Last night as I returned from a late-night show, the beam of the headlights caught a small figure standing in the middle of the road. As the car drew closer I realized that it was a small boy in tattered clothes with a big plastic bag hanging on his shoulders. Yes, he was a rag-picker. He ran forward and shouted “Stop! For one minute.” And then I sighted two more small boys standing slightly ahead. I was suddenly scared.

But all of a sudden the dark alley was lit up as dazzling white fire flowers rose from a Diwali flower pot. My fears eased and I got down to have a closer look. The spectacular display accompanied by the loud hissing sound lasted for about ten seconds. The three boys yelled with joy.

I aforesaid “arey Diwali was 10 days past, what’s this?” The boys came near me and one of them said “They are very costly, we can’t buy them. So we collected hundreds of burnt-out kumpis (flower pots) after Diwali night and used the remnant to create new ones. It took us a week to make four. Now, wait and see, we will put the other three together and create magic.”

I said loudly “do you know, what happened today, 500 and 1000 notes are no longer valid.” The boys looked at me for a few seconds and burst out laughing and one amongst them said: “if I’d have had a thousand rupees I’d have bought that huge automobile toy and given it to my sister.” Another boy aforesaid, “I would have bought jeans, shoes, jacket, and cap”. The third boy gazed into the darkness and said: “If I had that, I would stop this Kachara Dhanda for one month.” And then with a twinkle in his eyes, he put three flower pots in a row and lit them up.

It was a beautiful sight. Three vertical lines of white fire flowers dazzled and soared into the sky and three little boys clapped, jumped, and danced.
There was a sweet box in the car. I gave it to them and said “Happy Diwali”. The boys opened the box, had one sweet each, and one of them kept the box in his bag. They picked up the litter of the burnt-out flower pots and started walking away. They suddenly stopped walking and started whispering loudly to each other. After about a minute, one of the boys walked towards me and asked: “You can read English naa?” I nodded. He then took out an old copy of an Amar Chitra Katha comic “Jataka Tales” from the big plastic bag and gave it to me with a big smile. He said in his tiny voice, “this is for you”.I must say, that it felt like heaven.

Thousands of kids out there don’t even get to eat a square meal every day. And here I was, thinking about how I would survive without change for two days.
As the three little kids walked away into the darkness, the stars shined brightly in the night sky. I smiled to myself and recited “Twinkle Twinkle little star, How I wonder what you are, up above the world so high, Like a diamond in the sky….”

Maybe the bold decision of demonetization of the 500’s and 1000’s is going to help these little kids in some way. Maybe, the benefits are going to trickle down to the homeless. I drove back with John Lenon’s classic song “Imagine” playing in my head…

“You may say I’m a dreamer….
But I am not the only one.
I hope someday you’ll join us at…..
And the world will live as one..”

(A story by Vaishali Gupta)
The author Ms Vaishali Gupta is a First year student in M.A. (English) at the School of Languages, KIIT Deemed to be University, Bhubaneswar,Odisha, India