Monday, June 13, 2011

Cherishing those old pals

Loyalty and commitment sometimes come from the most unexpected of relationships and I am not talking about dogs here. One of my friends has a barber to whom he has stuck to for more than last 10 years. Imagine, the same person cutting your hair after every 3 months, messaging your face and being an eye-witness to the frequency you are getting bald and developing wrinkles. But, still his love, dedication and commitment to you remains unmoved. He would still caress your balding scalp with the same pleasure as perhaps he did, when you went to him for the first time, more than 10 years back, not knowing that he would become one of your longest serving partners. Now that is what I call 'true love'. Something that binds hearts together, a strong, wordless, persistent, bilateral relationship! My friend did not agree to this sentiment, but I am sure he would never even dare to replace that barber with anyone else. That too when that dude charges more than the market price and doesn’t even have a shop! Yeah! You take appointment from him and he tells you at what saloon he would be found on that day. (However, I feel that he sits under some tree and my friend finds it cheap to disclose the fact hence this appointment story).

Aren't there certain types of professionals we love to stick to once we have found the 'right ones' for ourselves. I am sure, we all have some halwaii (primarily jaleibi and samose wala), whose memories date back to our childhood. The smell of whose samose and sweetness of whose jalebi just refuse to leave our memory even if we have relished these dishes in the most poshest of places. Like my maternal grandmother is very loyal towards an achaar wala in Kanpur and especially the garlic variants of pickles he prepares. They are buying pickles from that person even before my mom was born. Similarly, one my aunts never forgets to buy 'daalmoth', whenever she goes to Farrukhabad or someone comes from there. It is a kind of an inevitable purchase in their family if anyone has made a move from here to there. And the list would remain incomplete if I do not mention the Jyoti Dosa Corner, opposite my TOI office in Kanpur. I still long for that masala dosa like anything. Even while being at a city that has the capacity to serve you more than 100 varieties of Dosa, nothing matches the drool that used to come as the order plate overloaded with that masala dosa reached our table.

And why only eating joints, there are other professionals as well, who have carved such a loyal place in your hearts and have become so indispensable only because of their reasonable, economical and quality work. Eg. All the ladies in our locality religiously go to one single tailor, Deepika wala, as we call him. Reason is of course, the reliable and good work that he does and that too without charging anywhere even close to what is charged at these new-age boutiques. The Master there, who is also the owner of the shop, is working for last 30-35 years and has measured body sizes of generations of the same family. Now his shop has expanded and there are many more people working there, but the trust factor remains unchanged. Same applies to the maid that comes to our locality, Kamla. When we shifted there 12 years back, every one referred to Kamla, there was no one else actually. She at that time was working in nearly a dozen houses. Now, so many houses have popped up in here and there and still Kamla enjoys the monopoly, except of the families who have full time servants. Now Kamla has three daughters to support her and also two sons, in case, if someone has some urgent to be bought from the market, her sons come as rescue. People get pissed off with her, but no one changes her. She has become an intrinsic part of every house-hold, she knows about everyone's problem and loves to talk about them. She comes usually as per her own convenience, but comes everyday for sure. Definitely, she is not the best, but then she is reliable and perhaps we are not always seeking perfection in our domestic help. We look more for trust and she has earned loads and loads of it. So is the case with our road-side cobbler. However, he doesn’t sit there now, but the place is still called mochi wala chauraha, as if he was a freedom-fighter or something. He has stitched so many of our footwear taken from bathroom sleepers; school-shoes, which used to get torn every quarter to the branded sandals. He mended each of those works with such ease and art; and nothing of that work ever costed more than Rs. 15!

The memoir would remain so incomplete without mentioning about Hari-Ram Chat wala, near the place my parents live, whom I visit most certainly every time I go home. He doesn't give outstanding gol-gappe, but whatever he gives is definitely so much pleasurable than any other place in the world. In so many years, the flavour of his pani-puri has changed a lot and there is hardly any similarity between the two-periods, but still the guy who collects money hasn't changed and so is the photo of Lord Shiva's family hanging on the wall right beside the Quartz clock. Just standing there makes my mouth water, as if the old taste comes back in that new setting. The taste of not only gol-gappa, but also of the time when you used to get 4 of them for just 2 bucks and when gol-gappe used to be considered 'treat' among friends. I think the reason I relish all these places and people so much has less to do with what they offer me now, but more with what all they have offered me in past; something that could not be reiterated and hence has become a treasure of its own.