I could have died if she hadn’t held my hand. Yet if I meet her today, I may not recognize her. The anxiety that clogged my mind that day also clouded my eyes. I looked at her but did not see her. I was searching for a familiar face, my father’s.
I was about five years old when the incidence happened. I wanted to buy a pair of slippers that I had seen many of my friends wearing. I pestered everyone in my family daily to buy me the slippers. It was the first thing I said in the morning and the last thing I asked for at night. In a bid to preserve everyone’s sanity, my father took me to the market to buy the slippers.
The market was crowded and busy as usual. We had been walking for a while when I saw my dream slippers. It was blue with imprints of multi colored soccer balls. Excited, I ran to the wooden shed that housed my dream. I pointed at it eagerly, waiting for my father to start negotiating with the trader. I glanced back and realized he hadn’t followed me. I was alone. I pushed through the swarming mass of people, craning my neck to search the many faces zooming by me. Fear gripped me as time passed, I began to think that I was lost forever never to be found again.
Then she grabbed my hand and pulled me through the pressing crowd to her side. She was a trader and she sat me on a wooden table beside her goods. Your father will find you easily this way. She assured me. She was right. He found me minutes later.
In the following weeks and years, we would continue to hear tales of little children who got missing in the market and turned up raped, dead or were never seen again. Others were found safe and sound weeks or months later. Perhaps if this trader hadn’t held my hand, I would have been one of the lucky children to be found alive. But I would have missed out on the last few days of my father’s short life. I can never forget the woman who bought me a few more days with him by reaching out to hold my hand.