Fiction

Street Life

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As the tiny FM radio was played, the popular Assamese song changed the atmosphere of the room to a very romantic mood. The small room was illuminated by LED bulbs; anyone would have wondered why these people are still awoke? No they didn’t have any birthday party nor get together but it was their regular affair for survival.  Robin and his wife Nilima were busy in preparing their stuff for the night. Nilima was preparing ghugni which would be sold with their puri in the night; Robin was checking the condition of their emergency light which was still in charging mode. He asked Nilima ‘’ How much of Maida we should take for tonight?’’ ‘’Yesterday we sold all we had and made a decent profit ,so for today we shouldn’t take any chance to regret not being prepared for the demand “ Replied Nilima. ‘’Yesterday we made a profit of 300 rupees , I have spent all the money buying Maida ,Matar ,Vegetables and other requirements for our stall’’ Said Robin. Robin and Nilima had a mobile stall which they used to sell Puri Sabji, Tea, and Omelette etc in the night. Every night after midnight they reached their preferred location that is in front of Guwahati Medical College and started selling all their edibles. It was the place where anyone would at least find anything to eat, be it puri, rice cake or other readymade items and tea along with cigarettes in the night. The place was always crowded at night with Taxi drivers, attendant of patients, night shift workers etc. All those stalls were very small mobile stalls placed over a small table or stool and they used to vanish from the sight after dawn.

What had not done by Robin to survive in this cruel city, started from a roadside hotel boy to a sales boy in a grocery shop? After marriage he thought of starting his own business and started selling puri sabji in front of GMC.  It was not a bed of roses for him to start this profession he had to sacrifices a lot for this. Earlier he and Nilima hardly saw the face of profit and spent all their earnings to buy the ingredients for next day, if they didn’t find customer then they had to starve for the day. For Robin days were bright but filled with pain, despite all the barriers he never looked back, Nilima was his strength and both were confident someday they would find a way to win this battle for survival.

By the time their ghugni was ready it was half past 12 in the midnight, Robin said “New spices has made the taste much better than earlier, will you taste it? ‘’ ‘’No it’s ok, you have already tasted ‘’ Nilima replied. Robin started packing all their utensils, tea leaves, sugar, maida dough , prepared ghugni in his hand cart, the most important thing for their mobile shop was a wooden table which was like the backbone of their business was also loaded in the cart. The weather was very soothing; it was a full moon night and the sky was clear with blinking stars. Nilima said “ Today there is no risk of waiting for customers as the sky is clear ,last week incessant rain lashed whole the places and we incurred losses ‘’. Their journey from the hilltop of Rupnagar to GMC started at around one in the night. They took a shortcut to reach their destination and then reached in front of Rupnagar sub post office, and then they were interrupted by some youths. One of them asked “’Where are you going?” ‘’We are off to our daily business in front of GMC “Robin replied. Then they asked them for money, at first they refused to give but the youths snatched all the ten rupees changes from Robin and fled away. They got very disappointed at that incident and thought that the night might not be favourable for them. “We should inform police about this incident” said Nilima.” No it will create another problem for us, let’s avoid it and don’t say anything to others”. They reached GMC around 2 in the morning. Robin took out all their belongings from the cart, and then he placed the table properly and lit the kerosene stove. Nilima placed all other things carefully and heated oil in the pan to fry Puri and waited for customers. On the other small stove Robin boiled water for preparing rice cake and tea. Meanwhile one customer asked for Puri and Nilima put the flame up to fry puri, simultaneously she put ghugni on a disposable bowl and made ready the plate for the customer. Some other customer asked for tea and rice cake, Robin and Nilima served their order with a smile. Suddenly rain started pouring cats and dogs, to add to the misery the whole place became dark due to power cut. Robin switched on his emergency lantern and placed the plastic cover over their stall to avoid getting drenched from the rain and placed the edibles in a safer place.

After some time rain had stopped but no customers were seen up to faraway, but they waited eagerly with a hope to clear all their backlogs.  The place became very silent without customers; in the meantime all were shocked by the yelling of police personnel.  They saw a police patrolling car and the team. The officer and his subordinates were talking to the stall owner which later became heated argument. They forced the vendor to close his shop and took him away in their car. Few minutes later they came back and ordered everyone to leave that place immediately. Robin asked the officer ‘’what happened Sir? Why should we leave?’’ ‘’Don’t you know one Central Minister is coming to GMC for a meeting? You are not allowed to operate your business for next two days on his security ground’’ He replied. ‘’But sir how we will survive without our stall, we have to starve “Robin asked.’’That I don’t know, it’s an order from my seniors and I have to follow it, if you argue with me then you will face the same consequence of that vendor’’ replied the officer. It was a bolt from the blue for Robin and Nilima, they already invested all their money buying the ingredients. What will they eat for next two days? The only way to eliminate their hunger at least for one day was to eat the leftover puri sabji!

 

 

Nabajyoti Bhuyan

By profession Nabajyoti Bhuyan is a printing technologist from RIPT Jadavpur. Worked with TOI and ABP group. Writing is his passion and published articles and stories in different English dailies like The Assam Tribune and The Sentinel.

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