Fiction Park

Any given Saturday

  • He sees a two-wheeler pass by every thirty minutes or so, but that’s all the noise there is. He likes it this way. He likes quiet days, even when it’s particularly harmful for the business
- Abha Dhital
It’s just another Saturday in the neighbourhood. People are probably taking nap after a good Saturday lunch, watching TV, or doing household chores they didn’t have the time for all week. In the five hours since he opened his shop for the day, Anand has only had four customers. He wants to shut the shop and go home. He wants a regular Saturday

Apr 22, 2018-14:00. Anand is seated behind a counter that covers the width of his six-by-six feet kiranapasal. It’s just another Saturday in the neighbourhood. People are probably taking a nap after a good Saturday lunch, watching TV, or doing household chores they didn’t have the time for all week.  

It’s a quiet day. Even the dogs in the area are quiet. With their masters at home, the beasts can finally take a break. 

In the four hours since he opened his shop for the day, Anand has only had two customers. An 11-year-old boy who finally collected 200 rupees to buy the cricket ball he had been eyeing all week. And a 24-year-old regular customer who drops by every two days for a 200-rupee recharge card.

Who does she pour all her money on anyway? 

He sees an odd two-wheeler pass by every thirty minutes or so, but that’s all the noise there is. He likes it this way. He likes quiet days, even when it’s particularly harmful for his business.

Anand does not like interacting with people. Mostly because he always gets distracted by how they look. 

The other day, he had a customer. A man in his thirties, who asked for three lights churot and smoked it all away in one sitting with his bike parked right in front of the shop.

“My wife doesn’t let me smoke, these will get me through the day,” the man had tried to explain. He was fairly average looking. But he had a nose with a heavy tip that looked like it would fall off at any moment. 

Anand didn’t realise he was staring at his customer’s nose until the man squinted his eyes in hopes to find what the pasale was looking at. 

“Ke bho Bhai? Is there something on my nose?” 

“No, no, there is nothing. Tolaae chhu.”

Then there was this 17-year-old customer that he had made extremely uncomfortable with his gaze. She was petite. Her eyes were accentuated by carefully smudged gaajal, and her forehead bore a scar that miserably failed to steal from her pretty face. But it was not his preoccupation with her beauty that made her uneasy. It was his preoccupation with her bra strap sticking out from the kurta, which he just couldn’t stop looking at until she carefully tugged it inside. 

Why am I like this?

Hence, quiet days are better. He likes it this way. No people, no staring, no awkward encounters. 

But he would have killed to spend his Saturday like any other person in the locale. 

I want to nap. I want to wash my undies, even. 

There is a Microeconomics book on the counter in front of him.  Unit 5: Cost and Revenue Curves. He has been stuck on the same line of the same page for an hour. He thought he would have finished the chapter by now. But no. It’s one of those days when he doesn’t want to do anything. He just wants a regular weekend. 

Who am I kidding? Bunu wouldn’t let me sleep, and Maa, well she wouldn’t let me live in peace. 

“Anand!”

A shrill voice startles him. 

“Maa… you know where I am. You need not scream my name!” 

“Don’t tell your grandmother what to do,” the 68-year-old enters the shop from the back door. “I have fed her. She’s sleeping now.” 

“If you haven’t already awoken her, that is.” 

“Chup! This little monster sleeps like a log,” the old woman unties the khaasto that has been holding the baby on her back and places her on the counter. 

Anand looks at Bunu. How peaceful it is—the sight of her sleeping. “Maa, please tell me you brought her sleeping mat...we can’t just place the baby on the hard counter.” 

“Do you expect the old lady to do everything in this house? Get off your butt, run to the backyard and get everything you need for her. I am tired. I need to rest.” 

Anand looks at his grandmother. Her energy overpowers his. She piercingly looks into his eyes and points towards the door, quietly ordering her grandson to get everything he needs for the baby. When he walks back in again, he sees his old lady fanning little Bunu, lovingly. 

What would I do without you Maa? 

“Got everything you need?” 

“Sabbai. Go take a nap now.” 

“Cook chowchow if you feel hungry. I am done for the day. Don’t expect me to move another hair around here.” 

“Tch. Maa please cut the kichkich. Just go rest! I am a grown man, I can handle this.” 

“Chup! Don’t tell your grandmother what to do. Grown men don’t make babies when they are not ready for it. Grown men have a family, not a motherless child. Grown men run a business, not a useless kiranapasal.”

If this woman wasn’t looking after his daughter, he’d have screamed his heart out. But she is everything he needs, she is everything that has kept him together. He quickly looks away and starts arranging a makeshift bed for his eight-month-old. 

“Maa..you are tired and cranky. Please go sleep. I can look after Bunu.” 

15:00. Anand is seated behind a counter that covers the width of his six-by-six feet kiranapasal. On the top of the counter is his eight-month old, and right beside her is his Microeconomics book. 

It’s just another Saturday in the neighbourhood. People are probably taking a nap after a good Saturday lunch, watching TV, or doing household chores they didn’t have the time for all week.  

In the five hours since he opened his shop for the day, Anand has only had four customers. He wants to shut the shop and go home. He wants a regular Saturday. 

I want to nap. I want to wash my undies, even. 

Only, he can’t afford to. 

Published: 22-04-2018 10:16

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