He was just having fun with his friends when he first saw her. He had been riding down the dirt path on his bicycle, and he suddenly stopped, causing the posse behind him to complain as they slammed their own brakes. He got up, swaggered to the poor rickshaw driver, and snatched up an air pump.
No explanations, no questions. He grabbed the pump and walked back toward his bicycle, ignoring the protests of the unworthy man behind him.
“But sahib, my passenger is in a hurry, and I must repair my tires before they can go any farther.” He plead fervently, because if she found another rickshaw to take for the rest of her journey, he would lose the RS. 10, and with it, break his promise to his son. His son had been craving chocolate for weeks now, but every time, he had to come home ashamed, with just enough money to make ends meet, if that. There 10 rupees would leave him enough room to buy a piece of candy. The rickshaw driver sighed, defeated and helpless.
She averted her eyes, looking down at the ground. Her long hair hung down her back in a simple braid. Her face was free of makeup, and she had on plain solid colored garments. But there was something about the beauty of her village charm that stopped him – he stopped in his tracks, muttering an excuse about not having been in as much of a hurry as he had thought, and handed the pump back to the rickshaw driver.
He was in love. Love at first sight – it didn’t exist in that village. Marriages were arranged, keeping in mind family politics and society standings. But he didn’t even know her name. He just knew that he loved her. He waited until the rickshaw had been repaired, and then, hooting and hollering with his group, he chased after it. The girl did not look up. The unnamed beauty of his dreams tried her best to ignore what she knew was happening. Her cheeks burned, not with desire, but with embarrassment. She was glad her younger brother was not with her. “What would my parents say if they saw this? I should just die from the humiliation right now. The entire village will find out, and I will never step out of my house again. I’m doomed.”
All that, because of a glance. But the boy, too, was aggressive. He saw her everywhere after then, not that it was difficult to do in their small village. He was not stalking her, persay – he was merely protecting her from the evil eyes of all the other eligible men. She was his.
He followed her into the shop. He felt that she looked very adorable buying vegetables. Such a simple task it was, but she did it with such grace and beauty, casually pushing her long braided hair back as it slid forward, caressing her nape gently as it did so. Little by little, the girl was growing accustomed to him. She was beginning to enjoy the attention he gave her – she enjoyed being doted upon. Growing up as a female in that small village in India was not easy. To live there was to live in a time long gone from modern civilization. It was a simpler life, yes, but in some ways, a richer and more vibrant one. Hand pumps pumped water out for daily use, and showerheads were unheard of – the only practical way with which one could bathe him or herself was by using a bucket and a pail. The outfits too were different – unmarried young girls wore simple garments so as not to attract unwarranted attraction, and were discouraged from flaunting their body around the town. They stepped out to do household chores and other such respectable jobs: buying vegetables being one of them.