It had been several months since I properly kept the balcony open. After investing an hour on dusting, mopping, and sweeping it clean, I dragged up a comfortable chair, and sat out in my balcony, gazing idly at the idleness. We, as a society in general, were suffering from an enforced, pensive idleness due to the outbreak of a pandemic. I stared at the poster of Neeti Jewellers on the two barricades placed to restrict movement in and out of my street. We heard that morning that the number of cases in our street had increased, and so they came and blocked the entrances to our street with the movable barricades.
Sitting across my balcony, on the apartment opposite to mine, was a small girl who looks about eleven or twelve. I broke into a smile as our eyes connected.
‘Tell me if you like the book after you read it,’ I called out to her.
She smiled briefly with a coy nod, then turned her attention back to the copy of Burnett’s The Secret Garden in her hand. I smiled again, this time to myself. I had read it too, must have been around when I was her age. I went back to staring at the Neeti Jewellers poster, but this time lost in my indecisive thoughts on whether I should go get a book for myself, too, or whether to continue staring at the deserted street.
The sound of a four-wheeler made both me and my young friend across the balcony turn towards its source. A car was coming from the other end of the street. As it came nearer to the barricades, it slowed down to a halt, and a young boy got down from the car to scan the barricades and check if they can enter our street.
'Excuse me, hey, they have blocked it because there are a few infected houses here,' I called out to him. 'Where do you have to go?'
'We need to go to Arcade Flats, is it too far out?' asks the young boy.
'Not really, right over two blocks away. You could park your car, and walk up,' I clarified to them. 'Try not to touch the barricades while you go, they may not be safe.'
The young boy went back to the car, bent down to the level of the window and had a word with the other man inside, must have been his father. After what seemed like a brief argument that they had, the young boy, with a slightly put-off face, dragged the barricade to the side to make space for the car to go. I looked at it with surprise and bemusement. The young boy got into the car, and they took off only to stop in front of the flat that was two blocks away from mine. I looked across my balcony at the little girl, and she looked at me.
I gave a smile that read 'hopeless', but she looked indecisive.
'What happened?' I asked her.
'The barricades,' she says, pointing to them.
'I know, I told him but they still went through. I also asked him not to touch it and that's exactly what he did! They wanted to go in, I think,' I replied to her.
'But they didn't move it back,' she replied simply, and after a couple of seconds, went back inside her house.
I sat there looking at the pushed-open barricades. While I was still thinking about how I hadn't thought what the little girl did about the barricades not being moved back, the little kid and her father came out from the gate of the opposite building.
'Stay there,' he instructed her, and went towards the barricades. His hands slipped into a make-shift polythene cover, he dragged back the barricades, took a rope from his pocket, and made a loose knot connecting the two barricades. He then removed the make-shift glove-covers and threw them in the street dustbin nearby.
I allowed myself a smile. 'That's a good idea, uncle, but what if someone needs to go through?' I called out. He looked up and gave a short laugh.
'She wouldn't let it stay open, it's a loose knot and I thought the rope is a better deterrent while looking at it from the car, they might not try to take it off unless necessary,' he commented, and walked back in with his little girl.
While I had focused all my bemused thoughts on how the people in the car still went in despite me telling them that it's just two blocks away, the little girl's thoughts had been on a more useful place- to ensure it's shut again so that more people and cars do not pass through. My abstract thoughts led me to realize how small changes, in what and how we think, can do much more good than just pointing fingers at something wrong. My thoughts were more accusive, while her little brain was proactive. Both are right thoughts, but hers was more useful.
I smiled again. Kids had a lot to teach us, and a world with such thoughts might be a better place for all!