed her the oranges and urged her to eat. And as she quickly unpeeled the first one and licked the not so sweet juice off her lips, the sun peeped out of the clouds and my Sunday was made.
(Translated by Sharmistha Dasgupta)