A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A HAWKER

Part-I

Papeeeer…. Pazhayaaaa-Paper[1]”- cried Thangappan, in his patented sing-a-song manner. Whatever be the other sources of sound pollution-the cawing of crows and beggars, barking of dogs and auto-drivers, the hoarse cries of the vegetable vendors included, his primordial song contrived to catch the attention of all. Attribute it to his baritone, the only thing of substance he inherited from his father.

clip_image001[12]

It was now 11 am  and just about the right time when the ladies of the big bungalows of Sarojini Nagar will be relaxing after packing off their husbands and children to various establishments around the world. Thangappan, though illiterate was smart enough to know the timings of the mega-serials and tear-jerkers. Unlike the middle-class ladies of Ramakrishna Street whose TV timings were from 11:30am -1:30 pm, the upwardly mobile ladies of Sarojini Nagar in general  were addicted to only life-style and travel related programs on the English channels, starting from 1pm onwards. All this information was privy to Thangappan, courtesy his ears and his contacts with the fortunate servants of Sarojini-Nagar.

He slowed down his old ‘Hero-Champion’ bicycle as he neared ‘Santhi-Niketan’ , the house of the dentist, who practiced in the outhouse of his bungalow. Out came the lady of the house, Mrs. Latha Viswanathan who cried, “Hey, you ‘Paper’, stop!” Though this was the way, she always addressed Thangappan, yet the unlettered one never failed to wonder, whether his face resembled, of all things, a newspaper in any way. As could be expected from an active dentist’s house, a huge variety of newspapers, magazines and old-coffee table books soon piled. Though this was routine, even Thangappan could not suppress a toothy grin as he eyed the catch, which lay before him.

The lady commanded, “Quickly calculate the weight”. Thangappan took out the tools of his trade-a weighing balance and a 1 kg weight. The modus-operandi was simple and time-tested. First, the 1 kg weight was roughly balanced with a pile of newspapers at the other end, with the balance precariously tilted in favour of the former. Next, the 1 kg weight was placed on the pile of newspapers, already placed in the other pan, to make a 2 kg weight. The sly operation would be repeated at the end of it all, Thangappan pronounced” 10 kg newspaper, 4 kg magazine”. As a rule of thumb, the measured weight was two-thirds of the actual mass. Even before the transaction had taken place, the industrious fellow calculated that he has made a profit of 5 kg  and 2 kg of newspaper and magazines respectively. Combine this with the Rs 5.50 and Rs 4 paid per kilo, by the wholesale dealer for the two items, it was not a bad start.

clip_image001[14]The old hand, shivered with thrill and fright at having acquired 7 kg of “black-paper, a term the cinema buff in him had coined after being bowled over by the machinations and glamour of the on-screen villains, who seemed to derive their power and charisma from black-money and gold-biscuits. It is a different thing that Thangappan had little idea of the meaning of black-money and the poor fellow did not dare ask anyone, not even the all-knowing wholesale dealer Kumaran, for fear of his passion for villainy being discovered. However, Thangappan from a concocted  understanding of black-magic, religion and the best rational reasoning his brain could conjure up with, had somehow concluded that the term-BLACK was the X Factor and so prefixed ‘black’/’Karuupu’ to every term of monetary value. He fervently believed that  Karuupu[2] Sami (a demigod in rural TN) would reward him for his mad faith in the power of BLACK. By his standards, 7 kg of black-paper was a good booty and this combined with ‘SanthiNekatan’ being  an assured catch every fortnight, made Thangappan refer to  it as ‘SuperStar’ à la bluechip stock, again a result of his adulation for a particular cinestar. clip_image003[6]

To be fair to Thangappan, he was atleast impartial- the same con-job was dished out to everyone irrespective of caste and class considerations. But social justice was delivered in the next stage, the ladies of Sarojini  Nagar and other upper class localities were paid Rs 3.00 per kilo while the middle-class localities were given Rs 4 for the same. Here too, the statesman in Thangappan used only economic conditions as criteria. Not that he cared a damn about balancing economic inequality, it was just that the middle-class household ladies knew when they were being swindled as opposed to just being fooled. As he gave Mrs. Viswanathan the sum of Rs 47 in crumpled notes of five and ten, Thangappan shot a prayer, “ Karuupu Sami, gratitude for giving a boni[3] of Rs.50 to a man, who is making a living as honest as practical”.

Thangappan did not get any more opportunity to mint ‘black-paper’ in Sarojini Nagar. He had earned a fifth of his average income for a day. As he ambled along from his ‘BlueChip’ Nagar, he could not help feeling that Karuupu Sami had flattered his ‘boni’ to deceive him. It was almost noon and the next stop was ‘Kumaran Corporation’- a ramshackle of a scrap shop, whose proprietor Kumaran- a semiliterate rustic, was a compulsive day-dreamer , who referred to himself as Chairman and was generous enough to address those around him in grandiose terms too.

click for part 2 and part 3


[1] Paper….Old-paper

[2] Karuupu is the name of the colour Black in Tamil.

[3] Boni- first sale.

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5 Responses

  1. […] Continued from Part 1  […]

  2. […] LIFE OF A HAWKER-part 3 Filed under: SHORT STORIES — Ramasswamy V @ 12:50 am click for Part 1, Part […]

  3. […] A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A HAWKER-part 2 Filed under: SHORT STORIES — Ramasswamy V @ 12:39 am click here for Part 1 […]

  4. […] A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A HAWKER-part 2 Filed under: Uncategorized — Ramasswamy V @ 12:37 am click here for Part 1 […]

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