I was walking back home after doing my weekly groceries shopping at Queen’s Plaza, a small market in our locality in Gurgaon.
“Would you mind having hot Dhal Kachori, Sir? I serve Idlis and some drinks too.”, an old man, told me in Hindi, with gleaming eyes and a child like smile on his face. I was already tired from a long day’s work and had made up my mind to go back home and hang up my boots for the day at the earliest, but something in the old man’s face told me I should visit his store. And so I did.
I ordered a plate of Idly Sambhar and started digging the Whatsapp chats for the day I had missed, not in a mood to strike any conversation with the shopkeeper. Through the corner of my eye, something in the menu card of the shop caught my attention.
“Please make your day useful. Help a mental girl enjoy today”, read a sign board.
The old man saw me seeing the board, and started a conversation. He somehow figured out I am not a local guy and tried his best to speak in English to make me feel comfortable.
“Dhal Kachori, very nice. My daughter-in-law make. You try and tell”, he said, in a dialect Prabhaker (from Shantaram) would easily relate to.
The shop’s name read “Rashika Maharishi’s Home Kitchen”.
“So Rashika is your daughter-in-law?”, I asked him.
“Yes yes. *smiles broadly*. She is my beta ka bahu (daughter-in-law). Very good in studies. She completed B.Sc in Home Science and won three awards during college”. When he told that, I could see his chest puff with pride.
“She makes the food, and I sell them. She makes tasty Kachoris, Samosas, Idly and Kheer. Very tasty. B.Sc in Home Science. Three awards during college”.
“Oh, really nice”
“Yes, yes. My son is working as trainer in Delhi Airport. I am retired. My wife no more. My daughter became mental when she was 2 years old. Head on collision with a car. That guy didn’t even stop to react, just sped away. Just like that. Since that day till today, my daughter hasn’t changed. I have taken her to many doctors across the state. Sab ne haat kada kar diya (Everyone told there’s no scope). She is in her twenties now and will live just a few more years. But I am very proud of her. I will take care of her to the best of my ability, till I breathe my last.”
My eyes welled up. The best part was that the old man didn’t narrate the story in a sad tone. He was smiling all through. He just accepted his life’s truth and decided to live with it.
“Your Idly ready sir. Sambhar very nice. Eat and tell me. Made by my daughter-in-law. Very good in studies”, he smiled.
“What else do you have?”
“It’s already 9 pm. Samosas have sold out. I just have two pieces of Dhal Kachori”
“I’ll buy it”
While he was packing the Kachoris, a lot of thoughts ran through my mind.
All of us have so many things to feel grateful about. Yet, more often than not, we end up feeling depressed about things we don’t have or things that don’t go our way. And then, there are rare gems, like this old man.
I told myself, “The next time I even think about fretting over a long stressful day at work, I will remember this gentleman, and stop fretting”.
“Welcome again to my shop, Sir”, he said, handing over the parcel of Idly Sambhar and Dhal Kachoris, with the never fading smile, that takes to his face, like fish to water.