The Balloon Man: Forlorn and Forgotten!

Decades back, the balloon man was a character straight out of child’s wonderland. For children, he was the richest person on this earth carrying the chromatic collection of a child’s fantasy with him. Dressed simply, the Balloon Uncle, shouting “balloons-balloons” on the streets would gallantly announce his arrival with a bugle. Young buyers filled with impatient demands would create outcry: “I want red; I want blue.” While some would point at a particular balloon (the seller had only one of each type), others tried their hands greedily at the strung colourful bonanza. Prized anywhere between Rs 1 and Rs 10, the seller had balloons of all shapes and sizes: heart, apple, pear, and ball, oval, tail twisted. Today, new age cartoons like Chota Bheem, Angry Birds and Dolphins are also found in his rich repertoire, recalls Priyanka, exclusively for Different Truths.

My father came home swinging a balloon for my four-month- old baby. As soon as my son held the string of the balloon in his teensy hands, his face lit up like a string of thousands lamps.

The rapid movement with which my son moved his hands distinctly announced his love for the new gift. The prized purchase was made every fortnight by his grandfather after the balloon toy worn down.

“Why are these balloon sellers seldom seen on streets,” I asked my father one day.

“Times have changed. There is no demand of such people anymore,” he answered.

Decades back, the balloon man was a character straight out of child’s wonderland. For children, he was the richest person on this earth carrying the chromatic collection of a child’s fantasy with him.

Dressed simply, the Balloon Uncle, shouting “balloons-balloons” on the streets would gallantly announce his arrival with a bugle.

Kids would run at the clarion call leaving aside all work and play hovering around him like swarm of flies. And the balloon seller with a bunch of moving rainbows would oblige each one of them.

Young buyers filled with impatient demands would create outcry: “I want red; I want blue” While some would point at a particular balloon (the seller had only one of each type), others tried their hands greedily at the strung colourful bonanza.

Prized anywhere between Rs 1 and Rs 10, the seller had balloons of all shapes and sizes: heart, apple, pear, and ball, oval, tail twisted.

His collection included helium-filled balloons, plastic cars, dolls, watches, clarinets to kitchen sets, bubble makers and even pocket video games. Today, new age cartoons like Chota Bheem, Angry Birds and Dolphins are also found in his rich repertoire.

Like an artist, a balloon seller creativity stems from a dash of observation, which is then sprinkled with imagination, plastered with an ounce of innovation. He dabbles with colours and creates objects mostly inspired from nature and animals. Sadly, his art is rarely saleable these days!

Infatuation with crass commercialisation, swanky malls, fancy stores have swept away their small business. Parking lots have also become organised shunning these vendors away. Hence, no takers for these economical fun toys!

The sight of window panes being rolled up at these vendors throws away their physical tenacity into air.

English poet Rose Flyman says in ‘The Balloon Man’:

Someday perhaps he’ll let them go

And we shall see them sailing high

And stand and watch them from below,

They would look pretty in the sky!

Our parents had the gift of time. Even after the balloon would burst, they would create some art work out of it and would make us play with it. In this day and age, children are not free to look up in the sky. They are immersed in smart phones, I-pads and I-phones, gadgets, video games and sci-fi toys.

My father sashayed in with another balloon on the occasion of my son’s monthly birthday. Within in a few seconds, the seller blew air into the balloon, twisted it several times and handed us another piece of unsung art.

©Priyanka Chauhan

Pix from Net

Priyanka Chauhan

Priyanka Chauhan is an English Literature graduate and later did her MA in English from Delhi University. She studied Print Journalism from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication. Having worked with PTI, her articles have featured in The Times of India, PTI, The Hindu, Woman's Era magazine. She is an ardent reader and a writer at heart. Her greatest achievement is being a full-time mother to her little son.

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