The street hawker was back at his regular place. He set about getting ready to prepare those hot yummy sweet jalebis which were popular on that stretch of road. He would pipe them into the bubbling ghee in the huge and heavy bottom metal wok. They looked divine as they sizzled in there, crispy on the outside and juicily succulent on the inside, once they would be dunked into the sugar syrup and brought out. People ate them out of scraps of old newspapers that the hawker served them on. At the price of Rs.10/- for two jalebis, they were a prized catch. How much would he be investing every day? Let’s see, what goes into his investment, flour, sugar, ghee ( probably the cheap dalda variety), kerosene for the stove and what else? No commuting charges since he came cycling and turned the bicycle into a makeshift counter with a stool to perch his gas-stove and other materials on. A lot of people enjoyed the piping hot jalebis on the spot, while some people packed them and took them home. Today there were lots of school children at his stall. Looks like he’s going to have a better business than yesterday. Yesterday he just had about twenty-five odd people as customers between 9 am and 6 pm.
The pot-bellied man with his battered attaché case was standing at the same spot waiting for his colleague to pick him. He kept looking at his watch impatiently, just like he did every day. From time to time, he would raise his head to check the honking traffic passing by. When the colleague arrived on his severely dented and outdated scooter, he was yet again greeted with the choicest abuses for getting late. Fortunately, the scooter started in just eight kicks today. Every day it took him at least fifteen frustrating kicks to get it started. Sometimes the pot-bellied man had to push it from the rear for his colleague to get the damn thing moving. It left him huffing and puffing at the end, but he would look glad to have mounted the pillion after all the pushing. In the evening, they would be back laughing and back-slapping as if nothing had happened in the morning. Mr. Pot-belly would be dropped off at the place he was picked from. Wonder what made those grumpy two-some so jolly by evening.
The college girl was pacing the street with head phones connected to her ears from her cell phone. She was happily humming to some tune pretending to ignore her admirer, who was back at the pan-beedi stall, ogling at her while puffing away on a cigarette, in a vain attempt at trying to imitate some Hindi film hero. Whenever she got close to the pan-beedi stall she would run her fingers stylishly through her hair just for the effect. And that would surely attract a lewd comment or a wolf-whistle that she would pretend not to have heard, but would secretly smile as soon as she turned her back for taking the sixteenth round, so far, around the block. This went on till her friends joined her exactly after half an hour to walk together towards college. On their way back, the admirer would be back to bid her goodbye in his own leering way. Sheesh…she deserved someone better! What did she see in a cheap road-side Romeo like him? Couldn’t she find herself a cute boyfriend in her college? She looked like she belonged to a decent family. This guy looked like a rogue. Her parents would surely be disappointed if they know about him.
These were a few interesting and regular highlights of a routine bustling working day in Mumbai, besides the rest of the activities on the road – the traffic signals, the garishly dressed begging eunuchs, the swearing paandu-hawaldaar, the hawkers selling every imaginable thing on earth on the roads the jostling population and the maddening rush of traffic kept changing as per the said time of the day.
The door-bell rang at 6. 30 pm sharp. Ma answered it with her usual pleasant smile. I dragged my tired feet into our cozy and inviting den as Ma got me a bottle of chilled water. I plonked myself on the sofa with my feet up on the center-table, slowly sipping the water. Boy…what a hectic day at work it had been!
“How was your day, Ma?
Boring, I guess…with the television out of order since last few days…
…You’ve had nothing to keep you entertained, eh?”
“Not really,” Ma replied calmly.
I wonder why she smiled mysteriously at the window in our living room which faced a busy roadside, when she said that.