"Why do you look upset dear?" the voice was heavy with concern. The little girl in rags looked up at the tall lady standing before her. She had tight jeans and a sleeveless tee on with a pair of sunglasses that matched with her outfit. A beaded bag with a slightly torn zipper hung over her shoulder. "What's the matter?" she asked again.
The little girl took a few steps back, clutching a poker in her hand. She couldn't understand why this strange lady was talking to her. "Do you need something fixed?" she asked the lady, shooting furtive glances behind her at the same time. It was only then that the lady noticed the few torn shoes and bags at her feet along with some repairing tools. Fumbling through her beaded bag, she dished out some cash and handed it out to her, only to find the little girl shaking her head. "Do you need something fixed?" she repeated, still with worried glances across the road.
The lady stared at this shabby kid who must be all of eight years old, living in the roadside, and refusing money. "Are you expecting someone?" she asked her, following her anxious glances. The girl looked suddenly frightened as her eyes darted back to the stranger.
"A-are you here to take me too??" she stammered. The lady found this reaction to be quite strange. She knelt down and touched her hand, "I'm here to help."
The girl sprang back in horror. No stranger had ever come close to her, much less touch her! "What do you want?" she cried, "Dada's missing! They took him! I know they did! I won't let you take me too!" The lady knew now that she needed help. "Who took your Dada?" she asked patiently, " We'll find him together." The little girl only looked on with great suspicion.
Then, quite hesitantly, she began to speak up, "They came here the other day, telling us not to work anymore. They told us to beg instead. They said, that way, they'd make us rich!"
The lady was surprised to find a look of disgust on her face, "Don't you want to be rich?" she asked. The girl shook her head, "Never! I know how rich people are. Dada told me about them. They are cruel people. They like money more than their dadas, I would never be like them!"
"Did your Dada go with them then?" asked the lady. "No way! Dada would never beg! He refused, and they started fighting. Dada went away today morning and hasn't returned yet! They must have taken him!"
The lady went closer to her, trying to reassure the lost soul. The sun was beginning to vanish, and she wished she had a pack of biscuits to give this girl - for she probably hadn't eaten all day. Just as she was contemplating to take the girl to the nearest shop, there was a quick, fierce movement behind her. And before she knew it, a young boy had yanked the little girl away from the woman. He looked barely sixteen, and was as shabbily dressed as the girl was.
"Dada!" squealed the little girl with a tone mixed with joy and relief. But the boy did not seem pleased. "I told you to stay away from such people didn't I?" he scolded. His sister was shaking her head, "No Dada. Don't worry. She isn't rich, she was very kind to me." The boy eyed the well-dressed, posh woman with some caution. His scrutiny was disturbed by a tug of his shirt, "Did they hit you Dada? What happened?!" He turned away from the intruder and gave the little girl a huge smile. "Nobody hit me Munni! Dada found a job! And soon you will go back to school!" Little Munni was jubilant as she leaped over to hug her brother.
The woman watched the celebration in silence, holding the few currency notes that had failed to soothe the little girl. Her own life hadn't treated her well, and she wished she could trade her money for someone who genuinely cared for her like Dada did his sister.
He'd noticed that the lady hadn't left. "Can I help you?" he asked. She felt guilty for not being the one asking the same to them. Taking out the beaded bag with the torn zipper, she said "I need this fixed." The boy nodded and took the bag.
As he set to work, his sister sat down next to him, smiling as if she was the happiest person on earth. The woman looked at her beaded bag that cost more than what the kids earned in a day. Yet, the smiles on their faces was something she was unable to buy for herself. She knew then, that they were truly richer than the rich.