The Rose Princess

by Sunil 29. April 2009 16:44

She would stand at the street corner, her bunch of roses clasped firmly, as if to prevent them from being snatched away. She could not have been much older than twelve. Despite her dishevelled appearance she was pretty, very pretty; poised against the signal post in her faded blue dress; her uncombed hair almost covering the light-brown eyes that spoke a thousand words.

Some cars would stop by – the occupants would ogle and pass their usual double-entendres but she did not let down her pudency. She could only respond with an angry scowl for she was born dumb.  I watched in disgust.

I regularly bought flowers from her; usually paid for six, but took only one.  As always, she insisted on placing it in my shirt pocket. Her inherent clumsiness had left me with a torn pocket and a scratched chest many a time.  When she was through with this ritual, with a make-belief seriousness she would turn her empty pocket inside out and pretend to search for the non-existent change, which she cleverly hid elsewhere. With a languid shrug of my head, I would motion her not to bother and she would smile! The first time I bought roses from her, I had asked her to return the change and was met with her familiar scowl. The child’s smile was precious; it was her only possession and I could not bear to take it away from her! I would cross the road when the signal changed and wave to her through the blur of passing vehicles, with the fond hope that she would manage to sell the rest of her flowers before the day ended.  

Soon my travels kept me away from home for almost a month. However, before I left, I asked my assistant to continue the ritualistic flower buying every week.  Of course, he forgot, it was not on his list of priorities!  When I returned home, I went to check on my ‘rose princess’ but I could not locate her anywhere. For the next few days I searched frantically for her at all the signals in the vicinity, but she seemed to have vanished without a trace! At last, I managed to find an urchin who was on amicable terms with her. At first, I refused to believe what the lad told me. Perhaps out of sheer exhaustion or her inherent clumsiness, the girl had been a trifle slow in dodging a speeding vehicle. The driver of the car had not bothered to stop and passers-by had rushed her to the government hospital. The doctors could not save the child despite their best efforts, for by the time she was admitted, she had already slipped into a state of no return. I was furious! Our collective apathies had killed her! With tears in my eyes, I returned home to my desk and my pen.  

Sometimes, I stand at that signal in silence. My ‘rose princess’ may have passed on, but the invigorating fragrance of roses still lingers in the air.


Sunil Vaidyanathan  



A slice of life | A slice of life | A slice of life


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