It was 7 in the evening. Just like every day, my mother was standing at the gate and was waiting for Puri uncle. Puri uncle, the pani puri hawker who used to roam around the streets of our locality to sell delicious pani puri.
Everyone in the neighbourhood liked his mouth-watering sweet-sour puri. Full-blown puri served with boiled aaloo, chhole, and jeera-ajwain pani which looks relishing. Even the fragrance of its making was beguiling.
The moment kids hear his handbell, they rush to greet him. Puri uncle was so generous that he used to serve one puri each to kids without having any money in return. Everyone in our locality used to wait for the enchanting sound of his handbell. Not only kids, but ladies also enjoy his puri as they get gossip time to discuss Sharma ji and Verma ji.
Sunday is always the break day for Puri uncle as he used to visit the main market to collect commodities.
It was Saturday. My mother was busy in the kitchen as some guests were going to arrive on Sunday. The moment she heard Puri uncle bell, she cringed me to go out and make some extra puri for the Sunday party.
I went downstairs to get. A cacophony of kids’ shout was making me cranky. I saw Puri uncle after so long. He has grown old and wrinkles on his face were noticeable. He was happy that day.
He said that from Monday he will not roam around the streets as his son has bought him a shop. Now he will sit like Manager and his son and servants will serve the Puri. It was good to learn this as he has grown old, and certainly, it would have been difficult for him to carry paraphernalia on his head and roam around.
Now there was no sound of his handbell, or gossip time of ladies, or shout of kids. Puri uncle would be busy managing his shop. Everyone in my neighbourhood was happy for him as he was more like a member of our society.
Just a month passed, tan tan tan….., I tried to recollect.
Yes, it is sound of Puri uncle.
Is he back?
Astonishingly, before my mom, I went to greet him. I saw him in despair as if he was defeated in a war. He was almost crying. Without his uttering a single word, I perceived his son would not be allowing him to manage his shop.
His happiness and dreams were crushed in a single month. He was looking upset and demented. He was busy setting his stall and was not talking to anyone. Sharma aunty started reprimanding his son, but Puri uncle was numbed and obliviously serving puris.
Now the chirpy Puri uncle has to again roam around the streets and has no dream left.