He was a hawker. A popular one. Every morning, he and his wife woke up early
to cook. Cook generous amounts of hot samosas, kachoris, rasgullas and vada pav.
And then he would carry them all in boxes that he expertly maneuvered using his arms
and legs that got stronger by carrying them everyday. Every noon, he would
dock at the same spot. Prepare some hot spicy chai, toast the pavs (breads) and mash some samosas to a chat just in time when the matinee show finished. That's when he attracted the most customers.
People hounded the 'tela' (stall) to buy the 1 rupee chai and a pair of mouth watering samosas
with tamarind chutney and yogurt garnish. "This is just like how my mom makes at home!", cried a little kid by the stall. Everyone loved his food. Everyone..except the other hawkers.
"Look at him. He looks so frail but look at how much business the bastard does!", ranted a hawker.
"I tried to offer food at my stall for a lower price for a long time, but people swear by him..", another roadside vendor sighed.
Every evening, when there was no more food to sell, he would pack it all up and go home carrying the empty boxes. Famished. Tired. But satisfied. He and his wife were hoping to shift to a home soon, one made of clay. The thachted hut they lived in was too hot to bear. It seemed as though they were set on fire.
One day as he went to his spot, he noticed there was more crowd. It seemed like a procession. Lot of people had gathered in, shouting slogans and carrying banners. He smiled to himself. "Good, I can probably sell everything sooner today", he thought rejoicing the idea.
As he settled down and boiled the tea leaves, he heard a gun shot fire in the air. By the time he looked behind, there was a stampede in progress. People pushing each other, some holding each other's throats..He realized the police had charged on them with 'lathi' and someone fired a gun.
He threw the boiling tea on the ground and swiftly hauled his stuff in boxes and ran into a nearby basement. He emerged out of it after several hours. Several people crying over limp and injured bodies on the ground. Medics and people rushing to help the hurt.
He went back home cursing and had a restless sleep. Restless over all the food that was not sold. The next day he set out as usual. He decided to reheat the food and serve. He could not afford to throw them all away!
As he approached the spot, he saw police around. Cordoning the area. One of them spewed paan on the ground and screamed at him "Don't stand here. Go home".
"Sahib, what is happening?", he asked. "There is a curfew the rest of the week. Go home.", said the cop.
He sighed and went back home. He kept cursing the rest of the week.
He went back determined the next week and found some laborers around digging the ground, where he set his stall everyday. He looked confused. He went upto them and asked one near to him, "What is this? What are you doing?" One of them said, "Didn't you know, the sarkar (government) has ordered to build a memorial here."
"What??", he yelled. "What..but how. Why?", he could hear his heart pound fast, faster..
He found out that some shops also would be razed to ground soon. One of the hawkers passing by saw him and spoke, "Arre bhai (Oh brother),we cannot come here anymore. Sarkar has plans for this place and they are moving all the hawkers from here. We are planning to do a dharna (protest rally). Would you come join us?"
He declined and went back home. His wife and him thought about what they should do and decided they have to change their work. Atleast for some time. The memorial was built in a week. He went back to his usual spot. Only now he painted himself silver and wore round rimmed glasses and dhoti with a stick in hand. Dressed like Gandhi. Standing right near the memorial entrance, rain or shine. Begging. It was business as usual.