“Because I Needed to Buy...!”

Got late in office, but it was not a problem. Because I needed to buy a kilo of potatoes only which was crucial for the dish I planned to cook that night. 

It was late evening when I finally left office. Across the road was the Esplanade metro railway station in Kolkata. As I descended the final steps leading to the station platform one train roared out. To my chagrin it was an air-conditioned rake. Commuting on Kolkata metro you needed a lot of luck to deserve an AC rake, because it still abounded in non-ac rakes, and if you wanted the pleasure of paying a minimum of just five bucks for a metro ride, arguably the cheapest rate across the globe, you had to pay a price in terms of lack of comfort and a consistently erratic time schedule. Also, once aboard the non-ac trains in the rush and crush you had to witness the sliding doors making at least 3 attempts to shut under normal circumstances at almost every stop and you had the unenviable option of cooling yourself with your own free-flowing sweat. Nobody really complained about this in this proverbial Indian city of joy, because they preferred the joy of accessing every possible facility at its cheapest, and protested vehemently at the slightest indication of a metro-fare increase.

The next train was due in four minutes, but ten minutes elapsed and no train came. Three air-conditioned trains came in the meantime in the opposite direction increasing my irritation. However, getting delayed further didn’t really matter.  Because I needed to buy a kilo of potatoes only which was crucial for the dish I planned to cook that night. 

Finally one train came in my way and as feared, once again a non-ac one. And it was overloaded already with hordes of eager passengers waiting to barge in. I knew that the accumulated crowds in the next three stations would make it unbearable. So I decided to wait, and luckily got a platform seat.

The train time-schedule or the related still didn’t improve. After another long interval of time one more non-ac train paddled in. I didn’t budge from my seat, wisely. In the meantime, two more trains came in the opposite direction, again both air-conditioned. I began to seethe now. Even though I needed to buy a kilo of potatoes only which was crucial for the dish I planned to cook that night. 

The next train for me was non-ac too, but it came a little early and it was less crowded. So I took it. I managed a standing space for the 22 minute ride to my destination. If you must know, it cost me just 10 bucks duly deducted from the smart-card.

As I alighted from my home station I took in a view of the vegetable vendors lined on one side of the station with their green assortments displayed on wooden raisers. I needed to buy a kilo of potatoes only which was crucial for the dish I planned to cook that night.  So I still had the distinct advantage of completing it in quick time. I selected a vendor who was entertaining a lone customer at that moment. I quickened my pace and occupied my position next to the lone customer before anybody else could come up. However, I had no idea about what was in store for me.

The vendor and the customer were somehow guided by some unwritten law of slow motion. The customer showed extreme delight in selecting very small portions of a variety of vegetables—250 grams of this, 300 grams of that, 200 grams of another, and so on. The vendor seemed to partake in this delightful game by weighing those with exemplary care and with classical perfection, putting the cuttings neatly into polythene bags of various sizes. The slow motion show was aptly followed by the mandatory drama of accounting and budgeting as I still stood there. It was an elaborate process, even though the final budget turned to be much lesser than fifty bucks.

I sighed with relief that finally the show was over. But then, the climax happened. The customer produced a five-hundred rupee note out of this pocket. Under normal circumstances any vendor would have showed bitterness and irritation at this audacious gesture. But no, not this time. The vendor tenderly accepted the note which in turn forced him to lay bare his ponderous box of the day’s collections. Rummaging through his treasure for quite some time he finally managed to settle the change. It was a befitting climax, well-deserved too. However, I wasn’t too sure for whom, me or the duo.

It was thanks to my years of immense experience that I firmly stood through, and bought my potatoes from him only.

Because...what the heck! A late supper wasn’t going to starve me to death in any case.


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