I headed on foot to the grocery store - a few blocks from my house. As I passed a tiny neighborhood park, I heard a loud splat at my feet. Looking down, I saw a puddle of water. A bit disconcerted, I looked around and with raised eyebrows, said “Umm.. Excuse me?” to no one in particular, because I couldn’t see anyone. Then I heard a voice below - a little boy - “Didi didi its those boys over there that did it.” I looked across the park and sure enough, a group of 6-7 boys of various ages stood with water-filled balloons in their hands. I walked up to them. They watched me approach, poker-faced all.
“Did you throw the balloon at me?” No reply. The youngest broke his poker-face and dissolved into giggles. The house under which they were standing had a family of 8, parents included, standing at the balcony.
“Are these kids yours?” I called to the adults
“All kids are like our own” came the lazy drawling Delhi-boy answer. This tone is sometimes charming, but on this occasion, not so much.
“Well then, if they’re like yours, keep them under control!” I snapped. At this point, a lot more kids broke into snickers. Infuriated, I turned towards the market and marched off. Two more balloons burst at my feet. Saving the little dignity that had been spared for me, I declined to acknowledge them.
After the shopping, came the time to decide how I would head back. I could take a longer route and avoid these kids altogether, but that would be a defeat. I considered buying more eggs that I could throw back at them but that would be war and I was far outnumbered. So I headed back, my only concession to them was that I walked around the other side of the park. No use - a few more splatters at my feet - luckily they all had missed me so far.
After a couple of blocks, I found a couple of policemen sitting around, engaged in serious discussion - no doubt a sabziwallah had been caught flirting with a housewife in the community or something absorbingly outrageous like that. I approached one of them - a rotund friendly-looking sort.
“Bhaisaab, I would like to complain about a bunch of kids throwing balloons at me.”
He looked at me. That poker-face again!
“Yes ma’am - where are they?”
“Oh just down the street at the park - I’m sure its not illegal, but it was annoying - could you just go and scare them?”
Grinning, he headed down. But now I was afraid - I had upped the ante - no doubt, if I passed that way again, I would be seriously pelted. I got home and called my husband for sympathy.
"Sorry babe, I used to be those boys a few years ago” was his response.
No help there. These past few days, I’ve not been walking down those streets. For grocery shopping, I call my driver and have him take me to another, more distant, store. Perhaps getting a little wet wouldn’t have been so bad after all. Holi spirit and all. Huh.