Joy To The Cotton Candy Boys On The Waterfront

Anu stood in dilemma. She knew what he wanted. She should have thought of the possible consequences before the random act of charity. ‘Share what I gave him.’ She tried.

The vast expanse of water beyond, right in the middle of Kolkata! How could this be even possible? A skyline sparkling (well, almost sparkling given the winter smog fog combination) akin to NYC, wide open paths to walk on…

‘See, I told you you’d love it.’ Baba’s eyes sparkled with pride. And joy. After all, COVID numbers were rising again and the Christmas revelry, smell of cakes, possibly a trip down the memory lane on Park Street or Alipore…none of it could possibly be made to happen for this long-awaited trip. ‘We don’t need to baba – and we definitely shouldn’t,’ he knew his daughter would jump at his throat at the mere mention.

So, Kishore was happy to see the disbelief in his daughter’s eyes achieved with a mere fifteen-minute drive. The disbelief that has become so hard to cause. After all, to eyes jaded by multi-city world tours on business every other year, what could Kolkata offer? The simple days of New Market center and sparkling Christmas trees causing sparkling exultation were long gone. The tree they had up in their LA drawing room every year was possibly five times the size of the ones he used to carry on his shoulder following twenty minutes of haggling, with a worried soul behind him. What if pushing through the crowd the green shiny preciousness got damaged?

‘The New Market trees are still the best. As I have told you a hundred times, they sparkle so much more.’ Anu always knew what Kishore was thinking.

‘Candy le lo Didi.’ Anu looked at the pink cotton candies more than she looked at the boy. Witches hair, as they used to call the pink and yellow fluffs. Even as a child, Anu would get Kishore to buy her one every time they were in the Alipore zoo, enticed by the fluffy promise of wonderfulness, but had never liked them. One bite and the sugary goo-y irritation would pull her into a tangled regret…

‘Le lo please Didi. Please. No one is buying since morning.’

‘We don’t want any,’ Kishore interjected as Anu now noticed the boy. Comparatively decently dressed, he was. Had a striped sweater and full pants on. Hair and face clean…

‘Please Didi. Didn’t sell any.’

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‘Why?’ Anu asked. Albeit scattered, there were people around…

‘Corona Didi. Coming again – people not eating these things.’ Anu looked at the lunch queue waiting outside the nearby waterside restaurant. Most semi-masked in the noses can be out style, gathered together. Cotton candy in the open would be much safer, of course. But old biases die hard – so Corona possibly was getting confused with stomach ailments in the selective search for safety.

‘Take this.’ Anu took a 100 rupees note out of her shiny red Kate Spade and handed out to the boy. ‘Twenty rupees Didi. Don’t have change, didn’t sell any yet.’

‘I don’t want change. I don’t want cotton candy either. Keep this.’

Kishore watched the once familiar, now rare, disbelief shine up a new set of eyes as his daughter handed the money.

‘Let’s walk towards the water, you will like it.’ He nudged his daughter along as the boy skimped away behind the parked cars with an extra sprint in his steps.


‘Didi didi didi please stop.’ Another boy, same age, candy sticks in his hands came running towards them.

‘Please take from me too. Please please.’ His eyes had a different disbelief. A forlorn, desperate one – the one of being second.

Anu stood in dilemma. She knew what he wanted. She should have thought of the possible consequences before the random act of charity. ‘Share what I gave him.’ She tried.

‘You please come and tell him that Didi. Please.’

Anu looked around for the first boy. He was standing at a distance. Wary.

‘Two of you share.’ The nearby man, possibly a waiting chauffeur for one of the parked cars, who had watched the entire saga from his leaned against an SUV vantage point offered.

Anu looked at the first boy. As their eyes met, the quick unuttered sentence of sharing halves the joy getting discussed between a now awkward Anu and an almost defiant now candy boy.

‘How many of you are here?’ Anu asked the second one who was looking at her with pleading eyes.

‘Just me didi. Just two of us. No one else.’ Hope had swiftly taken over; his voice was chirpy for the first time.

Aru took another hundred rupees out. The boy grabbed it faster than the first one, the disbelief fuelled hesitancy lacking and ran.

‘What would you have done if there were three?’ Kishore had walked up behind her and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. Aru watched the question merge into the horizon as she stared at the sprinting little figure disappearing towards the waterfront.

Image source: YouTube/Around BD Foods

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About the Author

Tanushree Ghosh

Tanushree Ghosh (Ph. D., Chemistry, Cornell, NY), is Director at Intel Corp., a social activist, and an author. She is a contributor (past and present) to several popular e-zines incl. The Huffington Post US ( read more...

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