By Hema Ravi
“Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhood? In your neighborhood? Say, who are the people in your neighborhood? The people that you meet each day…” (Sesame Street-People in your Neighborhood)
Somewhere, I chanced to listen to this number which features a list of the friendly neighborhood people. Holding every one of them in reverence for their silent contribution in making our lives comfortable, I choose to be a spokesperson for the shy flower seller Neela.
Hard of hearing, she cannot catch up with most words that we utter, yet, it would be no exaggeration to state that she’s an elevated soul in our midst. Neela brings in flowers to our doorstep from Monday through Saturdays, Sundays being her weekly off, to attend to mundane tasks at home. Notwithstanding her financial drought, she empathizes with the downtrodden around. Whenever she is given food, sweets or goodies, she would first bless us, and then unfailingly take it home for her grand children and aged aunt, whom she takes care of.
Until a few years ago, she was taking care of her elderly mother, who passed away after some illness. Widowed young, a drunkard son with his family, she has but no choice to earn her living by selling flowers. Unlettered in the conventional sense, her kind words and blessing fettered us. Candid and outspoken at times, she would not hesitate to ask for small favors that would range from a bucket, blanket, rice… to a petticoat for her sari. I would like to add that she is fond of wearing good saris, that her customers have been generous enough to gift her.
Time and again she remarks-‘I have nothing to worry, people around take care of my needs. One should not utter a lie, steal or cheat another. One can certainly request if the person around is capable of executing the same.’ Great philosophy!
Life being tough on her has brought a lot of wrinkles and grey in her hair, but, in her demeanor is that childlike smile, a ray of hope that keeps her going. The next time you pass by this side some evening, check out for that familiar face with the flower basket.
Author Profile: Hema Ravi is a Communicative English and IELTS Trainer, Co-author of Sing Along Indian Rhymes and Everyday Hindi, she is a prize winner in the 26th ITO EN Green Tea Haiku Competition, Japan (2015). Her verses and haiku have been published in HSA Anthology (2015), Atlas Poetica, Poetic Prism, The Enchanted Verse, Rainbow Hues, Contemporary Literary Review, Metverse Muse, write-ups published in The Hindu and a multitude of print and online anthologies.