The girl and the vendor

Story of a night in Mumbai




It was a night of boyish liberation when after a long hiatus I took to doing things I used to when I was back in under graduation. A friend from yesteryear coming over, we went to a club and drank a little. I was feeling left out and isolated amidst this wave to people enjoying steady beat of drums with modulated sound going up and down to titillate your senses, they call it EDM music. For me its just another attempt at mediocrity in the new music world


We left late and went to a street-side restaurant that has a reputation for mid-night snacking delicacies. We sat on the footpath, being cool amongst the people who always were seated in the air conditioner cooled seat of their cars, offices and houses they called home. Sitting on the footpath and eating was the experience that place provided. A mediation for the rich to feel poor yet cool.We had ordered our food and I was repulsed by the maddening pseudo-glamorous mob that was thronging that place, not for hunger but for the experience of being with the ‘cool’ crowd of the generation that visited these places. You could see girls dressed in elaborate gowns transcending from their multi-million dollar SUVs just to have Pav-Bhaji and then instagramming it.


A man on the street caught my eye. He was selling handicrafts for women like handmade scarves and purses. He limped his way through the cascades of human forms and the scent of their luxury perfumes mixed with sweat wafting through the heavy Mumbai air in June. He seemed as if he had had an unfruitful night. A group of teenagers, barely legal, stepped-in in a swanky red car and almost ran over the man. Saved by the still working brakes of the automobile he started moving away. Two boys got out of the car and started calling the man names and cursing him for being on the road, more deeply for his poverty and old age. Then two heavily dressed and more heavily drunk got out of the car and stopped the boys from blabbering almost incomprehensible vulgarity. I thought, well some respite for the old man. I was incorrect. The girls were interested by the things the man had on this wooden stick hung waywardly from smaller sticks jutting out at various angles. They asked him to show some varieties of women purses and scarves and he gleefully did, expecting his almost demise to be his first sale of the day, or night. After a good ten minutes the boys had come back with copious amounts of food in their hand and slathered it on their car’s bonnet and called for the girls. Unflinchingly the girls took out their smart-phones and clicked an innocently devilish selfie and nonchalantly walked away to gorge(nibble) on the food. The man stood disappointed, sad, bewildered, silent, old and cold — just like the earlier steaming serving of Pav-Bhaji in front of me.

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