Children would run behind
Dadaji on his bicycle.
Children of the hut dwellers
and those from the bungalows.
Dadaji ,a huge figure in black
with days old salt-pepper beard
in his long flowing shirt
hanging from behind the seat
and white broad pyjamas.
He would paddle away
on the same path
day after day

They would scream and shout
gleefully- “Dadaji”, “Dadaji”
and chase him over long distances,
till he tired and balancing his bicycle on a foot,
took out from his pocket
peppermints of bright colours
and gave to the children.

Hardly would he have started again,
they would scream unsatiated-
“Dadaji”, “Dadaji”
teasing him
till he was too far from home to follow.

This was forgotten
and children went their ways.
I chanced upon Dadaji
sitting on a charpoy
outside a dilapidated hut.
I stopped uncertainly.

“Da.. .Dadaji”, I hesitated
He was paralysed on the right side
and couldn’t hear me
so I said a little louder —”Dadaji”,
my mouth close to his ear.

He turned to his side,
in slow halting motion,
took out a red peppermint
and placed it on my hand.

Ashok Gupta
Jakarta, Sept 2003

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