It’s been raining since last night. Many roads are flooded, some are slushy, all are wet and slippery. And yet, the folks selling flowers, jigsaw puzzles, toys and balloons are still out on the streets, knocking on car windows, peeping into auto-rickshaws, thrusting their wares into the faces of anyone they perceive as a potential buyer.
I’m usually left alone. I guess the vendors have an antenna that picks up the real McCoys, separates the punters from the prejudiced. Only the scruffy boys selling ballpoint pens refuse to give up on me. They keep banging on my window, speaking to me in the sing-song way that’s so much a part of street vending. They start out with a whiny, nasal pitch that turns into a brisk, hard sell, if I so much as glance their way. There’s no stopping them then. The volume and pitch goes up instantaneously, accompanied by a relentless drumming on the glass. It doesn’t cease till the traffic light changes or unless, fed up, I lower the window and ask, ‘Ok how much?’
Today, I had a very different creature at my window. It was a young girl, in a lehenga choli, with kohled eyes and an ornate bindi on her forehead. She was holding out three bunches of red roses. If there’s any cut flower that I dislike, it’s the commercially-cultivated rose. It’s too neat and cold for my liking—with its clean-cut edges and underfed body. I like roses that grow wild; voluptuous, open-faced blooms peppering untidy, disheveled bushes or trailing over roughly painted white walls in the hills. But harvested and cut in the bud, and faux-dewed for display at roadsides? Those I can’t bear. Which is why I began to shake my head as soon as the tight red buds appeared at my window, loosely held by the girl with the kohled eyes.
But then she smiled, the most bewitching smile. ‘Yeah, maybe the roses aren’t so great, but what about me,’ it seemed to say. Simultaneously, she reached down, selected a dry end of her chunri and carefully wiped the condensation off my window. ‘Take a clearer look, madam. They’re fresh,’ she said, and held up the flowers once again.
Neuroscientists have long held that men’s brains are wired differently than women’s. While the former have more connections within hemispheres, the female brain is better connected between the hemispheres. As a result, men are optimized for motor skills, but females are better at
combining analytical and intuitive thinking. The difference is most striking in the early teens, when girls are clearly more advanced in language and the ability to think on their feet. I thought of all that only much later, looking down at the purchase that I didn’t need or want. At that time, struck by admiration for this quick-thinking, gritty girl striving to make a living on a rain-soaked day, all I could do was say, “All right. I’ll take all three.”