Wednesday, December 14, 2005

When the Bakery Man knocked.

My India trip is always highlighted by many nostalgic moments.

Last evening, however, there was one such moment which moved me to tears.

I was downstairs at my cousins place playing with my nephews, when a very familiar figure walked up to the door of the apartment and rang the bell. Immediately my eyes lit up. It was the bakery man.

For the last 21 years of my life, he has been coming home EVERY DAY. I was a mere 4 year old when first started delivering bakery products home. My favourite was the bun he made. I remember vividly that the single cherry on the bun added to its crowning glory. I grew up eating this bun everyday of my life till I left India to study in the US. I would sub-conciously miss him if I didn't see that familiar old cycle, with the beaten green box tied to his carier by an old tyre. If it was raining, he would still be there in his familiar green raincoat with his warm smile asking if we needed something.

But yesterday, I saw him in a different light. He was the same man. The same warm smile. The same old cycle. The same beaten green box. But this was 21 years later. Here is a man who'd not moved up or down in life. Or atleast to me, it seemed so. I asked him how his bakery was doing, and he told me that he had to vacate the building. He was just working from home now. That green box was his bakery. I asked him how his business was doing. He told me that his main customers were still my family. Except now that it was my 11 year old nephew Sanjay who had taken to his oh-so-delicious buns. He was telling me that people in my appartment now have started buying from him. He also had a couple of people buying from him a few apartments down the street (people who my mother had introduced him to). He told me that he'd been trying to catch me over the last few days since I landed, but I was either sleeping or not at home.
After our short conversation, I bought the customary bun from him.. and one more for my nephew Sanjay who I was playing with.

When I got back inside the house, I couldn't play like I was playing a few minutes back. My dad noticed my look and asked with a small smile if I even knew his name. I realized that I had no clue. In the last 21 years I had always referred to him as Bakery Man. So did everyone else. "Shanmugham" my dad said. He had asked the bakery man about 4 years ago what his name was. I told him about the conversation I had had with the Bakery man a few minutes back. I told him about the closed down bakery. My dad said that a few years back he had offered to help him setup a bakery. But all Shanmugham had said was that he was happy and content where he was. Thinking about it now, he probably makes something between two thousand and three thousand rupees a month. But he sure was happy about it.

So many things I have to learn in life. From the bakery man.. from my dad... How to be content.. from the bakery man. The thought of wanting to help.. from my dad. My dad's business hasn't been doing too well in the last few years either. He has been seeing a lot from his end too. I have felt very bad a number of times that I'm not in a position to help my dad out entirely. It amazes me how it even struck him to offer to help the bakery man. I realize that NOTHING in the world amazes me like people. Not technology. Not natural wonders. Not man made buildings. I don't think any number of words will do justice to the thoughts running through my head now.


Blogger S. said...

I have seen that man every year of those 9 years I spent at Geethalaya, though we only bot eggs from him occasionally. But i know what you mean.....befire coming here , it was as if all of second main road Kasturiba nagar knew I was leaving....starting from the auto drivers...and like you, I have known all of them for nine years and ya I don't know a single name!

4:19 PM  

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