Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Special: That Chips-Seller of Sealdah Local

Posted by at 7:00 AM On to the Previous Post
A Christmas Special post, where  I am presenting a story inspired from a real-life incident. 
Hope you enjoy reading this. Merry Christmas!

We all know we are very busy with our lives. So busy that many a times, we fail to notice the small instances of happiness, joy, creativity and positivity around us. But sometimes, some of these instances catch our eyes and we end up being more than contented to have experienced that instance. It stays in our mind forever, and becomes more than just a good story.I am sharing a similar story today.

It was 9 o' clock in the night. I was in the Sealdah station, waiting for a Sealdah local train.Madhyamgram, where my family stayed, would generally take 20-30 minutes on train. I don't stay in Kolkata but come to visit the city for a few days during my college vacations, so I don't take a vehicle of my own.It was a busy day, with people coming from far and wide via express trains and reaching West Bengal, and daily-passengers waiting on the platform,to get back home from work.

Sealdah is a busy station, and also, seen as an opportunity by people from rural areas to come and sell petty goods, food items, and earn a living. Generally, you would see a frown on these sellers' faces, clearly showing their displeasure on the job. Some of them would even pick up a fight repeatedly, and if you are not alert enough, you might end up being ridiculed by a bunch of vendors in front of the whole busy crowd.

 I was aware of these things and so,I decided to get to a local train as soon as possible, reach home, have a satisfying dinner made by my mother and, after indulging in the world of social-networking for an hour or so, retire for the night.

15 minutes later, a Sealdah Local arrived. Like a swarm of bees, people started getting into the train.Quarrels followed. Angst, frustration of the day got poured over each others faces, as people almost fought their way to find some space in the train.Fortunately, I found myself a seat.

As the train started moving, and while the rest of the people got involved in improving the country through verbal debates and 'oh-so-philosophical' arguments, I plugged in my earphones and gave myself to the warm serenity of music by Poets Of The Fall.

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10 minutes later, I noticed  everyone stopped their regular routine of conversations and were looking at one particular direction. Needless to say, the train had passed two stations and vendors started getting in the train, selling junk snacks, and cheap daily items.Trifles, they say, are the most valuable source of income to the poor, as useless as they are, to the rich. So I went back to listening music.

But a few moments later, I looked up. 'Dawn' was playing in my music player.There was a commotion in the compartment adjacent to mine. I saw a chips-seller coming through. And to my amazement, I observed that almost everyone was buying from him. Curious, I removed my earphones to see what was so special that made those misers and babus of my city to cough up cash this easily, in order to buy junk food, meant to be eaten primarily by children.

In a few moments, his appearance got clearer. I could see him carrying a huge sack, full of cheap rice-chips. He seemed like a man in his 50s. Short, wrinkled, with combed-white hair and visibly under-privileged, the hardship he faced in his life, was clearly visible.

But he had this innocent smile on his face, and as he came closer, I could hear him yelling, "Motch! motch! korey khaaben! Du-taka! du-taka! Motch! Motch! korey khaaben!"
  (Here, 'motch! motch!' is referred to the crunchy sound one would generally make while eating chips, and the rest of the phrase meant, "2 rupees! 2 rupees! Eat while making moch! moch! sound!") 

I chuckled a bit. Actually, I was not the only one. The regular passengers seemed to be used to seeing this vendor, and I could see a hint of amusement on their faces.

He was selling rice-chips, for two rupees a packet. Everyone, especially the kids, seemed to enjoy his very presence. When some would teasingly complain that the previous night, the chips were not crunchy and were crushed, he would start reciting a story, in the form of a poem, to justify why his chips cannot be like crushed and unpleasant, and if they were, how apologetic he was.
For the first time in my life, I saw a vendor who was enjoying his work. He knew how to please people. There was no sign of irritation in his words. And to top it all, he was providing honest entertainment to everyone.
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"My kids ask me-I have 4 kids-'Dad, why do you go out to sell chips every night?' to which I would reply,'if I don't go, then you know what will happen? Many men will return home and yell at their wives and children. But if I gave them this magic chips, all of their anger will vanish, and they will return home, happily, and will hug their children and wives, the way I do when I return.' "

I was astounded on seeing that he how he had figured out the problems of people's lives, in such a simple way. I don't know whether his chips were magical or not, but I found each of his words, surprisingly comforting.

He came to me, and I also asked for two packets. "Bhai, you are new in Kolkata, aren't you?" he said. "Yes. How did you know?" I asked, surprised."Arrey Bhai,I remember the faces of each and every single commuter of this train. Here,  have one packet free with the two." he replied, cheerfully, like a friend.I could not refuse.

I was stunned to see how he was connecting with everyone. He played a few turns with the card players in the train, he danced and sang with the kids, he joked with the women and he tried teaching the toddlers how to spell 'chips'.All this happened in a mere 10 minutes of duration.I lost track of time.

I looked out, and realised my destination is only two stations away. I started getting up, when I saw the chips-seller approaching the gate. He took a glance towards me. I smiled, and he smiled back. He got off in the next station, and, as I waited for my destination to arrive and tried to cherish what I saw in the last few minutes, I saw a 4-yr. old sitting on her mother's lap, munching the chips, and uttering the phrase loud,in her childish tone: "Motch! Motch! korey khaaben! Motch! Motch!"

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  1. That is one highly spirited chip seller. People like him radiate the positive energy to everybody around them.


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