Little Myriad Smiles

Archive for June 26th, 2013

It was just another night, when the three of us, to satiate our taste buds, decided to gorge on Pani Puris. So, off we went down the road, to the pani puri bhaiya. It was the first time I was having pani puri from this particular vendor. After lots of trials and tribulations with road-side food, I had decided to go easy on pani puris, very much wary of the water they use. But it was one of those nights when your tummy takes absolute control over you and orders you around.

I still remember the time when I was first introduced to gol guppa- I was totally enticed. We were a bunch of chaat-novices

um.the yummy calcutta style pani puri.

from Kerala who decided to ‘try it out’; novices because chaats are not part of our cuisine or culture. At the most, you have chaat vendors in some restaurants; road-side chaat vendors are a rarity.

Eating pani puris, if you ask me, is a rhythm in itself. In a circle, we- the eager to eat hogger’s stand; the maker- the pani puri bhaiya, puts one puri to the plate of the first person in the circle and when the puri is half-way from the first hogger’s hand to the mouth, the second person will get his puri and when the person immediately picks it up to eat, with lightening speed next puri goes to the next-in-circle’s plate. The mere rhythm of putting the puri in our plates and the pace in which the puri goes inside one’s mouth is what adds to the charm of gol guppa.

As usual, a crowd had thronged near him and after what seemed like ages, we got our much awaited pani puris. I was a little agitated as my pace of gorging one puri after the other had gone for a toss, thanks to the braces on my teeth. I cursed my fate for making me wear it now and slowing me down from eating, thereby losing the amazing gorging experience.

Once our stomachs called it the quits and the satiated smile started playing on our face, we started chit-chatting with bhaiya. After some pleasantries, I asked where he is from. His answer that he is from Gujarat, kind of shook me. I kept quiet for some time, wondering why would somebody come all the way from Gujarat to Mysore, sell pani puris and save up enough to go see his wife and kids once in a while. It beat the living logic inside me why he couldn’t have sold pani puris in Gujarat itself.

The curiosity getting the better out of me, I asked him, “Bhaiya, aap kaam karne ke liye, yahaa kyu aaye? Gujarat mein kyu nahin bechte pani puri?” His answer still reverberates in my ears.”Aap kyu apna ghar chodkar yahaa ayi madam? Kaam karne ke liye,  hai na? Mein bhi yaha kaam karne aya hu.” My underlying tone of questioning him on the meagre profit he will make lest he sells here than Gujarat hit a sore chord on the dignity of labour.

There I was, falling into the typical thoughts of a middle class or the rich Indian’s profit-making judgemental thoughts; forgetting for a moment that there is no difference between the both of us. He may be making Rs.10 per plate and there is a mammoth amount of difference between what he earns and I earn. But at the end of the day, both he and I are working to make money in our own terms. The only difference between him and I is that he enjoys his work and I don’t which in turn makes me a slogging slave and him a dignified person.

The dignity that he upheld, the way in which he commits himself to his work and makes sure it caters to our taste, the candidness with which he answered my questions with a smile on his face- taught me a life lesson. Respect.


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