Jasmine at midnight

Its 3 am and we’re on our way back from a party where we’ve just had sparkling wine, cheese and fruit, cold cuts, stroganoff, sushi, lemon cream pie and what not. The mind is at ease because our home is as usual full of family and the kids are cuddled up with a grand aunt and an aunt, fast asleep.

Close to home we stop at a traffic signal at a deserted crossing and two little boys appear selling bunches of jasmine flowers. We’ve already got a bunch of  my beloved mallipoo hanging over the AC vent and I point to them and shake my head telling them I don’t want anymore. They beg us to buy more but the car is already full of the smell of jasmine and we really don’t need anymore. They drape the strings of flowers across the windscreen and on the side view mirrors and gesture that now we have to pay them. I shake my head again. Annoyed at being blackmailed into it. Aware that they will grab their flowers away as soon as the traffic signal changes, before the car moves.

The light changes. The OA waits for them to remove their flowers. They don’t. An irate car behind us honks and we’re forced to drive off, the flowers abandoned on our windscreen. One by one they fly away. Such a waste.

I get upset and the all too familiar tears rush to my eyes… ‘Baby, look, they didn’t get paid and the flowers are wasted….’

The OA who is definitely the more practical one of us replies, ‘You think they couldn’t have grabbed the flowers back if they wanted to? They do it earlier in the evening when they want to. Its 3 in the morning and they wont sell anymore now. Whether they chuck it on our windscreen or the road, it’s all the same to them.’

MM..’But that is so awful. They’re so poor. This is their livelihood. They invested money in these flowers and it’s such a loss… ‘

The OA, used to business and loss shrugs… ‘They’re used to it, babe. Every night they probably end up with a lot of it left over. What can they do other than chuck it?’

MM -‘ But such despair ? They’re so young – why should they know such despair? It’s 3 am and our kids are curled up with cousin J and fast asleep after a good dinner of parathas and chicken and in an AC room…’ … and the unspoken words – we’ve just had a meal that was so wonderful..

Ah the joys of guilt taking control of your life.

By now we’re almost home and the OA quietly shows the indicator for a U-turn. Staring listlessly out of the window I say ‘Lets go back and give them some money. Anything, something…’

He indicates with an eyebrow that we’re already at a traffic signal, and he’s waiting to take the U-turn and go back to them. Sometimes the dry banker and the impetuous journalist think alike. Sometimes they meet at beautiful, unexpected places.

We drive back to the crossing and it is, as the OA predicted, deserted. The little boys have given up hope and gone home. I feel a sense of despair that I am sure is nothing close to what they feel and then up ahead in the dark night I see two little figures in white shirts disappearing into the darkness… One with the handkerchief bound around his head.

We honk desperately for them to stop, stuck as we are at the traffic signal. They don’t hear. And then the moment the signal changes we drive up to them and honk some more, unable to catch their attention. Suddenly the tide changes and a horde of boys rushes out of the shadows and descends on the car. Banging on our windows and windscreen. Many of them almost adults and it is for a second, quite scary until you realise how desperate they all are. Shaking bunches of flowers at us. I peer into the crowd looking for ‘our’ two and they grin back at me as they realise I am looking for them. They push their way through importantly, telling the others that didi and bhaiyya have come back for them. I begin to pull notes out of the OA’s wallet and hand it to them. The rest of the boys realise there is some connection and look disappointed.

The OA groans and shakes his head in despair at the hungry faces. ‘Give them all something, babe. You can’t just give two of them and leave the rest staring. Look at their faces.’

I grin at him. I had been dying to do that and was just waiting for his nod… I hand out notes to all of them, whatever little is left in his wallet. The next thing we know, they’re throwing strings of flowers in at us through the open window. Strings of jasmine rain down on us. I breathe the fragrance in deeply and grin at the OA who has an indecipherable look on his face. Semi smile of wonder, semi amused, semi something else. It’s almost like getting married and having confetti and flowers showered on you – your own little sudden private moment or ceremony full of scent and beauty. In the middle of the night on a deserted street.

Yes, I know they had no more use for the flowers, but it was so sweet, so sad, so beautiful, so spontaneous.

And the little fellow with the handkerchief tied on his head, my little friend, solemnly tells the OA – ‘Bhaiya, aaj se aap har Sunday raat ko idhar aana, main zindagi bhar aapko muft mein phool doonga. Kabhi nahi bhooloonga aap jo aaj paise dene laute.’ (Bhaiya – please come every Sunday night – I’ll always give you flowers for free and I’ll never forget you that you came back to give us money.) How little it cost us to give them a few rupees and bring a smile to their faces at the thought of some bhaiyya returning after five minutes to pay them for flowers he didn’t want. Maybe he’ll forget us if he sees us next Sunday but I was rather touched by that solemn declaration by an eight year old. Yes, yes, maybe he didn’t mean it, but I love that he thought to say it. That he grandly and generously promised us a lifetime of free flowers every Sunday night….

We drove away then. Unsure of what we were  feeling. Our car almost exploding with the scent of the flowers and the joy of spontaneous gestures. And an uneasy streak of guilt for the life we lead that is so much better than theirs by sheer chance.

Life is strange and sometimes incidents leave you suspended in midair, feeling mixed emotions and things you can’t put into words. And a car full of jasmine.


109 thoughts on “Jasmine at midnight

  1. Wow ..
    so well written …
    it brought tears to my eyes …

    Probably they will remember u ..

    whenever u have time .. do stop at their traffic signals on sundays .. pleaseeeeee…….

  2. That’s a beautiful story MM. For an incident that left you feeling mixed emotions that you can’t quite out into words, you did a tremendous job of doing just that!

    You have a very special touch of having life happen around you….inviting it, in fact. And when you share that, in the intensity of that feeling, it makes for quite a read!

  3. May be he did mean it MM.
    I hope he meant it.
    Little, random acts of kindness from two strangers, may be, he won’t turn out a hardened bitter soul no matter how hard is life is.

  4. How can I not unlurk when I am so touched by this post thousands of miles away from India?

    Thank you for writing this post MM.

    Me: thank you for delurking 🙂

  5. You have to believe me when I say I cried while reading this, mote mote aansun. You and your husband are so kind hearted. Doesn’t these incidents make us feel how nice we have it and to think some of us are so priviliged and have no idea. That’s all there is in this world to accept and embrace each other as humans. MM, I am once again a fan 🙂

    Me: arre yaar – this wasnt about our kind hearts. it was about theirs. it cost us so little (well in these days of plastic we barely carry any cash around!) and also – I wish i could have done more like stop and take them home or something crazy. but in real life, this is all i can afford to do right now. so thank you 🙂 and yes – there isnt a day i dont realise how privileged i am to have the life i do. thats why i write about it here – so that i never forget.

  6. may we always have enough(time and heart) to give the needy.. at times, it just takes too little to bring smile to a face!

  7. You both are so sweet! But I do belive that little boy. People rarely forget kindness 🙂

    I thought you were on a break! Just came by for tp and I see so many posts 🙂

  8. Mixed emotions..exactly.

    Reading that one line from the little boy “Bhaiyya..” , got my eyes welled up with tears…while the smile did not leave the lips.

    I am so glad you guys went back!

  9. Beautifully written! Had to delurk! It takes only very little to put a smile in most people’s face! World will be such a better place if everyone realized that!

  10. Written so well. Such incidents stay with us forever. You know what makes it more special, the fact that OA thought it was important for you and drove back and at that hour too! Lot of times we feel things and the partner might not feel the need to take the extra effort, OA did and that’s what made the whole situation extra special and worth more, don’t you think?

    Me: 🙂 yeah. sometimes the old man surprises me by either reading my mind or feeling the same way.

  11. I bet the joy you and the young boys experienced was worth at least fifty times the money you gave away. Awesome story. 🙂

  12. Thats a beautiful post MM.. It is one of those moments where you can decide what emotion to feel.. guilt.. irony.. poetry..
    well written..

  13. Lovely – everything about this was just lovely :). The thought, the sentiments that made you guys go back, the car full of jasmine, what the little boy said and last but not the least, the way you’ve written this.

    It tugged at my heartstrings – for that matter – it still is 🙂

    Here’s to a lifetime filled with the fragrance of mallipoo 🙂

  14. Lovely real story with the fragrance of jasmine wafting thru’ it! My hubby also usually melts when there’s a lil girl knocking at the car window, and I feel wretchedly guilty coz I’m usually stuffing my face with snacks 😦

    How wonderful that you went back…

  15. When I read the post, found myself bursting with emotion… Hard to describe….

    May God bless you MM & OA, for surely such things bring meaning to life. I am sure the boys will remember you & will grow up to be kind hearted.

  16. Beautiful. This writing has such a wistful yet lyrical tone. I have a big smile on my face after reading it. I’ve since read it out aloud to three other people. Loved it.

    Me::) thanks. you know, sitting in JS’s classes all those boring evenings, giggling with you guys, I didnt think I’d ever find a space to write freely.

  17. i have been reading you ever sicne you were pregnant with the Bean and let me say this here..i have always had mixed feelings about what you write..but this was so beautiful..the story and the way you have expressed it…the way your thoughts are suddenly the same, that of yours and your husband’s…and how magical it might have been to sit amidst raining jasmines…did i tell you? i loves them too…. beautiful piece and a wonderful thing you did to bring smile on those little boy’s faces!!

  18. Very touching. I had tears in my eyes by the time I finished. Sometimes, we should cease to be practical and follow our heart.

  19. I love you MM! I love OA! Oh how simple gestures touch lives. I almost cried with joy while reading this. You’re a blessed soul MM. This is why I love this space here, so much.

  20. Aww so sweet..I am wiping away tears as I type..I am glad you guys went back..I was secretly hoping you would.God bless you..and May this money bring those boys,some luck..really.

  21. Loved every single word, my imagination and your words made me live the moments you shared with thsoe boys and I felt as if I was there with you in that car, full of jasmines. You both are very kind and considerate and I am sure that 8 yr old will remember you souls for a long time..

  22. okay i have to respond to say – thanks all of you. no it was not about our kindness. there is barely any kindness in a few rupees that we can well afford.

    and you know – i’m amazed at how many delurked. yaada yaada et tu?!

  23. wow! what a post.

    I am so happy and so proud that I am friends with you guys! You guys rock.

    And each and every word i could identify with. I have felt the guilt, the confusion, the mixed emotions, the joy of the rare fleeting moments of having connected with those who are not so visible in our lives.

    You post has left with this nice expamsive feeling in the heart.

    Love and best wishes,

    Me: okay now all of you are embarassing me. over such a small thing. i shall avenge myself later this month when you’re in town!

  24. what can i say… this is a beautiful post. and a slightly unrelated comment but had to say – apparently a lot of flowers are sold cheaper in the eveinngs because they r stolen from graveyards.

  25. its so lovely! The way you write, I could almost imagine and see the whole incident unfold in front of my eyes….

  26. That is so touching… It brought tears to my eyes. You are so right when you say “…for the life we lead that is so much better than theirs by sheer chance.” We really don’t value what we have unless we see those who are less fortunate than we are. MM, thanks for sharing this.

  27. Lovely story!! and such a kind thing to do. Dont know if the boy meant what he said but am sure he will remember this kind act for a long time..coz not many people go back at that hour to bring in a little cheer into their lives!!

  28. MM, I think part of the joy you felt also came from the realisation (yet again) that you had married the right man, and that if you were counting your blessings, it was also because at 3 am you were with the man who not only knew what you wanted but wanted the same thing too?
    I know how you felt …

    Yesterday once more …

    Me: or that he’s well trained enough to know me by now? 😉 kidding.. yes, you’re right.

  29. Very touching story indeed. For what you guys did and more so for the poor little kids. I couldn’t stop my eyes getting more than just moist.

    BTW, where do the kids sell flowers at 3 in the night?

    Me: all over Delhi. There’s no fixed spot…

  30. I love the way you put life into your words..
    I could actually experience all the feelings when reading your post ..
    And also smell the heady scent of jasmine :))

  31. *am not really checking your blog and am not really reading this*

    am i the only one taking your break seriously?

    Me: oh alright then. i’ll just go away and never come back 😦 obviously no one wants me around.

    *sits in a corner and sobs*

    this is a break okay! atleast as much of a break someone as obsessive as me is capable of!

  32. I second Sumana’s(51) thoughts. How wonderful it is to be so much in sync with each other. Something tells me there was always a bit of impetuous in the dry banker 🙂

  33. 🙂 i love u for that.

    Me: actually you’ve anyway loved me some 15 years now. so dont try and make it about this 😉 its mutual.

  34. Wow………
    Firstly, You have such a way with words…. love .. love the way u can make the readers feel the magic in this.
    Secondly, as you say that it wasn’t about the money, maybe yes/maybe not, but the fact you went back, that was more than any money you would have given those two kids….hope. Few people would have done for those poor kids.
    Thirdly, You have to write a book. I know you keep saying that you are aiming for a column….. but think about a book atleast 🙂

  35. Hey,thanks for putting this into such evocative words-it was as if I was in the car too…:)
    as I’ve said before,keep blogging-these moments make our lives and I’m sure you’ll love reading about them 20 years on…

  36. That was so touching! So sweet of both of you to go back for the little boys..

    Am sure they must have been really touched by your gesture.. That was a beautiful thing to do!

  37. I read this, opened up the comment section hoping to say something, but the words just wouldn’t come.

    After two hours I came back to your blog, re-read the post and opened up the comments section AGAIN.. but the words AGAIN just wouldn’t come.

    This is the fourth time today I’m opening your blog to say something for this post. But each time I intend to say something, I end up reading your post and I just can’t find the right words!

    You’ve made me *that* speechless with this post of yours. (And those who know me, know that I’m a woman of many words.)

    “Life is strange and sometimes incidents leave you suspended in midair, feeling mixed emotions and things you can’t put into words…”

    ……and a heart filled with sheer admiration and respect. For you. 😉

  38. Wait – so there’s still hope in the world? Dammit, just when I gone and got my ‘So?’ tshirt painted.

    (The brilliant unexpectedness of life, eh?)

    Me: 🙂 damn – and you didnt get me one?!

  39. welcome back, MM. I am so glad you’ve started writing regularly again. and what a comeback post. priceless.

    Me: 🙂 i didnt ever really go away. and I hope not to write too regularly.. as for comebacks – can anyone beat your reinvention?! I’m proud of you!

  40. Very touching and beautiful MM. And yea.. where are the trolls? Even such lovely posts will have one or two of them na?!
    The OA and you are so like-like same-same!! 🙂

    Me: oh of course. I have great faith in my little troll-ies. They never let me down. If they dont have the guts to do it here they’ll go write rude comments on other people’s blogs or write posts about how I wrote this to show how kind hearted and great I am. 😀

    Although to me it was just about that moment. And as long as you guys know that, it doesnt matter where they go, spreading their ill will!

  41. Oh! so breathless… so poigant … have a similar story myself.. and I am so glad you wrote this post because it reminded me of that story…. Maybe I will write about it on my blog… but lovely words MM.

  42. Now I know why I could not get any flowers when I drove past that area….

    And since people are wondering about trolls, here is me : “maine jis ladke se phool liye the, un mein MM/OA ke phoolon se jyada khushboo thi”

    Me: thank you, thank you! now you’ve fulfilled troll quotient and we can heave a sigh of relief !!

  43. This is so well written MM. Brought tears to my eyes. Beautiful!!!

    God bless those kids. And God bless you and OA and your darling children.

  44. Umm… yesterday morning when I was out on my morning walk, there was this slightly old woman who was being forcibly half carried out half dragged out of this place called ‘Jesus Calls’ on Greenways Road and thrown on the pavement. There were some other four guys who were threating her to shut up “or else they would make a call”. Also, the woman’s blouse was undone and her bust was in full display. And I was the only person on the road.

    I have no idea what to make out of this. Perhaps she was trespassing and they were just getting her out because she wouldnt listen to reaon. Though there is one part of me imagining things. Whatever the reason the handling was undignified. I dont have the clarity to judge a situation and the maturity to be of any use. What should I have done then? I was too scared to go and ask what the problem was, so i just walked off. And I feel so lousy to come and say, wow well done MM…

  45. This is the best ever I have read on your blog. It is so touching..to use a cliche..I had a lump in my throat as I was reading. You should develop it into a short story for print publication.

  46. enjoyed these bits the most…’He indicates with an eyebrow’ ‘strings of jasmine raining down’ ‘car exploding with the scent of flowers’ and ofcourse, the punchline ..the little boy telling you to come every Sunday. Beautiful!

  47. Babe. You leave me with no choice but to drop my cynicism. This was beautiful in every sense of the word.

    Me: come on Susie Q. Its your birthday . You cant be cynical today in any case! 🙂

  48. Best post MM. one of my personal MM top 5!! and am sure the actual experience was far more moving than what you have managed to convey through these words. although, your words are incredibly moving!!

  49. i wish i paid more attention in urdu class but there was an incident where one of the urdu bards stated something like if the Lord asks me what good deed did i do in my life I will say I made Hali write the Mussadas…I think this is your Mussadas and the OA can tell God he conspired events so that you could write about jasmine flowers, midnight madness and promises kept and unkept.
    And praise the Lord, 88 comments and counting and not a single troll harping on child rights, the evil of consuming sushi, the makeup of the stroganoff and should kids be out of bed at 3am. Hallelujah!!

  50. so beautiful… and how lovely to have a man who can hear what you feel then do what you think 🙂 man in my life is like that, too. nothing beats the feeling!

  51. I am floored! This is the very first time i visit ur blog and this is the very first post i read.Beautifully written.

  52. As always,I read from the sidelines, watching silently from the shadows and enjoying warm fuzzies as I read your posts.

    This one brought so much sunshine that it chased the shadows away and compelled me to come back into the light to tell you how truly delightful you are.

    Someday I hope I find myself with a man who doesn’t have to be told to take a U-turn to show some kindness and compassion.

    You, and the OA, are something else.

    *shuffles back into the shadows*

  53. awwww….wht a nice touching story . the cinderella and her prince charming with their hearts of gold….dint you go back everyday after tht nite to feed them your precious kids’ leftovers??? tht would make ever the more grateful , no?
    seriously , u want ppl to believe tht story? oh sorry , i forgot, your coterie is already crying bucketfuls. now i understand … tht explains the rains…u r incapable of thinking beyond your gold shoes and tacky halter dress… how many beloved jasmines could those have bought i wonder… u r a selfish b&&&&…don’t try to pretend otherwise

    Me: ROFL. I HAD to publish this comment. Its nice to see how people can find something to be vicious about at any given point, how absolutely low they can fall even when there is nothing to bitch about. dear troll king. To be honest even I was surprised at how everyone thought this was about my kindness. To me it was more about how the little boys were so generous with the little they had. Anyway I’m so glad to have you grace this post with your presence – its like a nice kala teeka on a beautiful moment.

    but enough about me, dear troll – you seem to have unresolved issues with the world in general. would you like to see a shrink for some help? you know.. on the one hand you’re following my blog including wardrobe discussions with great interest, and yet you hold on to such bitterness… very sad 🙂

    PS; you might want to read this http://www.mommyneedscoffee.com/2006/11/01/the-care-and-feeding-of-your-troll-a-primer/

  54. MM,
    Beautiful post. It brought tears into my eyes. I wish everyone out there practiced random acts of kindness like you and OA did and the world would have been much better place.

  55. *shakes her head in wonder*

    Why? Why, I ask you? How do you bring ’em out of hiding so easily?

    Me: *shrugs* I don’t know for sure. At first I thought it was my lovely, liquid brown eyes, or maybe my dazzling smile? Or my way with words? But then I figured its got to be something like bad breath or body odour… aren’t trolls supposed to be dirty little creatures? *raises arm and sniffs warily* maybe a new deo will help? or a visit to the dentist?

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  57. I really think people who are happy and know that they are blessed are the ones who can bring happiness to others..you see its like you can only give what you have within you..

    Nothing beats the feeling of knowing what a great guy one has; and since I am putting a comment so late, the ‘troll’ shud also know that one does not need money to be generous and bring happiness to others..I myself have been so fortunate to have received it from people less disposed.

    Any random act of kindness shud be carried forward to be truly reciprocated..a chain event which touches everyone ?

    (put too much in a comment :P)

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  60. Ahhh crap, seems like I’ve got something in my eye after reading this. And yes, the accompanying lump in my throat too. Evs is looking at me weird while I sniff and he sits holding our sleeping baby. My heart goes out those children and all those like them. We’re so lucky na?

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