As usual, I left my preschool building at 12:30 and approached to the school parking area to enter a different planet, my car. I closed the car door behind me, and opened my book.
“Ji bibi, aap key liay bhutta laoon?” (Ma’am, would you like me to bring you corn?)
A familiar voice touched my ears.
My mind drifted from the novel of Bepsi Sidhwa, that I was absorbed in as part of my plan of studying South Asian writers those days, and I looked at the bhutta wala, standing right outside the window. As usual, automatically, I handed him a ten rupees note and he, briskly, brought me a huge spicy bhutta from his bhutta cart across the road.…After all, I was his regular customer.
In the comfort of my car I started savouring it, waiting for my kids to come outside from their school. I checked all my missed calls and scrolled though the messages. I had to wait till 1:30 to pick up my sons from the senior boys branch that was right at the back of my preschool as an adjacent red brick building. It had always been my study time or I used to call my mother.
At this time of the day, the car was my entire world. I cherished to eat, sleep, call, study, go shopping, see a friend nearby or whatever I felt like. The biggest relief was I was out of my school building right at off time and free as a bird to have some moments just on my disposal. At morning and afternoon, it used to become the busiest road of the town because all cars stopped by the school one by one to pick and drop the students. On that day of mid-October, it started pouring and the temperature went down, until everyone around began to feel cold. The road in front of the school got muddy. In about 15 minutes, I saw a car pulled over, far away from the school gate; perhaps it could not find any parking space around. In a couple of minutes, a mother came along with two young girls, wet in the rain, and hurried into their car.
“Oh my God! Poor kids are getting wet!” I felt sorry, thinking that the mom should not have parked the car so far away from the school entrance.
\A few more minutes passed by, when suddenly I got startled to see the bhutta wala crossing the road pushing his cart, and right beside my car, taking refuge under the thick tree.
“Oh God! He doesn’t even have a car…He has only this tree.”
Very first time I noticed him. Unlike his peers, he was dressed up very neatly in a grey shalwar qamiz and dark blue turban. His complexion was fair and his beard was properly trimmed. His kind face wasn’t bothered at all. But he was all alone under the dripping sky, without any shelter, but only the medium sized tree…