Raghu held on firmly to the handle on the back of his father’s bike even though there was more than two minutes left for the signal to change. He pressed his face against the back of Appa’s shirt and inhaled the smell of Axe deodorant and sweat – it was such a warm, comforting smell. He turned his head to the side and rested his cheek against Appa’s back.
That’s when he saw him. A boy of his own age in an oversized shirt weaving his way through the bikes and cars, holding up small plastic Indian flags in front of faces that seemed to look through him. Raghu twisted around in his seat to see if anyone was buying a flag from the boy – it didn’t look like it. There was just one minute left for the signal to change.
“Appa,” he said urgently, “We need to take a flag to school today – for Independence Day.”
“You’re telling me now?” Appa asked, annoyed.
“Look Appa – there’s a boy selling flags – call him!”
Torn between nervousness and excitement, Raghu watched as Appa sighed, then caught the attention of the boy, who made his way towards them eagerly.
“Ten rupees sir…” he waved the flag in front of Raghu’s face.
“Give it to me for five rupees.”
“No sir – ten rupees…”
Appa shook his head firmly. Raghu’s heart sank. The signal was about to change.
Just as Appa started the bike, the boy thrust the flag into Raghu’s hand. Appa tossed him the five rupee coin which he scrambled to catch. He barely got out of the way as the vehicles roared passed him.
“Happy?” Appa shouted over the wind.
Raghu said nothing, the plastic flag clutched in his hand and hot tears burning his eyelids.