rarefied air


Sunday, August 9, 2009



We shifted here a year ago and other families are still moving into the complex.Many people have moved to this 'developing area' that is considered one of the most sensitive zones in view of communal riots in the old city. Our builder, now afflicted with throat cancer, is applauded for his bravery in entering an area that nobody chose to go before. The Bangladeshi people's ghetto is right across the street, on the banks of the Chandola Laka and it is alleged, by Hindus that all bombs ever blasted in the city, have been made there. There are very few shops in the area, and we have to travel miles to buy a potato. So our brave builder decided to do further good and leased some land for 12 shops to be built outside the complex. Two kirana shops have come up till now, both selling identical goods and competing against each other by giving customers of the complex heavy discounts. Nobody is complaining, least of all me. I am getting used to living here. I avoid talking to people here, but sometimes one cannot escape too soon. As a journalist I interact with diverse people daily, but am distanced disinterested in my own backyard. People are curious.They ask questions. Sometimes pointedly, like the other day this woman asked me if I was the wife or sister of the boy with whom I live and whether the woman was my mother or mother-in-law. Mostly I avoid talking to people, but the shadows behind you are constant. That is why I end up wishing that services such as hair cutting, buying stuff, etc would become automated and one wouldn't need to interact with people in order to get them.Because, from where I stand, it is becoming difficult to credit the person providing the service rightfully. For example, my two-monthly visits to the Parlour woman for waxing are very uneasy for me, for though she is providing a very intimate service, I do not like talking to her, in fact, when she begins to get chatty, I discourage it. It is not for any other reason but just the fact that she wants to tell me what the best shopping deals of the season are and since I am unable to respond to the kindness appropriately, she must feel put off. Or she wants to discuss some recipes from the kitchen, that I have simply no knowledge of. Or a cookery or singing show that I have never heard of. But it becomes tricky because I think its wrong to not talk to somebody who you are so associated with. Practically speaking, she is rendering me a service and I am paying her for it, but somehow, this logic is uneasy as it is materialistic and selfish. This compels me to sometimes enter into awkward conversations with her,that do nothing for her or me, while knowing fully well that we are simply saying what we are either from boredom or due to the linkage of service. Below is an excerpt, not very interesting, but hopefully telling, which might or might not explain my discomfiture.
It took place in Gujarati so there is an original version, followed by a translation in English below that.

Kirana Store Keeper Woman-A
Kirana Store Keeper's Helper-B


C: Dahin chhe?
A: Ha chhe ne. Ketlu aapu? Saat rupiya na pouch waadu aapu?
C: Ha. aapi dyo.
A: Tame su...job karo chho?
C: Ha.
A: Kyan karo chho
C: Chhaapa maan.
A: Chhaapa-maan? Etle..kaya chhaapa-maan?
C: The Hindu-maan
A: haen?
C: Hindu-Hindu
A: Oh! Hindustan!
C: Ha Ha...eej.
A: (To B) aa chhaapa-maan kaam kare chhe...pellu Hindu Times chhe ne...eman
B nods head in approval
C smiles.

Day2 Morning:-

C: Dahin chhe?
A: Ha.Dabbi-waadu aapu ke pouch-waadu?
C: Pouch-waadu.Dabbiwaadu monghu hoe ne?
A: Ha.Khaali 250 grams aave dabbi-maan.
C: Hmm.
A: Tame..em toh...hindi bolo ne?
C: etle?
A: matlab ke..ghar-maan, hindi....?
C: Na, Gujarati boliye. Ame Gujarati chhiye.
A: Oh! Evu chhe...achha...
C: Kem? Jova-maan gujarati nathi lagta? Bhasha alag chhe
A: Ha...em nai pan....maari jem hoon gujarati phata phat bolu chhu, tamaru em nathi aavtu...
C: Ha.Thodu alag chhe. Ek toh ame Kathiawad na chhiye, ane upar thi Kolkata maan motta thya chhiey, etle bhasha thodik alag chhe..
A: Oh Kathiawaad na...kayu gaam?
C: Rajkot.Amdavadi toh nathij
A: Achha...evu chhe....toh theek.

Day2 Evening:-

C: Kheeru raakho chho?
A: Ha rakhiye chhiye ne.
C: aapi dyo...ek killo. Ane nariyal chhe?
A: Ha baare padya e-ne.
C: Ha ha ej. (Picks one up from the sack)Ketlanu chhe?
A: dus rupiya
C: Oho. Bou bhaav chhe tamare toh
A: Haha. Aatlu toh hoiyaj ne. Toh ketla be rupiya-maan venchvanu?
C: hmm dai dyo chaalo
A: Aa kon banavse? Tame...ke....tamara mummy?
C: ?.. Koi pan banavi lese...banne banavi lesu..khabar nai
A: Na...tame job par thi aaiva chho, pachhi thaaki...
C: Na, eman su chhe
A: Tame banavo em..,,?
C: Hmm.Kaale banavsu



C: Do you keep curd?
A: Yes we have. How much should I give? The pouch worth 7 Rupees?
C: Yes Please.
A: Do you do...a job??
C: Yes.
A: As in, where do you do it...?
C: In a newspaper
A: Newspaper? As in, which newspaper?
C: The Hindu
A: huh?
C: Hindu -Hindu
A: Oh! Hindustan!
C: Yes yes that one
A: (To helper) This here works in a newspaper...that one...Hindutva Times
B nods head in approval
C smiles

Day2 Morning:-

C: Do you have curd?
A: Yes. Should I give the one in the pouch or the one in the cup?
C: Umm.The pouch please. The one in the cup is expensive no?
A: Yes, that it is, you get only 250 grams in that.
C: Hmm.
A: So...you ..generally...Hindi no?
C: Waht?
A: No as in....you speak Hindi at home....no?
C: No no.We speak Gujarati.We are Gujaratis.
A: Oh! Is that so? Ok.
C: Why? We look different or what?
A: Yes, not like that...but....the fluency with which I am speaking Gujarati, that you still don't have
C: Ya it is a little different because we are from Kathiawaad and been brought up in Kolkata
A: Oh Kathiawad! Which village?
C: Rajkot.
A: Oh ok! and kaalkutta!
C: Ya. Born and brought up there
A: Oh! That's why!
C: what?
A: Thats why the difference! Then it's ok.

Day2 Evening:-

C: Do you stock batter?
A: Of course we do.
C: Please give one kilogram of it. And do you have coconuts?
A: The ones kept outside, those?
C: Aah, yes, these. (Picks one up from the sack) How much is it for?
A: Only 10 Rupees.
C: 10 Rupees!That's a bit too much, isn't it?
A: Haha. Then what, you want me to sell it for 2 rupees?
C: ok ok give it.
A: Who will prepare this? You or your mother?
C: Both of us...I dont know
A: Ok...you return from work....and must get tired....
C: hmmm
A: so you cook, eh...?
C: Hmm..sometimes i do
A: oh! so you work in office and you come home and cook, eh?!
C: ...sometimes
A: so it is you who will be making idli with this batter? or dosa...?
C: i am not sure, really....
A: (to helper)This here cooks!
Helper nods in approval
C picks up batter and leaves


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