The Egg-seller & other stories

When I was a child, and this I write from honest memory, my world was much smaller. Not that now, I live in a larger world. My world remains the same size, or perhaps, it has even shrunk to convenience me. But I know that there is something huger beyond my sight. Something vast and intractable. As a child, I had no idea.

I walked a few hundred meters to my aunt's place where my school bus picked me up. Spent the whole entire day at school, picking which battles to fight, and which to let go. Was dropped off exactly where I had been picked up. I stayed at the aunt's till my mother got back from work. In the evening, I sure ate some noodles and watched some cartoons. Did my homework and went to bed. I remember the orange grey light that filled the rooms. The papaya trees that grew just outside the window, beside the ones laden with drumstick, always tempted me to stretch my hand out and pluck one. We lived on the first floor. There was a thorny tree full of sweet berries just outside my parents' bedroom. I could stand on the bed and clutch a fistful of berries.

But the egg-seller broke the routine. I am not saying, there were no other sellers. There was the little girl, my age then, selling balloons and flutes and loudly playing them in the streets. There were mobile snack sellers in the afternoons, candyfloss, fruit cakes, ice-creams. There was a quiet grocery store man to whom I was sent with money to buy noodles.

On my trips to the grocery store, I noticed the egg seller next door. He sat in a cabin with an asbestos roof, with a face that gave away nothing. He looked neither happy, nor sad, neither content, nor dissatisfied, neither angry nor impatient. He looked like nothing. Just a middle aged man who sat at the edge of his cabin selling eggs in paper pouches to whoever came by. People said he was a wholesaler and had bought much land and property just by selling eggs. Perhaps, they were just stories, we would never know now, would we.

But what attracted me was the pungent smell of boiled eggs, emanating from his shop every evening. He had a helper of his own, who chopped onions and chillies back stage. The egg-seller neatly pealed the boiled eggs and split them into two with a thread strung out. Then he would place the egg on a small piece cut out of newspaper, sprinkle the onions and chillies and most importantly black salt. I think the black salt was the ingredient that made the customers come back.

Whenever I had extra money, I would go there and chomp a couple of eggs. Whenever guests came to our place and asked me to show them around, I took them to the egg seller. I would take my new acquaintances and introduce them to the egg-seller. His cabin became the cynosure of my tiny little word. The center of everything. 

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