My Friendly Neighbourhood Paanwallah
Being the Bong that I’m, there should have been more posts regarding the biggest of the Bengali festivities – Durga Puja on my blog. But I find myself posting more on Diwali or Deepawali (the latter sounds better). Perhaps it had to do with the Delhi Durga Puja celebrations not living upto my expectations. I had heard a lot about the Bong-hub CR Park Pujas, but this year on my maiden visit there I felt a trifle let down. Maybe Calcutta might not even content my heart’s desires. And they say that Delhiwallahs celebrate the festival of lights the loudest.

Last night after the mandatory round of cards (no money involved), when the rumbling of hunger sounded louder than the bang of crackers, me and a friend went food hunting. The Diwali special stalls selling overpriced but taste-deficient ‘delicacies’ were the only option that late into the night. To satisfy our gustatory organs – the paan – came to the rescue.

Late into the night the paanwallah, seemingly oblivious of the celebrations around him continued with what he does all through the year – earning his daily bread. When I asked him if I could take a photograph of him, the joy and delight on his face was clearly visible. I showed him the preview of the photographs taken and he was pleased. He only enquired about the price of my camera. And rewarded us with extra-special paan (specially packed in a box borrowed from the neighbouring sweet shop) at no extra cost.

He made my Diwali. What about his and many others who toil 365 days, because they have no other option? The only perceptible difference which festivals bring to their lives is a little more in earnings – the basic need.

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