This evening Moy Moy and I set out for our usual walk – Moy all bundled up in blankets and ensconced in her stroller. At the corner, a courier-walla on a bicycle stopped me.
“Madame, can you help?” he said in careful English.
“Ji haan!” I answered cheerfully.
“Arre! Angrez to hai, lekin Hindi bolti hai?” (What? You are foreign, yet you speak Hindi?) “Yeh address kahan hoga, aapko malum hai?” (Do you know where this address might be?)
When he read it out to me, I smiled and told him it was my office. He was thrilled with the coincidence. As I signed for it, he said “I also sell incense sticks on the side. But today, not one person has bought any.”
And no wonder. They smelled horrible – thick and heavily perfumed with the cloying sweetness one associates with taxis and their early morning poojas here in India.
“I hate incense,” I told him.
“I do this to supplement my income,” he explained. “My children have to eat!”
I bought two boxes.
As I was handing him the money, he glanced down at Moy Moy. “What’s her problem?” he asked, genuinely concerned. “Because I’m also a doctor. Ayurved. She would benefit from massage.”
Now it was my turn to smile. “Thanks,” I said, as we walked on. “She’s fine.”
“I do horoscopes, too!” he called after me.
Once I was out of sight, I put the incense boxes on someone’s wall and hoped they would find a home far from mine. They may still be there if you are interested.