Traffic Signal- A Short Story


You are going to be late again…. He is going to be on my case again today… does that old man have nothing better to do….thought Kaveri to herself rushing down the stairs of her apartment. She hurried down and started her scooty and rode as fast as she could. Navigating through the morning traffic she read a silent prayer that she does have to stop at any signals today… it will save a lot of time….she prayed. But as always the signal turned red. She had to stop. Nervously glancing at her watch she kept thinking… how she can ever manage to make it to work on time. Her time management moment was interrupted with rainbow of colors floating right across her eyes. She looked up to see what it was. They were balloons of different colors and shapes floating in the sky held together by a girl. Kaveri was exported to her childhood… the fun of running …..running very fast to make the balloon fly …… yet holding it tight not wanting to let go of it was a cherished moment for her. She wondered if she could do that ever again in her life. Play and run like a free spirit. The feeling of being a grownup had started to kick in. She thought of how lucky the girl was she could make an earning selling the balloon and when bored could also play with them. She turned her envious eyes on the girl. Just as the traffic signal turned green she noticed the girl …….. her kohl rimmed eyes met the envious eyes of Kaveri.


That look stayed with her. Kaveri could not stop thinking of the kohl rimmed eyes of the balloon girl. She kept thinking to herself what is it that she saw in her eyes was. She reached her office only to find her boss already angry at her for being late.

She immediately took her notepad and pen to enter the ongoing meeting. She dreaded the meetings. She thought to herself I wanted to be a writer and not a corporate dog. I really must take better control of my career. The meeting as always was just numbers and impossible expectations and outrageous plans.

After the meeting… she pinged her bestie to go out for breakfast. They left the office to go out to a roadside kiosk that served steaming hot idlis. The steaming hot idlis can fix any sort of mood she said to her friend. The breakfast and her friends company calmed her down from the tsunami of the morning meeting. Yet she could not stop thinking about the balloons and the girl. She told her bestie what she had experienced. But neither of them could figure of what was the point that Kaveri was stuck on.

The day went on as usual and finally it was time to leave from work. This is the only part of the day I look forward to said Kaveri to her friend…. They bid the goodbyes and Kaveri started her ride back home. She stopped at the same signal again to find the balloons and the girl. Kaveri thought has she not sold any since morning. They look the same! How does she manage her livelihood? Where does she live? Does she have her parents? Does she really spend the entire day on the roads? The balloon girl caught Kaveri staring at her… she swiftly moved towards her and asked Kaveri if she was interested in buying a balloon. Seeing the balloons so close Kaveri was tempted and bought one. She asked the girl her name and the girl responded saying why does she want to know her name? Then just smiled and said my name is Pavitra. Kaveri realized that the signal has turned green and switched on her scooty and left. She was happy to have bought the balloon and kept glancing at it.

After reaching home Kaveri realized she had forgotten to take the change from Pavitra. I always do this… why am I so forgetful? Chuck it what can I do now? I will think I donated that money in a temple… anyways Pavitra is poor na… a little extra money will not hurt her… Kaveri thought to herself.

Next day at the traffic signal again Kaveri was busy looking at the watch and cursing herself for being late. She noticed a tap on her shoulder… she looked up to see Pavitra standing there with her change in her hands. Kaveri said no its ok you keep it…. I cannot take this from you… she then noticed Pavitra’s smile fading from her face. Pavitra quietly said ….. I charged you for the balloon you bought…. If I needed charity I would have been a beggar instead…. If you want to be nice to me … please take the change. Kaveri feeling embarrassed and angry took the change and looked away. That’s so rude… you cannot help poor people in this country. What attitude she has for being a balloon seller! Kaveri sped from the signal as fast as she could trying to calm herself down.

The days went by but Kaveri had not forgotten her humiliation. She kept thinking to herself what did she do wrong that Pavitra was to behave this way. She wanted to confront Pavitra but she thought… she is just a poor balloon girl if I confront her she will know that her words effected me. I cannot do that.

Each day she would see the balloon girl running about the traffic signals to sell the balloons and make a living. Kaveri then decided rich or poor harsh words are harsh words I shall confront her. That evening she decided to stop at the signal and talk to Pavitra. All the way back she kept thinking of the things that she would say to Pavitra. Kaveri reached the signal stopped her scooty near a kiosk and walked towards Pavitra.

Pavitra oblivious to everything cheerfully asked her if she wanted to buy a balloon and asked her what happened to the one she had bought earlier. Kaveri gathered her courage and asked her why did she had to be so rude the other day. Pavitra realizing the situation asked her what she wanted to hear…. Do you want me to apologize for being honest or do you want to know the reason. Kaveri wanted only her due apology but this question aroused curiosity in her and she said I want to know the reason and also the apology that you owe me. Pavitra said that earning money is very important to her…. Her father had abandoned her family…. She and her mother work to be able to provide for themselves. She wants to earn enough to be able to fund her education. She wanted to work in an office just like Kaveri. And education is expensive you know… good books cost a lot… but I dream and work hard to make my dreams come true. If I start taking charity….. I will get used to it and I don’t want that… life is not charity you know… Kaveri realizing her mistake quickly apologized and left…. Pavitra following her apologized and said that if you really want to her a poor person build their character and not just offer money.

Kaveri could not hold back her tears…. She knew she had a better life as compared to a lot of other people… but seeing that in person is a different thing all together…. She thought how easily I give up on my dreams …. How I blame everyone around me for my failures… its not about financial status… it is about strength and perseverance…. Pavitra may be poor today… but she is a fighter and a survivor…. She prayed for only good things to happen with Pavitra. I should help her…. But how can I? I don’t want to degrade her by offering the money again…. What about books…. She wants education and books will help her. Kaveri made a mental note to buy as many books as she can for Pavitra and silently thanked Pavitra for making her a better person. Kaveri smiled thinking of Pavitra’s eyes and realized that it was determination that she had seen the other day that stayed with her and it always will!!!

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