Twenty-five

The 5 feet gate clattered open. The mud road was in fury with the searing sunlight. I began walking, past the thick trees, short bushes, lagging insects and reverberating flies. And climbed up and down the rising road to another straight path, leaped over a passing stream and rambled a few more steps ahead, to the string of houses and random shops. Minus houses were a tailor shop, a mosque and a square sized grocery shop. This grocery shop had been located in the middle of the area when my grandfather was doing just fine with his health. He would sit on the wooden bench just outside the pocket sized shop, under it’s shed, and talk to Ibrahim, the shopkeeper who I believed was a good friend of my grandfather. Every evening before leaving the shop, he’d ask Ibrahim for two small parcel of masala groundnuts and toss Rs 2 coin on the nickel lid of one of the boxes in the row above the wooden case. Ibrahim would pour handful of nuts and wrap them with piece of paper and thread it around. And hand over it to Granpa. Who in turn gave them to us at home.
So now after a decade or so, the shop has been shifted metres away from where it was earlier. Ibrahim now has white hairs here and there but he managed to look just as young as he was when my grandfather would visit him. His new shop wasn’t any bigger compared to the older one and hadn’t changed much in terms of the arrangements either.
‘Washing soap’ I said when he turned at my side after sending his previous customer.
‘Which one, miss?’
‘Any. Have you got ‘OK’ bar?’
‘Yes I have’ he turned, returned and placed the soap bar on the nickel lid of one of the glass boxes in the front row above the same wooden case.
While on a return walk back home, I looked down at the Maggie packets with the ‘OK’ bar’ dangling in the plastic cover. I was amazed as much as I was when I spotted the Maggie amid cheap Candy’s and nuts at Ibrahim’s.
I wanted to sit on the same bench my grandfather had, which was still on the left side of his shop under it’s shed. I wanted to pass my sun soaked mid morning hours there, sitting and watching people arrive and depart, Ibrahim exchange words with them and then with me. But mom wouldn’t let me. ‘They’re Muslim and you’re girl’ she’d say. At times like this I envied my brother as much as possible who gained more freedom than I did.

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