The Firsts #1: Love is a shiny balloon

What does it mean to do something for the first time? To learn a skill you never thought you could, to stand up for something you didn’t quite know you felt so strongly about, to tick something off a list of 20/50/1000 things to do before you die? What does it feel like to be at the crossroads of should and must?

Over the next few months, I’m going to talk to people who are doing something for the first time and what this feels like for a series called The Firsts. Some of the conversations in this series are from rejected pitches and disjointed bits of leftover reportage. A note: these aren’t always going to be uplifting stories.

But I’d like to hear from anyone who’s taking on something new: whether you’re about to light your first cigarette or get married or are heading to jail. Write to me at saba[.]imtiaz[@]gmail[.]com.

And for now, here’s #1



Hasnain Hussain, 11, and Sunny John, 15, selling Valentine’s Day balloons for the first time

Hasnain: I’ve never done this before. It’s school and tuition, that’s it. But Saturday and Sunday are a holiday. It’s Happy Valentine’s Day, that’s why we’re selling these balloons. We’re doing this because we’re a bit poor.

I’ve never sold anything before.

It doesn’t feel nice, but there is also something enjoyable about it.

It’s [not nice] because I have to do this. I don't have a choice. 

We want to sell all of these balloons. There are 60 balloons over there. They cost one hundred rupees each.

I’ll do this next year if I’m forced to.

Sunny: This was our elder brother’s idea. We’re all friends. This is the first time we’re selling balloons.

Our brother picked out this spot. This is a signal, so cars stop here. Our brother said stay here, and people will come up to you to buy them. So if people gesture to us, then we sell the balloons.

We won’t do this next year; we’ve seen what happens. It isn’t nice when someone refuses to buy them - your heart gets broken.

A person only does this if he’s forced to.

If we sell all of these, our brother will earn 60,000. Its up to him whether he gives us anything. Even if he doesn’t give us anything, that’s okay.

He’s a very close friend. He’s the one who put up the money for this.

We’re trying to help him. Actually, he's the one who needs the money. So we’re helping him. This is what we’re friends for – to help someone out in their time of need.

Hasnain: We’re very strong friends. We’ve known each other since childhood. If someone needs something, then we’re there to support them. We just don’t abandon them.