A Summer Ride

Ananya Utkarsh

On the seat next to me
is a little girl wearing a cotton frock
dipped in rainbow dyes with no sleeves.
A bee just escaped my line of sight and
I am unable to conclude the pattern of
its waggle on the sunflower pollen.
As the bus moves ahead,
the bee’s consistent hum is softened
by the clinking of chilled soda bottles
in a crate adorned on the head of a vendor
who earns his livelihood on the highway in a sweaty vest.

I buy a bottle and press it against my cheeks.

The seat’s rusty leather has almost
coaxed me to resort to night jumpers,
but four more hours at the least
before the last stop we reach.

The bus has halted at midway.
The driver gets down and twists
his blue chequered towel into spirals,
the little girl buys sliced pieces
of fresh cucumber sprinkled with salt.
A boy parks his wheelbarrow
to help me with the hand pump,
a sigh of relief spills on my face
as I position my head under the nozzle.
I am soothed by the sniff of damp mud.

I buy a mango kulfi from the boy,
but even before I exchange a dime,
my ice cream has melted.

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