Monday, May 19, 2008

Meat Shop Boy

Visiting a meat shop at noon is a privilege in certain ways, especially if the temperature is roasting; the shop is empty and you don’t have to stand in queue. The only distraction, call it entertainment depending on your taste, you can possibly discern on such occasions, being the sequence of Hindi film songs relayed through FM Radio, or the flapping of custom manufactured ceiling fan fitted to suite the 8x16x10 feet space, chances are that you can put the lean-period-in-charge of the shop, into humor.
Prices are rising, the Government seem to do nothing more than, or just about the same thing a common man is doing - speculating. “Inflation is a …. phenomenon.. expected to come down by… rise and fall by some margins is a natural….The economy is experiencing …the previous Government…”, etc. etc. and the person on whose office the fate of millions of poor people hangs precarious, would repeat the standard concluding line – “The Government is doing whatever it can to…” . The next thing he would do is to drown slew of questions in the widening gulf between him, who can’t wait to disappear and the waiting media.
I used to wonder as to whether rustic retailers like in a meat shop have any idea on why there is price rise. The last time I bought chicken meat, I had to pay Rupees 80/- for one kilogram. That was hardly one month back.
On May 15, 2008, I had to visit a meat shop again. The sun brightly burning overhead showed no mercy and it took me some seconds for my eyes to get accustomed to the relatively darker room of the shop. I had expected a rise in price of commodities chicken including. But I was somehow surprised when the boy quoted Rupees 120/- (or is it Rupees 140/-). In the absence of other customers, I tried to engage the boy in humor. While he was packing the commodity I started asking as to why prices of meat increased. He showed no interest as he said, ‘kimat bhargaya sahaab (prices have increased)’ which was not even answering my question, only repeating the fact I have presented. I decided that it would be interesting to grill him into making some comments, based on his observation.
I drew his attention as he handed over the meat in black polythene bag.
‘Dekho’ I held out Rupees 120/- with my left had as I lift the packet. Obediently he cast a glance at the currency notes I gave him, and as he literally received the notes. As I continued with my typical unrefined Hindi, ‘aapne kaha ki kimat bhargaya, hena (right)?’, he became aware of my approaches.
‘Han ji’
Instead of leaving the shop, I continued my conversation, ‘Koi idea hai ki yeh kimat bhara kyon he (any idea as to why this happen)?’. At this he started to smile, but I could sense that he pricked his brain for a more responsible and dignified answer. But he failed to come up with an answer.
‘Arre Sahab! chordo yaar (just leave it man)! wo lok supply karta haina (you know those people who supply chickens)-’, and I interrupted him mid way ‘haha bataiye ki woh lok kya karta hai (what do they do)?’
He released ripples of laughter carelessly as he said, ‘wolok zyada leta hai(they charge more) bahahash (that’s all)’
‘Toh (so)?’ I still tried to extract a final punch.
‘Toh hum bhi leta hai zyada (and we also take more) or kya (what else)’
‘Wah! Wah! kya bat hai (Bravo! you done it)’