The bus stop on the way provided temporary shelter to a sizable population. The crowd was diverse, and the groundnut seller was using the situation to his advantage. He was sitting in the corner with a jute bag and a copper bottom vessel lit by a small flame. A crowd was automatically drawn to the aroma of the roasted groundnuts. He was pretty adept in transforming the pages of a magazine into cone shaped structures, and pouring into it the exact number of groundnuts that only his eyes could gauge. There were cones of different sizes to match the different denominations of purchase by the customers. A steady stream of customers formed a beeline for his wares. He eyed Natarajan from a distance, and immediately discerned his disinterested expression. It was raining for the past half an hour, and Natarajan was becoming increasingly agitated with every passing minute. All his evening plans were washed out.
Sir, Why don’t you buy a pack of groundnuts from me? Natarajan looked around to see the seller standing by his side. It was just a moment ago that he saw him at least a few paces away.
Oh, no, no, I am not interested right now. I am in a hurry! It was a casual dismissal, highlighting his superiority over the seller.
But, I am sure you don’t plan to leave in this rain. A cone of fried groundnuts will do you a world of good now. Moreover, you can also take some for your family.
The very mention of family brought a concern to Natarajan. He had sensed that it was going to rain at least an hour before he left office. He cursed himself for not taking the extra hour off and reaching home on time. Rama had specifically told him to come early, if not for her sake, at least for the sake of the child. She had told him in the morning how Arjun was becoming dependent on him for everything, and that he should show some interest in his activities. He couldn’t believe that Arjun was seven years old, and that he was married to Rama for ten years now. Life had progressed a lot in the last many years. It felt as though it was yesterday that he tied the three knots around Rama’s neck, and now, all that he seemed to be concerned in life was about the third member of the family!
His reverie was broken by a low voice. Sir, Sir! So, shall I pack groundnuts for ten rupees? I will give you more than the normal quantity. You can also call up home and tell that you are buying groundnuts. Your child will be very happy.
Now, this was getting very irritating as well as embarrassing. The groundnut seller seemed to know everything about him. How did he know that he had a kid? Was his physique giving away everything. Of course, he was taking the typical shape of a middle aged married Indian man, but Rama had made sure that his pot belly did not protrude to gargantuan proportions. She did not serve him rice in the evenings, and strictly maintained a low fat diet for his well being. Call up! From where will I call up, thought Natarajan. He was surviving on a decent, but not a hefty pay cheque, and he tried to cut down on luxuries as much as possible. He did not even have a mobile phone, when today, kids were running around with that electronic gadget. I am either at work or at home. Why do I need a phone? was Natarajan’s argument, on not having a mobile device. Well, that was how he always put it. Now, how can he say that to the groundnut seller? He also had a secret worry that the groundnut seller might have a phone, and offer the device to him to make the phone call.