Love Under The World's Tallest Building : Bonus Winner | Season 5

– Harshita Nanda

They sat on a bench, side by side, facing the most popular attraction in the city, the world’s tallest building.

A balloon seller walked by, his bunch of balloons swaying in the sky.

“People assume balloons don’t weigh anything because they are filled with air. What they don’t realise is that holding two dozen of them for more than eight hours a day can leave your arms screaming with pain,” Reshma said, her eyes following the balloon seller as he handed a gaily printed little mermaid balloon to a young girl.

He remained silent, content to hear her voice and inhale her delicate perfume.

“Do you remember the first time we met?” she asked, partially turning towards him.

“How can I forget? As the security guard in charge of this area, I had to break up the argument between you and that lecherous man before you punched him and involved all of us in a police case,” Dilawar said.

“I would have lost my job as the balloon seller if you hadn’t kept your cool that day.”

“What I really wanted to do was give that man a black eye for making you an indecent proposal,” Dilawar replied.

“But you were so calm!” she said, surprised by his confession.

“I had to be. If I had given in to my animal instincts, I would have lost my job and been deported.”

She sighed, “My job as a balloon seller and yours as a security guard made me realise that for people, we were invisible, with no thoughts or dreams of our own. It dehumanized us.”

Looking at her, Dilawar said, “Even though the reason for our first meeting was distasteful, I am glad it happened. It helped us become friends.”

She chuckled, “Even though I shouted at you and called you a country bumpkin at that time and boasted that my command over English was better than yours?”

Dilwar grinned. “Your English skills did get you a better job.”

“All thanks to you. If you had not brought that newspaper with the job opening, I would still be selling balloons in that corner,” Reshma replied, gesturing to a lamp post.

He smiled at her, remembering the smile on her face when she had shown him the appointment letter.

A smile that had made his heart somersault and soar with happiness

They both looked into each other’s eyes, remembering the days when they used to sit on the same bench at the end of their shift, taking half an hour from their miserable lives with back-breaking jobs to talk, sharing their dreams and hopes for their future.

The lights on the facade of the building changed, illuminating her face as she spoke again.

“You know, it is surprising that apart from the initial awe when I first saw this building, once I became a balloon seller in its shadow, I stopped noticing it,” she said, her gauzy headscarf fluttering in the breeze.

“It was the same for me. Seeing the building every day made me lose sight of its magic,” he replied.

“Is that why you have called me here, to the place where we met for the first time, to see if you can feel the magic again?” she teased.

He hesitated before replying, “My mother is not well. I have decided to go back home to my home country.”

“When will you be back?” she asked.

“I have resigned; I am going back forever,” he replied, looking towards her but not meeting her eyes.

She looked away.

The balloon seller was now some distance away and no longer visible. She could only see his colourful bunch of balloons bobbing up and down.

She thought about the dark days of the Taliban, the paralysing fear, and her perilous journey to escape the brutal regime. Of losing her country, her home, and her family forever to reach this desert city where so many foreigners flocked to make their fortunes.

She had thought she could now put down new roots.

But Dilawar was leaving.

She looked back at Dilawar, taking in his face, half-covered by his beard, tanned by the hours of standing in the hot sun.

She realised how dear he had become to her.

A child screamed in the distance, bringing her back to reality.

Clasping Dilwar’s hands, she said, “Take me with you.”

Dilawar looked at her in surprise. “We belong to different nationalities and different religions. I do not have a job or any prospects back home. You are educated with a decent job, while I am a country bumpkin. How can I take you with me?” he asked.

“Because you love me, and I love you,” she replied, vocalising what had remained unsaid between them in the four years they had known each other.

He looked at her mutely, his eyes revealing his inner turmoil.

Ignoring his silence, she moved closer. Keeping her head on Dilawar’s shoulder, she looked up as psychedelic lights lit up the building, soaring into the sky.

A few minutes later, Dilawar’s arms came around her shoulder.

She smiled.

One day, Reshma mused, she would tell her children about the love story between a balloon seller and a security guard under the tallest building in the world.

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