He walked slowly, pushing his cycle that carried his means of livelihood. As he passed every second house, he’d announce his presence, making sure to advertise his offerings as lip-smacking & delicious as in possible. Onions, carrots, groundnuts and more. He took particular care to slow down in front of his regular patrons’ houses & call out a little extra loudly. He stopped at the door of the local iron-wallah, one of the regulars, and cried –
“Bitiyaaa! Aapke Jhalmuriwaale uncle aa gye hain!! 🙂 “.
And as if on cue, a little girl came bounding out the door, “Jhalmuri uncle aa gye!”. And as he made a show of dishing out her favorite components in just the right quantities into a paper cone, he asked her – “Toh aaj aapne kya seekha ischool me?”
And the girl told him. Her teacher had scolded her for not completing her homework. But it wasn’t her fault. Her mother had fallen ill the previous day. Was she alright today?, he enquired. She was, he was assured.
She went on and on and he patiently listened and watched her devour his preparation.
Finally, as he always did, he packed up his bag, waved goodbye to her and left.
Not everyone engaged him the way this little girl did every other day. No one paused for longer than a transaction’s worth of time. Few even registered his face
Not this girl though. He’d forgotten how she’d started talking to him. But now it’d become a part of his route. A part of his routine.
He’d stopped charging her for the jhalmuri weeks ago.
Her stories were payment enough for him.