Those who know me, know I am in love with my 8th Main Road. I travel the length of this three-kilometer road four times a day. For me, my ride on 8th Main is not just a ride. It is a whole lifestyle with some interesting yet strong, unusual relationships I’ve formed along the way.
I do everything en route – grocery shopping, fill my scooter’s petrol tank, buy my meds, freak out at the bakery, visit the sweet shop, socialize at the supermarkets, check out clothes, get my mobile phone talk time refilled – not sure if I left anything out, but trust me when I say there is EVERYTHING on this road. I love it because it makes my life easy. I know every shop and am friendly with all the shopkeepers. They always have a smile and a joke for me.
Oh, I forgot the bread van guy. I see him every day and even if we pass each other on the road, he waves from his van. I feel happy.
Then, there’s another guy who I see every day on the way to or from school on 8th Main, who is dressed for work (wears a tie) and walks down to the little hotel on the way for breakfast. I’ve seen this guy do this for nine years. Funny thing is, he doesn’t look very different from the first time I saw him. I mean, guys do put on weight and stuff – but not this one. During the past week, I am tempted to stop him and ask him what he does and tell him I am curious because I’ve been watching him for nine years. How kinky that sounds! I wonder how he’ll react? I even notice when he’s wearing a new shirt!
The “hotel” I mentioned is one of many in our city that feeds our people good food that’s reasonably priced. They are called “darshinis” or “sagars” because almost all of them are prefixed with a name and are south Indian “fast food” joints. Quite healthy and clean, quick service, usually with a smile. I used to be a regular customer at this hotel near my place, two years ago – for a few months when I had to give my Mom idlis for breakfast every morning. The moment the guy at the cash counter saw me parking, he’d instruct his cooks at the food counter, and by the time I reached him, he’d have my parcel ready. Very gratifying. Of course it never occurred to him I might want a different order. And weirdo that I am, I would actually take what he packed even if I did want something else.
As I ride my scooter down the 8th main, I also pass my favorite medical store and since that’s a traffic point, the moment I slow down, I turn my head to the left to see the owner of the store grinning and waving at me. If there’s a transaction on, he’d use sign language and say something that I obviously couldn’t hear in the noise, but would understand. Then he’d make the sign of the phone call and I’d nod and move on. Perfect. This medical store was my savior on many occasions when I had difficult-to-fill prescriptions for my Mom. When I phoned him, he’d say “Tell me” and just give me a delivery time, no questions asked. And stick to it. The power of trust!
When I enter the supermarket, the girls at work always ask me if I had breakfast and coffee, and whether I was returning from dropping my son at school. One of them knows some of the routine stuff I buy, so she’ll bring me a trolley and follow me around, asking if I wanted specific stuff. If they receive fresh stock of something that is yet to be unpacked, she’ll tell me and ask how many I need. So gratifying. And if one of them looks sad, I hug her and ask her what is wrong. If they are lifting crates, I give them a hand. If they get hurt, I whip out the cream from my bag to apply it for them. If they have a headache, I have a tablet for them. Very give and take, that.
Also along the same road, is this person. I am not sure how long he has been residing here, but can vouch for the fact that he’s been here for nine years – because I’ve seen him every day. Four times. There was this one time when he was missing from his spot and I panicked. I worried. I got desperate wondering what happened. Then I almost died of relief when I saw him across the road under the newly build bus shelter – and realized he must have moved there because it was raining. Phew! Here are pictures of this guy’s “abode” on the road.
The gate you see in the picture is of the church (I posted a photo of the church here). Now, I have a deep relationship with the man in the picture. For the last nine years, ever since I started traveling on this road, and noticed him for the first time, I’ve carried food, clothing, water, snacks, bed linen, jackets, and just about anything I wanted to give him. He would always accept it with both hands, very courteously. He’s like a part of our family, because whenever there’s a birthday or special occasion, I give him something. When we have extra food, we immediately think of him and pack it up.
He’s all covered up in these photos because it is winter and quite cold here, now. When it is summer, he just wears a light shirt and the dhoti and even stretches his legs, strolling on his section of the pavement. He has a mattress and a few clothes. A milkman stops by in the morning and pours some milk in a huge mug the man has. At other times, I’ve seen him getting tea/coffee from the mobile tea/coffee-vendor. I’ve seen this guy consistently all these years, while we’ve been worrying about all sorts of things. He has no idea what the Internet is. He’ll never know what Facebook or Twitter or any of those things are. He just survives. I don’t know his story. I would love to, but he barely talks. He always has a smile for me, though.
The woman in the picture (with two kids) joined him recently, to share his space. Not sure how they’re related (none of my business, anyway). All I know is I’ll give more of what I have, because the kids are quite little and I know how hungry the young ‘uns can get. I am in the process of putting together some more bed linen and some warm clothes to give them.
Reminds me of a funny moment, years ago, when Vidur was still small enough to travel standing in the front space of my scooter. We were passing this man one day, and Vidur suddenly got excited and said “Mummy, he has a bedsheet just like ours!”. Well, it was our bedsheet. After that day, I make it a point to make Vidur hand over stuff to the guy, which he does very cheerfully.
I felt a little off-color today – and thought I would look at some photos. Then I came across these – and my off-color-ness just faded away. Also reminded me of a post I did back in March 2008 titled “back to the present”
Happiness is a D.I.Y. project. I just stopped to think of all the things that made me feel good, and I feel much better now.
What do you do when you feel sad without really knowing why?