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Balloon Girl | Archana Atara

It has been six months now to her dream job. Ananya, my best friend and colleague, is leading the team now. Working in well-known MNC PeakInfoweb, a leader in web & animations which has been a passion and dream for Ananya.

PeakInfoweb is located in the newly developed sumptuous area of this bustling mega city Ahmedabad. It is spanned across the entire last floor of a 16 storied Kailasha building, which is rightly named as it’s the first tallest building in the city. Fortunately, she referred me to this company as soon she had joined and we are, once again, together.

She came here in this city long back ten years ago for her career. We were not just friends but also roommates until last year. She is happily living with her family now which was also a part of her personal life goals. Our alliance and sheer luck somehow made it our destiny to be under one roof again and again in five years of our friendship.

Sometimes I, and probably many others, envy her for her almost perfect life, success & achievements yet kind heart, beauty, generous nature, dynamic personality, and versatile thought process. She knows how to balance work and life and maintain harmony. She is a complete package! One thing she cannot tolerate is violence and injustice which drives her crazy. Short tempered she.

One fine afternoon, we were heading to the office canteen for our regular tea break at the usual time of around 5:00 P.M. Ananya denied joining. This continued for 2-3 weeks.

As a best friend and well-wisher, I always feel a little anxious if there is any alteration in her jovial mood. She often opens her heart out to me, and we talk for hours.

Usually we frequent cafes; well, not for gossiping but sharing personal matters, views, and life incidents. We discuss new ideas related to science, technology, social work or product developments and work on it whenever possible.

I decided to talk about this later as I was sure something was fishy which she didn't share yet. That day I proposed to her to meet at our regular cafe after office hours.

...

We reached the cafe at around 8:00 P.M. and rested on corner sofas. This cafe is quiet comparatively and nearby to our office with pleasant ambience and mild melodious music. She orders chilled frappe and I order a hot latte.

Gradually I started the topic of the office like a plan during conversation and raised my concern. Although I could ask her directly about the situation but somehow, I didn't.

“Why do you avoid tea break Ananya? Is everything okay? I just asked because you are not even coming with me for a walk for the last few weeks” I vented out, feeling like a nebby.

“Oh! Everything is okay Sakshi. I just wanted to be isolated for some time. I knew I could share with you, but my feelings are bizarre this time and not sure what to say or where to start.” She exhaled reclining on a mushy red sofa.

“If you feel, you can still share with me dear, I can understand; you know that.” I urged.

“I know..of course..!” she reluctantly said and stopped; seemingly lost in thoughts.

I did not utter for a while and waited for the monologue to be continued.

“Sakshi, I feel that something is missing. It’s not that I am not happy but may be feeling discontent.” She paused.

I observe her not savouring her favourite frappe and just sipping it with gazing blank eyes! This reminded me of her past.

Last year one bitter incident of her life had broken her little. She had won all battles but ended up in a breakup with her long-lasting personal relationship, the lucky man whom she loved the most and wanted to get married. She had passed through severe stress but then gradually raised against all odds. Afterall, she is a warrior princess hence never give up.

“You know Sakshi, I thought a lot about this. Initially I assumed it's just some bad vibes or over thinking but then I realized there is something which is missing in life yet. I achieved whatever I wished till now, even my mom stays with me as I ever wanted.” She opened graciously.

“I have a dream job; all friends including you and family members are proud of me. They are so caring and loving. I feel I just have to ignore these thoughts and go with the beautiful life flow.

I should be that beaming ‘jolly fellow’ as I was always, but I really don't feel so and cannot pretend so. I wonder if this is all what I wanted in life or there is something which I don't yet know?! What is the purpose of my life? This materialistic prosperity and career should not be the sole motives of my existence! I do not feel content for sure!”

She leered at me as if I am some holy saint who has all the answers of life! Although we discuss such subjects about existence and real pleasure but never imagined it would have been deep rooted in her mind like this being a reason for malaise.

“And you know what…” Ananya startled me suddenly before I could say something.

For the past few weeks when I didn't join you for a break, I used to stand here looking out from this huge glass window.

Finally, she brought about the matter I was interested in. Our office has a huge stand by balcony or window as a south facing wall. The street, which has an entrance of the building, touching the main road is visible from there.

Ananya: I noticed a girl who sells balloons. She is always there near the bus stop corner at the street ending. I am puzzled by her hard work as she stands there for hours nevertheless of hot sunny days or cold winters. I presume she must be there during monsoon too.

Me: That's really amazing Ananya, I agree.

Ananya: I feel I want to talk to her once for some reason.

Me: You should then. If that settles your mind you should immediately go for it.

I knew what she expected from my answer. I wanted to see that lovely smile back on her face. It's not only me but many of her friends, especially male friends, compliment and wish to see her wonderful smile. They say it is a unique smile and I feel it's a million-dollar smile!

...

That late evening resulted in satisfaction as I felt relaxed and I was sure Ananya emptied her heart too.

She continued to spare her solitary break time with that balloon girl for a few more days from the glass window. Finally, one day she went to meet her.

She walked down the street from the office and reached to that young balloon girl. She observed her again for a while and to initiate conversation bought a balloon from her first.

“Do you like to sell these balloons daily?” Ananya blurted while paying for the balloon.

“Yes didi” The young girl replied politely.

“So...how many balloons do you sell in a day?” Ananya promptly bombarded a second question.

Girl: “I aim to sell ten balloons in a day”

“Like I have at least 8 tasks in a day!” Ananya murmured to herself.

Ananya: If someday, you’re not able to sell all ten then?

Girl: I try to cover it on the next day because we need a minimum of this much money to feed ourselves.

Same as I try to cover my tasks on the next day in office! Ananya relates this to her job. “I see,” she said quietly.

Ananya: Whom do you have to feed daily? Where are your parents?

“I lost them at the earliest. I stay with my grandma.” The girl replied with gloomy eyes.

Ananya: Oh, sorry! I also lost my dad. Where is she then?

Girl: She is selling balloons too... in other areas.

Ananya presumed how it's identical everywhere that the majority of people want their kids to do the same job they did during their tenure! She felt lucky and miserable at the same time missing her father who was a businessman and never imposed any decisions on her.

“Do you go to school?” She asked the girl while sitting on the concrete-built surface of the bus stop.

“Yes. My Grandma insists me to go” girl answered, watching the glossy ad posters on the sides of the bus stop.

“Hey what’s your name?” Ananya asked suddenly as if she missed something important meanwhile.

“Gita.” The girl replied cheerfully.

Ananya: Wow. Your grandma gave you this nice name?

Gita: Yes. She says she loves this name as she reads the holy Bhagavad Gita in her free time. Sometimes I listen and try to understand as she reads.

Ananya wondered how this little girl was so perspicuous. How hard but happily she worked to sell her balloons! And she has the daily target too for her day!

They talked about their routines and lifestyles. Gita stays there for at least 8-9 hours to sell all her balloons. She roams around on signal and plead to people in comfortable chairs of their A.C. cars who, often, do not bother to look at her once. She blows all of them by herself like a pro. It was all her grandma who taught her master ship. She goes to municipal school near her home where she gets a uniform, books and sometimes blanket or bedding for free.

Ananya: So, what else you learned from your grandma?

Gita: So many things. She taught me patience and all that wisdom as my mother would have done. When my balloons do not get sold, I get disappointed sometimes but then I remember her. She says life is like an exam...

Later Ananya bought her a bowl of sweet corn from the vendor around there. Gita’s wisdom proved indeed when she walked towards nearby public dustbin to throw the paper bowl unlike those kids and adults who were there at the bus stop, possibly professionals and educated, had the same sweet corn but didn't seem concerned to throw waste in the dustbin! This hypocrisy touched Ananya’s mind again.

“What do you want Gita? You want clothes?” Ananya asked her; impressed by her prudence.

“Can you give me 5 Rs. extra?” Gita demands innocently speaking this in English.

Ananya: “You know English?” She befuddled. “Sure. What would you do with it?”

Gita: I will buy a book of English literature and learn it. I learned this line earlier from a paper I got once in my school from other students there who learn English.

Ananya: “Amazing.” She was speechless for some time.

Afterwards Ananya gave her 50 Rs. extra and bought her all balloons to finish Gita’s target of the day! As she came back on her desk, she looked different.

She whispered in my ear saying she will be back in a few minutes and hastily exited the office to go to the building terrace. When I reached there, she was flying balloons in the air one after another. I did not disturb her and let her enjoy the self-time.

She told the balloons symbolized freedom of thoughts, comfort zone and all insecurities for her from which she is free now. We were there for some time and she narrated the whole incident of Gita, a balloon girl.

I knew Ananya valued the smallest gratitude in her life. Little things make her happier. There was something which impacted her soul after meeting Gita, and I was glad.

After around a month now, I could see that million dollars smile back on her face!

Whenever I admire her like this, she even smiles more and says “Sakshi, my darling, you don’t know a million-dollar smile yet then!”

We came back to the office and from the next day Ananya joined us back for tea break time, but she also went to meet Gita repeatedly.

...

After 11 months:

Ananya left her high-powered job and decided to be her own boss. On one hand she was willing to do this since long but on the other hand felt lucky too to have her dream job as she struggled enough and worked smart for that. However, she was no more ready to be stuck behind a desk.

When she declared her final decision to me, I was not shocked, but little upset to lose her as a colleague and obviously worried about her future, incomes etc. On the contrary, she was confident, joyous, and prepared.

She beautifully articulated Gita’s few words in her own voice and said to me, “life is an exam where the syllabus is unknown and question papers are not set”

Moreover, I must take the risk to achieve that purposeful life, right? I know it’s a challenge, but I cannot be in that comfort zone for a lifetime. I knew always that we have to live in the present to live that “happy go jolly life” but somewhere we completely forget to actually implement it. As it says sometimes happiness is in not knowing the whole story!”

Her conviction was strong enough to eradicate all my insecurities and fears.

Then came the last straw. On the 25th of December, the day of Christmas, she invited all her friends for a small snacks party followed by a chocolate cake cutting. The name on the cake was embossed as ‘YorVish’.

She proudly announced that she started a small organization named ‘YorVish’ in which she would teach English to those in need. The title meant your wish which reflects the wish of those who really want to learn different languages.

She further assured that it would be free of cost. All who want to teach or want to learn are welcomed in her team as this would be all volunteer work based on individual’s convenience.

Few of her friends, including myself, agreed to join her for teaching. She got just four students initially including Gita of course. This number gradually increased to 10 and then 50 where she continuously and happily dedicated her time. She established life, once again, the way she desired and deserved.

Thus, she is more than happy now and became a reason for many other million-dollar smiles!

For her own income, she started online coaching on various platforms for web and animations to continue her knowledge & sharing of the web industry.

 
 
 
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