Some people, so say the elders, are born with wheels on their feet. No matter how much one tries to pin them down, like birds, they flutter from one branch to another.

 I fit in this category to a large extent. I am not a fluttering bird, more of an experimenter. A tad bit drifter, always looking for something new to do.

As an educator, trained to teach high school students, I have spent years working in a preschool. The journey was not easy. I made several errors, and almost got terminated. But, I held on and learned. I still have wonderful memories of those years.

“A preschool teacher, my friends would scoff. “Why did you study for so many years, then? , they chided me. Most had, of course, joined as high school educators and were well settled in their jobs. But the drifter in me was unconcerned. I just took life as it came in my stride.

Don’t get me wrong. Being a teacher has been the primary source of employment for most of my adult life. With brakes and screeches. Like a bulb that keeps fluttering on and off, and just when you think, it’s going to blank out, the big push comes. And, voila, the bulb is back in action.

 I worked as a proofreader for a year too. This was perhaps the first time I worked in an office. The culture, work ethos and, environment were very different. Yet, I persisted and learned. Tea served on the table was a novelty. Just this was enough to keep me happy. I must have done something correct there, because I enjoyed my stint, made friends, and was appreciated. As all good things come to an end, however, I had to sadly leave. This time it was not my wandering spirit. I was moving countries.

On returning, I got a teaching assistant’s job in a school of immense repute. A teaching assistant only helps the main teacher. She is not considered capable of handling the class herself. I was treated exactly like that. Fit only to be ignored. This suited me well. I did not have to share my mid-morning snacks with anyone. That was good.

Finally, I ended in another school. They wanted me to teach. I was assigned to the middle grade. I honed my skills, enjoyed being with students, and taught history with great passion. Gradually, I was promoted to teach high schoolers. These early teenagers had a mind of their own. It was a challenge to gain their interest.

And just when it looked that I had settled down finally, the bug caught me again. I applied for a sabbatical for a couple of years. It was promptly rejected. Sabbatical? This was India. Nobody took a sabbatical here. “You either stay or you leave”, was the Principal’s firm reply.

 Inadvertently, she had shoved me to the next orbit.

It was ‘quit’ for me. I refused a farewell. It seemed strange. On my final day at school, I bid adieu to all. And quietly slid out, carrying innumerable memories.

In my early working years, sentiments would take the better of even a seasoned person like me. As time went by, however, I became more professional and less emotional. A job was an experience. It had to be well lived and well learned.

I had not decided what next to do. My father wanted me to continue my job. He was a tad bit disappointed. “Why are you not able to settle in a job, he would frequently admonish me. “You are educated, well-read, and yet”. It was difficult for him to understand a drifter. I didn’t blame him.

My father’s growing up years were in a little village, high up in the Himalayas. He had seen a tough life. Financial security and a stable job meant a lot to him.

For a long time, I wanted to be a ‘textile seller’. I would time and again dream of selling clothes. Mind you, a boutique was not my cup of tea. I wanted to be a retailer. I imagined myself surrounded by clothes and buyers. The thought was exciting.

Destiny was giving me a chance now.

Yes, I was going to sell clothes. Variety of clothes for women. Maybe one day, I would bifurcate to children’s clothing too. It was an enticing thought.



The groundwork began. Where could I procure clothes in bulk?

Chandini Chowk, in old Delhi, was the hotspot. I had heard of another wholesale market in East Delhi. It was the Gandhi Nagar market, a big competitor to Chandini Chowk.

I tried other mediums too. Like every digital being worth her salt, I searched the net and contacted fabricators from Tamil Nadu to Gujarat. None replied.

 Not one to get easily disheartened. I decided to begin my new journey with the Gandhi Nagar shopping area.

Now arose the big question. How to reach there. A taxi service would have been the fastest and most comfortable. But, the entrepreneur in me wished for an adventure. So, after some research on the metro route available, I decided that’s how it would be. 

And so, on a fine, well actually, fine and extremely hot day, with a water bottle and my black umbrella, my sojourn began. I reminded myself, the path of an entrepreneur is one laden with thorns. So, there would be no question of whining and self-pity. My mind told my heart so. The heart agreed.

Parking my car at the metro station, I went up to the information counter and checked which train to board. There was no direct line. I had to change trains at a big transit station called Yamuna Bank.

Thus began my ride. I debarked at a small and uniquely designed station. As I moved out, a gust of hot wind hit me. It was going to be a boiling day. Opening the umbrella, tepidly, I came down the stairs.

On the left of the metro station were an array of battery-run rickshaws. Introduced a few years back with an aim to reducing road pollution, these rickshaws had become the cheapest means of travel, albeit after walking.



“Madamji, kahan jana hai?’ queried one rickshaw driver. Where do you have to go?

“Gandhinagar market, bhaiyya”, I replied. To Gandhinagar market.

He dropped me on the side of a bustling and crowded road. Pointing to a small bye lane, he said I had to enter this lane. And voila, the grand market would be there.

The lane was narrow. There were shops lined on both sides. It was surprisingly cool and breezy. The sun was raging, but it was pleasant and refreshing here. What a stark contrast.

Shop owners were sitting, seemingly idle. The hired labour, were busy setting and packing bundles and bundles of clothes.

A wholesale market works like this. It’s a world in itself.

Seemingly quiet and mundane, the sense of underlying competition was quite evident.

At some shops, I was ignored, at others, I was acknowledged. I flitted from shop to shop. “Madamji, check our clothes”, said some.

“I will sell you a single piece of fabric, madamji, don’t worry”, said others. There was no dearth of designs, colours, quality, and quantity available. All I had to do was choose.

And, choose I did. That’s putting it a bit lightly. I went wild. A dress here, a bunch of fabrics there. Jean kurtas and rayon pants, everything possible.

My packets of purchases were becoming heavier. How, I wondered giddily, would all this reach home?

I could hear some loud rumbles. Rain? Why, it had been so hot and dusty just a few hours ago. Pre-monsoons were on their way. I decided to quicken. After all, I would be visiting regularly now. So, why pick up everything in one go.

A quaint little shop caught my eye. It had brightly coloured fabrics, with stone and beadwork showcased on the window. I needed to go there before my return. Just as I entered, the skies opened. Within minutes the alleyway was covered in puddles. Damn, I thought, how was I to reach the metro station now?

Nevertheless, I bought some stunning fabrics. While waiting for the rain to slow down, I got into conversation with the shop owner. He offered me a cup of hot tea. It elevated my spirits.

When the rain became into a drizzle, I decided to proceed on my onward journey.

“Namaste”, I gave my salutations to the owner, “Thank you for your time and tea.”

“Do come again”, he smiled and said goodbye.

I opened my umbrella, turned my bag into a sling, and holding on to the packets began walking to the exit. It was an exercise in jugglery. But, I wasn’t complaining. ‘No pain, no gain’, I remarked to myself.



By the time I reached the metro station, it was dry again. The sun was half-heartedly trying to shine from behind the clouds. The clouds were in return blocking it as if saying today was their day.

 I was very happy. A new journey, in more ways, than one was beginning. The train arrived. Packets, the umbrella and I, all entered.

A couple of stations before Yamuna Bank, I saw an empty seat. Just a quick rest, I thought before my destination would arrive. Placing my umbrella by the side, I held on to the packets and rested my weary feet.

Yamuna Bank station came, and I debarked the train. The connecting train to Noida was to arrive in the opposite station. So I sat on a bench to wait and observe the other passengers.

 I jumped in as soon as the doors of the train slid open. The last leg of my journey had begun.

Or so, I thought. 

The train was now flying. We had entered Noida. Yamuna Bank was far behind. And then, I saw it, or rather did not see it. The umbrella was nowhere. Not in my hand, not in the packets, not in my bag. It had vanished in thin air. 

Now, as it happens, I am a slow one on realisations. We had already crossed another station before the loss of my beloved umbrella dawned on me. And it was two more stations before, I decided to return to Yamuna Bank in its search. My umbrella deserved this honour. I had to look for it. At least give it a fair chance of recovery.

The excitement I felt a while ago had vanished. This was callous of me, I thought. My poor umbrella!

On reaching the Yamuna Bank station, I looked hither, thither. Of course, it was nowhere.

Someone must have picked it up, I said to myself. Such a sturdy, smart umbrella, why would anyone leave it. But, I had to give it one last try. Chugging the packets along, I climbed down the stairs and went to the information counter for help.

Another sufferer was standing ahead of me. He was looking in despair. Oh! I thought impatiently. When will his work finish? Each moment was precious to me.

The man, as it turned out, had left his backpack on the train. It had his wallet, Identity Card, clothes, books, probably everything he owned. He looked about to burst into tears.

Suddenly, I felt small. I still had my bag, wallet, and my purchases. But, oh, my umbrella. Where was it?

When my turn came, I explained my predicament. I was asked the colour of the umbrella and where I last saw it.

“It’s up on the station, sir”, said a staff member who was until now sitting in a chair at the back. “I know where it is.”

Her words didn’t register completely. But I got the gist. My umbrella was found and saved.

“Come ma’am”, she said kindly. Perhaps I too was looking desperate. Quietly I followed her, still unbelieving.


Hidden at the base of a pillar supporting the roof of the station is a mini storeroom. The metro staff uses it as a lost and found counter. She now opened the door and asked me to identify. There, as if waiting was my precious friend. I burst into a smile. I couldn’t thank her enough.

The lady smiled and waved me goodbye as I boarded the next train, my umbrella safely resting now in one of the packets.

Finally, my destination arrived, and securely holding my possessions, still thinking about my sheer good luck, I began descending the stairs to my parked car. It had begun to rain again. I felt like singing. My umbrella was back, my shopping was good. Life was blessing me. It was a good sign for a new beginning.

Tucking all my goods in the back of the car, I began my drive back home. Raindrops were hitting the windshield of the car. Visibility was greatly reduced. I had to open the headlights and was driving very slow.


In a distance, I could see a lone figure walking. It seemed strange. Other pedestrians had taken shelter. Why was he trudging along? I slowly crossed the man, not sure what to do. He was looking anguished, distressed, walking as if in a daze. Something was amiss. The man needed help, that I was sure of.

“Don’t hesitate”, my heart told me. “A good deed for a good deed.”

Making up my mind, I stopped the car a little ahead and waited for the man to reach near me. He didn’t seem to be even aware of my presence. I quickly lowered the window of the passenger seat. Raindrops began to incessantly fall on the seat.

“Kya ho gaya, bhai saheb,” What is the matter, I asked. I don’t know why he stopped. But standing in the rain, his anxious voice brokenly said, “Mera beta, madamji, mera beta.” My son, my son.

“What happened”, I asked him again. Standing in the beating rain, he told that his son, a security guard in Delhi had met with an accident and was admitted to hospital. He, himself a guard at a building site, had immediately proceeded to the hospital. Walking. Trying to cover a distance of over 35 km on foot, in the rain. Short of money, he probably wanted to save every penny for the hospital expenses.

 I asked him if he would accept money from me.

“Ji, madamji”, he replied. I had Rs 500/- with me. Handing it to him, I said a bit apologetically, that I wouldn’t be able to give him more in his time of need. He folded his hands and accepted.

I rolled up the window and started slowly driving. I could see the man in the reverse mirror. He had begun his walk again.

Suddenly as if by a force, I stopped. By this time, the man was just reaching the flyover connecting Noida to Delhi. I was to turn left towards my home. I ran to reach him, as wet as him by now. He stopped on seeing me, a little perplexed.

Kissing my umbrella a final goodbye, I silently handed it over to him. He quietly took it, turned, and kept walking.

I retraced my steps. I felt numb. Before opening the car door, I turned for the last time. The man had covered almost half of the flyover by now. He was no longer walking alone.

The black umbrella was now his companion.

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gitanjali khanduri