July, 2018

Life Story


Chatpati – And the joy of giving.

I had some work in Bandra the other day. At the junction which splits into SV Road and Linking Road in Bandra West, there is a shop towards the Linking Road turn, bang opposite Shoppers’ Stop that deals in all kinds of raw material that one requires for baking. My wife, Trupti, is a baker who sends me on this errand once every few months to stock up on her baking stuff. I finished picking all the items mentioned in her list and was exiting the shop when it started raining heavily. I ran to my car and got inside almost fully drenched when I heard a rap on the car window.

Two young girls, all of 10 or 13 years, stared at me. They looked like sisters. Long hair neatly tied up in a braid and wearing neat salwar kameezes they looked typical of the street sellers one would meet at traffic signals. They had umbrellas to sell.

‘Chhatri le lo na Saab’ said the one with a bunch of umbrellas in her hand while the other held up a colorful open umbrella.

‘Nahin chahiye. Humaarey paas hai’ I answered with a smile and tried to brush her off.

‘To kahan hai Phir? Hoti to bheegtey nahin’ she replied with a twinkle in her eye and an impish smile.

‘Ghar pey hai, laaney ko bhool gaya’ I replied.

‘Saab baarish kay season main ek chhatri hamesha gaadi main rakhna chahiye. Baarish kabhi bhi gir sakti hain na’ she persisted.

I was going home directly from there and didn’t really need the umbrella. And importantly, we really have 5 umbrellas at home so there was no requirement for another one.

‘Le lo na saab, khaana khayenge’ the girl insisted again.

‘Chal theek hai, main khaana khilaata hun. Chattri nahin chahiye but khaana khaogey?’ I asked them.

‘Chalegaa. Woh cheese masala sandwich dila do’ as she pointed to the sandwich stall nearby. I got off the car and looked at the girls. The other silent one was quite average but the one conversing with me was quite the talker. She had sharp looks, intelligent eyes and looked like she could do well in life if she had a chance. Top it all with the gift of gab; she surely was smart. She was clearly the leader of the two. With smart, confident steps, she led us to the stall. Another lady who was begging nearby with a baby slung around her shoulder also followed us hopefully. When we reached the stall the girl (let’s call her Chatpat) started barking orders with gusto.

‘Teen cheese sandwich masala wala, extra cheese aur extra masala daalna. Uskey upar kaanda kaat kay bhi daalo . Saab yeh aurat ko bhi khilaatey hain. Chalegaa na?’ and looked at me as if she had done the best job in the world.

The sandwich guy looked at me with a question mark on his face.

‘Haan banaiyey aap in sab kay liye’ I replied with a smile. The guy started his process of making the sandwiches.

‘Cheese theek say daalna sab main, usmain cheating mat karna’ extra instructions came his way from Chatpati.

‘Saab, sandwich kay saath thandi thandi Pepsi kya mast lagti hai na’ she looked at me with hope.

I laughed to myself and knew which way the conversation was going.

‘Pepsi chahiye?’ I asked.

‘Woh baju main hi dukaan hai. Wahan milti hai. Jaakey laoon kya?’ she asked nervously.

I gave her a go ahead. The two girls and the lady with the sling went and got Pepsi for themselves. Whilst the sandwiches were being made there was quiet all around since they were busily glugging the Pepsi. I watched them enjoying their momentary picnic, the pleasure of having chilled Pepsi straight out of their bottles visible on their face. They looked so full of joy that I laughed out loud. The sandwich maker joined me too.

‘Yeh ladki shaani hai bahot. Aap ko chuna lagaa rahi hai’ he said with a smile. But by then I was enjoying being chuna lagaoed by Chatpati.

The sandwiches were ready and handed over to everyone. Chatpati looked at me and I instinctively knew there was another demand coming my way. I too was in a mood to indulge.

‘Ab aur kya chahiye?’ I asked them.

‘Saab, thanda paani loon kya? Isney sandwich main chatni bahot daala, teekha hai thoda.Usi dukaan main milega’ she asked sheepishly. I nodded a yes and again all of them went to the shop and got bottles of Bisleri. I paid for everything and telling them to enjoy their meal, I started getting into my car.

‘Thank you saab’ was the last thing I heard. All of them stopped eating and smiled at me gratefully. And as I was driving, the last thing I saw was an image of two girls and a woman sitting on the footpath, sandwich plates in hand, cheeks bulging with bites and bottles of Pepsi and water kept by their side. They were clearly enjoying their party.

On my way home I was thinking that basic things like a sandwich, Pepsi and water that we take so much for granted had brought so much joy to them. It had been a tough day for me so far and this little incident made all the issues of the day vanish. I kept seeing those smiles in my mind. I reached home and while having my customary adrak chai was chatting with Trupti about this incident and told her especially of this sharp girl and how happy she and her friends were when I left. I felt happy that I was able to bring a little joy to them on that rainy evening. As our conversation progressed I was filled with a warm feeling that I cannot explain but let’s just say I was smiling through the night thinking about this incident. I felt good that I brought some happiness to Chatpati and gang. But as I reflected back on what happened, I wondered who was actually happier? Chatpati and gang for getting fed or me who got a chance to bring a smile to their faces? The warmth and joy spreading through my mind gave me the answer. It was me who felt happier. I am sure they forgot about the incident and went about their lives,but days after this happened I still think of this incident and even now I feel the same joy. Thank you Chatpati, for letting me experience this joy and for giving me a chance to feel this warmth and happiness. Wherever you are may God bless you. Hope we meet again and this time too, the party’s on me!