Summer Smiles

The newspaper had reported 40°C as the temperature the previous day, the highest March temperature recorded in Mumbai in a long time.

It was around 11.30 AM on sunday morning. We stepped out of our home very unwillingly to complete an unavoidable errand. We felt the heat in the few minutes it took us to get to our car park. We got in and drove off, of course with the air conditioner and the vents adjusted for maximum comfort and sun glasses on, to protect from the glare.

En route, at a busy junction, we saw a street vendor selling fruit. Piled high on his hand cart, were luscious pineapples. We resolved to stop on the way back and buy some from him.

On our return, as we neared the junction, a little more than an hour later, our eyes were on the lookout for the hawker. And he was at exactly at the same spot where we had seen him last. Parking the car a little ahead, I got off and headed towards the pineapplewala [person selling pineapples]. The hot air hit my face and my eyes squinted in the harsh glare of the noon sun. A brief conversation on the quality, size, price later, I decided to buy 3.

As is the practice, the hawker began peeling off the outer thick spiky pineapple skin. He would later slice it too before packing it neatly. I was standing next to the handcart, waiting to take my purchases. It was unbearably hot and I began to sweat. Noticing this, the hawker suggested that I wait below a shady tree nearby, till he was through!! As he was speaking, he probably recollected that I had got off the car parked ahead and quickly corrected himself — he said I could wait in the car and he would come and handover the 3 pineapples once he was done with cleaning and slicing the fruit. I promptly trotted off and got back into the car.

A few minutes later, he lightly tapped on the window glass. Handing over the 3 neatly sliced pineapples, he was cheerfully chattering away — he had purchased his pineapples that morning from the wholesale market [the best in Mumbai — i wouldn’t get the same quality anywhere else] and of these, he had given me 3 of the best ones!

As we drove away after paying for the fruit, I felt a tad ashamed. A street vendor, who had been standing under the blazing sun for a couple of hours already, without a cap or turban to cover his head, constantly cutting and slicing pineapples with his long and sharp knife, was so cheerful!

He seemed to be a migrant from one of the lesser developed Indian states, lacking the opportunities to make a decent living. One of the thousands who come to Mumbai, in an effort to improve their lives. His day would have started many hours earlier, in the wee hours of the morning, when he would have gone to the distant central suburb for the purchase of fruit to sell during he day. He had a lonely job on the busy & bustling streets of a city that was not home to him. And he appeared to have accepted his destiny and was going about doing what he had to do with a smile!

And I had felt annoyed at having to step out of my cozy air conditioned car for a few minutes to buy fruit for myself.
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Originally published at shobitha.blogspot.in on March 30, 2015.