The car stopped at the traffic signal for a few minutes. Slightly irritated at the short wait, and for nothing else to do, I looked around impatiently. It was a hot Palakkad afternoon, and next to me, two ladies in a red scooty were talking animatedly. Another youngster stopped by my car on his cycle, and started admiring his reflection on the adjoining shop window. People were walking about on the narrow pavement, most of them bent over their smartphones, totally oblivious to their surroundings.

And then I saw her. A frail, bent, dark, old woman, walking with the aid of a crude bamboo stick. She was wearing a faded green saree which had definitely seen better days. A forehead drenched in sweat revealed the heat outside my air-conditioned car and I noticed that she wiped it with the ends of her tattered saree, before heading towards one of the glitzy kids wear shop situated on the side of the road, filled with all things pretty and nice.  Enter she didn’t, and waited with an outstretched palm and beseeching look outside the door, only to be shooed away by the burly shopkeeper inside, who might have been worried that her presence would thwart other potential customers.

I guess she was used to such treatment, and without a word, she turned back. But at that moment, her eyes rested on the small child-mannequin outside the shop, which was kept to entice customers, and involuntarily, she affectionately fondled its chin with her fingers, and brought them up to her lips to kiss them lovingly. A spark  of pure love and joy illuminated her tired eyes for a fraction of a second, and then she quietly turned around and walked away from the shop.

It was just a lifeless mannequin. Wonder why she did it. Perhaps she was recollecting some vague memory involving her own children.. or perhaps she may have been missing her grandchildren who she may not have seen since long…. I don’t know.

The signal turned green and I resumed my drive.