Hope can come from the unlikeliest of places.
The late December air hit her like a hostile whip, and she pulled her sweater closer to herself. Her chapped lips only managed to whisper out a low hiss, as she got out of the bank, once again dejected… hopeless.
This was the fourth time her application for student loan had been rejected. Papers, cards, photocopies, I’d proofs and a folder full of documents of the kind was pressed firmly against her chest as she walked on the almost empty road, looking for an auto back home.
Akansha watched as the yellowed leaves of the gulmohar came falling down one by one, as if in a hurry to return to where they came from. She felt the turmoil of the other leaves in the foliage struggling to cling to the last of what had left before they became the decoration of the concrete road, only to be swept away later.
A leafless rachis dropped from the umbrella of the canopy above her, and a tear trickled down her dehydrated cheeks. She wiped it away quickly, convincing herself that it was because of the dry wind stinging her eyes.
A tyre rolled over the twig her eyes were focused on, evacuating her out of her reverie.
“Madam, do you want to be dropped somewhere?” The voice of the auto-driver reached her ears and she shifted her gaze. She nodded timidly before entering the auto.
“Uncle, Meenakshi Sadan, Vijaynagar.”
“It will be 50 rupees.”
The engine coughed a couple times before it came to life and started running over the dead leaves and twigs. The frosty wind hit her face from the sides as the auto moved, tearing apart the veil of fog. It seemed to sympathize with her. It reflected the haze in her mind and its haunches were the undulating plains of undying worries.
The fees deadline was approaching with the speed of a galloping horse that had been running in a race, and she was that grass on the course that was destined to be crushed under the horse’s hoof. Her family couldn’t send her any more money and the bank had been just as helpful as the cold water in winters.
The trees were no longer running backwards. She realized that the auto had stopped on a signal. She tore away her mind from its thoughts, understanding that thinking about her problems only added to it. Clearing her throat, she looked around. People on bikes and cars, clad in warm clothes, eyes fixed on the barely visible red light waiting for it to turn green. Her eyes found another pair of shining black orbs.
Shine that couldn’t be deterred by the harsh cold. Shine that couldn’t be concealed by the fog. Shine that was coupled with an ethereal smile.
The baby smiled on seeing Akansha staring intently at him. His giggle was contagious. She smiled too. She waved at him and it was reciprocated with a vigorous fist wave of both the hands. This adorable display of affection drew out a giggle from her. She started making funny faces at the little baby and found herself laughing along with the little guy.
Then she saw another pair of eyes peek out from the car window. She stopped, not knowing how his mother would react. The face adorned with a hijab first looked at the baby and then at Akansha. A second later, her lips moved in an upward curve and averted her gaze to the front. She looked in front and was met with the green light. The sounds of engines once again became prominent and the vehicles started moving. She took a last glance at the baby and found him waving a goodbye. The shine was still there in his eyes, perfectly reflecting the smile on her face.
There was still some time left till the deadline. She could still arrange for her fees. The purest smile etched in her head that was keeping her warm on the winter morning was probably the only hope that she needed.