Some years back, the children and I went out with a friend and her family. It could have been the beach or a movie we went to, I don’t remember too well. What I do remember though is that we ended up at Ariya Nivas afterwards to have dosas.
I don’t know what it is about these vegetarian eateries. Perhaps it is the simple fare or the quick service or the fact that you can have a decent tasty meal for a reasonable sum of money. Whatever it is, they are extremely popular. And Ariya Nivas happened to be the most popular among the lot.
People were streaming in and out of it when we reached. As we climbed the steps leading to the entrance through the crowd of people, a hand fell on my right shoulder. Now, if you know anything about Malluland (Kerala for the uninformed) it should be that it abounds in opportunist grabbers and gropers who operate in exactly such crowded settings. If you remember I punched such a one a couple of years back, and if you must know, I have also scratched a hand that strayed unnecessarily close towards me in the rush outside a movie hall, among other things.
So when this hand fell on my shoulder outside Ariya Nivas, I turned around (it was reflex action), eyebrows well and truly knit, a picture of ‘how dare you mess with me’, ready to take up the matter suitably with the owner of the hand, when I found myself looking into my friend’s husband’s face. The poor man had tapped me on the shoulder to get my attention in the milling crowd, to direct me to take the stairs to the upstairs restaurant. Though I instantly rearranged my features into a smile (the embarrassment!) I bet he must have, for a brief moment at least, not known what had hit him.
My purpose in writing of the above incident is to sort of set the stage for what I am going to write next. The following incident happened while we stayed in the Binnaguri cantonment area.
One day of the week (I forget which) was market day in a nearby area. Everything available was fresh. Ahh, the green greens, and the mind boggling variety! Just the thought of it makes me want to run back to Binnaguri and that small local market very close to the army area to do my vegetable shopping.
Needless to say market day every week found me on the spot with my bags ready to be filled with the fresh produce available. One evening, I was bending over examining the cauliflower the seller had spread out on a white sheet on the ground when someone touched me lightly on my rear end. I straightened up promptly and looked around. People were walking this way and that in the narrow space left between where the sellers had spread out their ware on sheets on the ground, or sometimes on top of crates.
I just could not say who dared do that to me.
Annoyed, but with nothing else that I could do, I went back picking out the best cauliflower from the lot, and some greens too. Just then someone again gently touched and then slapped me on my bum, slapped real hard that I almost toppled over. Now this was too much. Unscrupulous men groped women it is true, and if lucky, women sometimes got to scratch/push/punch/hit the culprits. Here I was being groped and on top of that, slapped as well. What the hell!
I quickly stood up from where I had landed face first right into the cabbages, cauliflowers, greens etc, thank god there were no tomatoes, and turned around angrily, ready to battle it out with whoever it was who was in such a hurry or was using that as a ruse to feel women who were involved in choosing vegetables.
There was no one around.
I could see only a few quite unlikely looking Bengali babus and Bengali mems going about their business of buying veggies for the week. Puzzled and annoyed, I now turned sideways, unwilling to expose my back to anymore hard knocks of fate (?), and suspiciously eyed the shoppers. They might look unlikely candidates, but were they innocent? One of them obviously had done it, but WHO?
A woman sitting behind a pile of carrots on the opposite side giggled. She was looking at me and giggling?! I immediately knew that she knew who it was that pushed me down with that fatal blow to my rear end. I glared at her. ‘How about telling me who-done-it you silly woman?!’ was what my glare said. She must have heard me though I hadn’t spoken a word, because she pointed, and my eyes, following her finger, looked down to see, a calf. Even as I looked, it shook its head, gearing up for a fresh assault on whoever stood between it and its goal. On its face was a message crystal clear for me to read. It said, “Move aside, Woman! The greens are all mine!” I politely, and obediently, moved aside. Pronto.
©Shail Mohan 2015