My better half (if given the liberty I would rather refer her as my worst half) would love Golgappas if she ever eats them. It is what I strongly feel about.

I wish to see her twisted face with her eyes overflowing with tears, which might befool one of being an outburst of emotion, with Golgappa balls getting down her throats. But now I have lost all hopes for such an event to happen. Her love for hot and spicy food has cornered me to loo for days together (of course at frequent interval)at times and my revengeful instinct will be contented if at least once I find her in tears.

By now, however, she puckers her lips in disgust at the sight of the bevy of ladies around a wayside Golgappa hawker. What she dislikes is not the Golgappa or its spicy semi-liquid stuffing but the way the hawker dips his bare dirty (in her opinion) hand in the pitcher full of liquid stuffing to fill the Golgappa balls. She finds it more abominable when he takes his bare hand up to his elbow all the way down into the mixture in order to stir it. She shivers as if it is her throat and not the pitcher that the hawker’s hand finds its way in.

"All the dirty coating of his hand is washed down in the mixture, isn’t it? She confides to me. I simply giggle as I dare not agree or disagree with her. She is a double-edged dagger.

"Don’t you worry. I have heard about a mall, something like Big Bazaar, opened recently in the town which has a machine to make Golgappa. They have ultimate hygienic way to serve you with their edible items. Neat and clean," I try to assure her.

"Are you talking about those cheats where we had to throw all eight Samosa into the dustbin once?" she thundered, "And do you remember how costly they were?

"No, I will rather die without tasting a Golgappa but never ever enter such malls," she speaks with finality.

I meekly submit that our government, with a view to fighting the price rise, is going to allow international shops to be opened throughout the country and they would sell the household items including Golgappa, at very cheap rates and of course without dipping their bare dirty hands. The international standard of hygiene maintained in serving the edibles in these malls will be something that the Indian hawkers will have to compete with.  

"Something like the cooking gas that the government is selling by subsidizing it by one hand and taxing it by the other with more than the subsidy itself that it shouts to have given," she mocks with indignation.

I get astounded at her general knowledge.

"I will buy daily household articles from local Kirana stores, come what may," she adds further.

"But they say that these small shop keepers will not at all stand in the price competition with the foreign traders and will ultimately shut down," I exhibit my anxiety in the least words possible.

"Hey! Are you kidding?" She looks at me in bewilderment.

"Well, I don’t know for sure, but they say like this," I try to escape her darting look.

"Oh! No. What will happen to Gurja?

She shows her concern for Gurja who happens to be our local grocer. Gurja has been the yeoman’s hand for many of us during many economical hardships.

I remember when my father had passed away, I was almost broke. I ran from pillar to post for money, right from the public banks to private lenders, but as goes the adage ‘adversity never comes alone’, all the gates were closed on my face. I was sitting dejected when I saw him coming with the same familiar smile and sat beside me with a loud thump. I needed more than a lakh rupee for the Shradh then.

"Ki bhel (what happened)?" he asked smiling.

I smiled in reply and added with peeve, "As if you don’t know, isn’t it?"

"Paisa bina kekro Kaam rukal haiye (Is anyone’s work pending for want of money)?

Ahan list banau (you make the list- meaning the list of items required for performing the Shradh)," he said with such an ease that made me spring up.

And he managed everything from salt to sugar and all worth Rs. 180000/- required for the purpose against which my initial payment to him was just Rs. 1200/-.

I wondered if the Wal-Mart or the like of him will ever come to rescue me from such a situation.

They say he charges exorbitantly for the goods. I had the same feeling initially and would maintain considerable distance from him. I would never ask him anything on credit thinking that he was a usurper and all that I would intend to save for my heydays would find its way into his coffer and that, his was a vicious circle.

But all my apprehensions were dispelled when he asked me to pay the amount in installments and also at my ease and comfort.

I got out of my pensive state of mind at the rebuke of my wife.

"You didn’t say anything about Gurja? Don’t you remember how he helped our uncle Lalu at the time of marriage of his daughter? How callous you are, "she whimpered and continued, "The groom had refused to sit with the bride until he was given the motorbike as promised. Nothing could coax him. No prayer of Lalu uncle could melt him. He was adamant."

And then Gurja shouted, "What are you talking? Do you want the bike right now?"

Everybody was stunned and some of us got little annoyed too as we thought this would rather aggravate the matter further but Gurja appeared confident. We tried to mediate but, as fear had it, the bride ran out leaving everyone speechless.

Gurja ran out and when he came back, he was on a brand new Rajdoot.

"Here it is. If the bride needs a bike so be it, but he cannot go away without marrying our daughter. Paisa is the dirt of hand but our prestige, the prestige of our village, is uppermost," he mesmerized the whole crowd with his forthrightness and bold decision.

We learnt later that Gurja had bought the bike on that very day for his own son-in-law.

"Have you forgotten his help when your father died," her train of thought had lost its break.

"No dear, how can I forget that. But I am not worried about him. I am rather worried about us people for whom Gurja comes as an angel at times," I said.
Will the big tycoons and, for that matter even our government, ever be able to understand why we are so deeply attached with Gurja like businessmen, our neighborhood grocer?