Friday, March 7, 2008

buy my postcards

The India saga continues in an historical direction at the Red Fort in Old Delhi... We had about 50 yards between getting off the bus and the entrance gate of the Red Fort, the primary residence for the raj dating from 1632 and at one time, an opulent palace. Mobs of Indians, mostly men and boys, were hanging around the entrance. I tried to wade through the crowd heading towards the gate. A little boy, probably seven years old, catches my eye and my gait. He's got a stack of postcards and he's shuffling them in my face for attention. "Madam, Madam, buy my postcards!". I don't look at him. I'm no dummy, I've read the travel books. "Madam, Madam, good quality!". What does this little seven year old kid know about quality postcards? He's never stepped foot outside Old Delhi. Chances are he's never stepped foot outside this one square block. He runs at my side. He has to work quickly, we are halfway to the gate and he knows once we go through the gate to the other side, his pitch is over, the sale has to be made. I'll be inside and he'll always be on the outside. "Madam, buy my postcards, pleeease." I know that my rupee might be the difference between eating today or not. "Careful!" he says, as he helps me up the curb. "Careful, Madam" as he helps me down the other side. He has just a few steps to go to close the deal. "Madam, please, oh pleeeeease! When you come back, I be here, pleeeeeease." I glance quickly into his warm brown eyes. So much comes up in my heart. "Madam, buy my postcards when you come out." One step away from the gate. A final plea,"Madam, PROMISE!? Look in my eyes. Look in my eyes! Promise me?!" My head is reeling. We are torn apart at the gate. I paid the entrance fee and I was inside. I turned around and he was there, his brown little fingers wrapped around the chain-link fence, his big brown eyes pleading with mine. He pleads one last ime, "Pleeeease!". As I walked around Red Fort, I thought about that little boy again and again-- his eyes and those little fingers clutching. How did he get into my soul? Gary and I walked and talked and toured the Red Fort for more than an hour. Heading towards the exit and the chain-link fence and gate, I couldn't help but look for my little postcard salesman. Outside and on the street again, I looked around but all the little boys looked alike-- plaid frayed shirts, dusty baggy pants held up by one button, barefeet, scruffy hair, dirty hands and feet. And then I spotted him, shuffling through his postcards saying to a women with a camera slung across her shoulder, "Madam, look in my eyes. PROMISE!?" I had some rupees in my hand and he didn't even see me.

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