Mohammed has a glint in his eyes which betrays a faint hope when he scans his prospective customers. If you look closely, the colours of the scarves reflect in his countenance. In essence, his heart and soul is his small 4×4 tenement at Bertram Street, a stone’s throw away from New Market.
As I caressed the smooth scarves lying around in neat rows, I wanted to go behind the scenes and prod him on his aspirations and inspirations.
Sharing a room with 12 other hawkers, he has designed for himself a life of routine tasks and occasional merrymaking. Their genesis lies in the belly of New Market, their home for the greater part of the day.
Standing tall and proud, years of experience had turned him into an astute businessman with skills that could take the budding B-school interns by surprise. 30+ years of experience seemed to have taught him the skills of the trade quite well.
As I turned towards my Mom to share a word, he asked – ‘Kya thi aaiva cho tame?’ (Where have you come from?) taken by surprise I asked, where did he learn to speak such good Gujarati from? “I was a trader in Gujarat for 15 yrs. before I settled in Kolkata,” he said. Learning about his proficiency in Gujarati made me a tad bit more comfortable to further converse with him.
While festive days left him with no time to even have his lunch it was on the not so happening days that he took breaks to listen to music or join his pals for some light-hearted chat.
Mohammed seemed to draw inspiration from his scarves. Soaking in everyday a colour at a time, akin to his scarves. Some days were blue and lazy, others were fiery red, even a mundane green for vibrancy.
As the twilight faded in the horizon dimming the glow of the tenement, a different kind of sparkle shown on his face. He told me to wrap up my notes for he wanted to head home to welcome his wife and kids who were visiting him that evening!
Got a memory with a hawker to share? I’d love to hear! 🙂