I visited a market of a different kind last week. Several rows of boats neatly anchored alongside a pier with hawkers assigned a boat each to sell their wares. While curious buyers made their way through the narrow pier to reach the boat-shop of their choice, the sellers anxiously waited for people to come and make purchases. Floating Market at Patuli is an alternate arrangement provided by KMDA at Kolkata to support the hawkers. While many foreign countries have had such successful ventures, in Kolkata this is still a concept that is just picking up.
I wandered around exploring the market, when my eyes fell on an old rice seller. Wearing an old, cotton kurta and a white dhoti that matched with his long white beard, he looked composed and relaxed. For accessories, apart from his spectacles, he also had a cap on his head adding a touch of cool! The same also suggested that maybe old, but he is still full of life! I knew I had to speak with him. 🙂
My friend and me went to him, made ourselves comfortable near the entrance of the boat, close to where he sat. What unfolded was a forty minute long heartening chat covering interesting facts about the floating market, his life’s experiences and lessons on living life to the fullest!
Mahabir sells rice by kgs and several other such day to day necessities from his boat since 2018. Prior to this, he sold ration on the street nearby. As we spoke, the boat rocked from side to side, the noise of the shoppers around filled up the air. Some haggled with the sellers while the younger crowd took to clicking selfies.
Mahabir told us that not many come here to buy, they come to tour the market. My business flourished on the street. This is a novel concept but so far, it has not helped me much.
I wondered if he worked at this age out of choice or was it a necessity? When he told us that his sons work and take care of him, I got my answer. A self-made man of integrity and ambitions, to come and work everyday at this age was certainly a choice that he had made.
Years ago, Mahabir worked not only as a hawker but he was also a fine chauffeur who worked for a span of more than 50 years for a district judge. In the mornings, he played the role of a chauffeur and in the evenings, you could find him at his rice shop.
Having seen decades of a growing, developing city, he had many stories to share, I didn’t even realize where 40 minutes had passed. There was a certain vibe about him that made me completely comfortable to speak with him. He reminded me of my grandpa, the one who we call bapuji. They are of about the same age and have stories of surviving against all odds. I wonder what would their conversations be like. 🙂
I was suprised when he told me that he has been working since 1982! My immediate reaction was – ‘Dadu, I was not even born then!!’ he returned an adorable toothless smile.
Animated and excited to have the conversations, we had lots to talk about. He told me how he loved his task of driving a white ambassador around the city for his master. As he reminisced his good old days of living a life that he loved, a glow appeared on his face that broke into a heartening smile. 🙂
Mahabir’s only wish is to see his two sons and one daughter happy and successful. He says, ‘I did not study but I want my children to be educated. I want to leave behind wealth for them, after all I’m their father, the head of the family.’
The lights twinkled, the water was calm and still; mirroring much of the man’s disposition. Calm and composed with eyes that sparkled with many aspirations.
I took home with me that day, a memory that i’ll treasure for long.
(Many of the pictures that you’re seeing here are clicked by my dear friend Tanvi)
The name of the person has been changed due to personal reasons.