It’s a grocery store not far from where I live in Juhu, a suburb of Mumbai. I’m there for a short afternoon trip, just eggplant and lettuce. Oh, cashewnuts, and almonds. Yes, please. By the vegetable section, two store employees, stocking the shelves. One perched on a ladder, stocking the upper shelves, the other hands him stuff from a big cardboard box below. Yogurt is on sale, sir. Two for the price of one, he tells me. I’m all set, though, and head to the checkout register.
A short, older man is behind the counter. Slim built, in his late fifties, glasses, a slender salt and pepper mustache, salt and pepper hair combed to the side. He’s in a back and forth with an employee who calls him mama (uncle – mother’s brother) out of respect, deference, salary. Maybe he’s one of the store owners.
Mama, I’ll just go fifteen minutes on my bicycle, just fifteen minutes, the employee says in Hindi. A taller man, in his early to mid forties, average built with a belly, longish, wavy, black hair, thick black mustache, stubble, tired eyes. Here only I’m going to see my uncle. I just need to talk to him for a few minutes.
No, you’ll stay here. No deliveries for you today. You work till 8 pm and then you can leave.
But, mama, I won’t take that long. Please understand. My uncle needs to talk to me.
No means no, beta (son). If you go there, you’ll sit on your ass and you won’t come back. Why don’t you tell your uncle to come here to see you? I want to see who this mysterious man is, for whom you have to leave in the middle of the day everyday. Bring him here.
But, mama, you know how it is.
Yes, I know all of how it is. I know everything about your afternoon trips to your uncle. You go and god knows what happens. No, you stay here. Now step aside, I need to ring this man up.
The employee moves away from the counter, a bewildered look on his face. I’m rung up. As I leave the store, the attempted negotiation resumes.
© 2019 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.