November 2014


I continued to recommend the paan-shop to my friends over the next three to four days, and spent money from my pockets to prove that I was a harbinger of good fortune. But, concerned over my fast-dwindling resources, I realized that this pretense could not continue for long. I decided to stop buying "paan" from the woman for a few days. If I did not buy from her, I need not be worried about her sales.

The following morning, after brushing my teeth, I popped a cardamom into my mouth and engaged myself in my work. Hardly had 30 minutes elapsed when I heard a knock at the door and I found myself face-to-face with the paan-seller. The woman, smiling from ear to ear, held out tidy betel leaf rolls. I did not like this at all. But I could not admonish her. "You have taken all this trouble for nothing, I was about to come to your shop," I told her.

The woman thrust the "paan" rolls into my hand and said, "Since you were getting delayed, I thought I might as well as come over and give you the 'paan'. There are quite a few customers in my shop right now, but it had to be you who made the first purchase."

What could I do? I chewed the paan and gave her business a fillip by being the first customer! The worry from which I had been trying to free myself, had fastened itself to my neck like a noose. I had thought that my friends, after buying "paan" from her for a few days, would become her regular patrons and there would be no need for me to continue with the recommendations. But, perhaps, the woman prized her beauty as she prized her "paan"; my friends who went to her shop once never visited it again. One or two jolly fellows still continued to visit the shop just to a have a good laugh. Today I had to spend one-and-half rupees to maintain my credibility!

Next day I latched the door from inside. But when the paan-seller began knocking incessantly at the door and screaming her head off, I had to open it. I opened the door all the while rubbing my eyes; this was to deceive her into believing I had been asleep. Then, I had to buy a "paan" as her first customer to usher in good fortune for the day. By evening I had spent two rupees in promoting her shop. The only solution that suggested itself to me to get rid of this trouble was to change residence.

I found myself a house two miles away in an unknown locality; I picked up my belongings and quietly shifted during the night.I experienced great joy in leaving the old house; perhaps, even a convict would not have experienced greater joy upon stepping out of the prison after completing his term! I slept well that night and woke up feeling like a free full-winged bird. I smoked a cigarette leisurely, washed my face, and then began arranging my belongings. I had to find a restaurant where I could have my meals; but this was a minor matter considering the mammoth difficulty I had surmounted.

When I stepped out of my new house that morning, I experienced a great thrill - even the breeze had an intoxicating effect of freedom! All nature smiled at me! Happy with the world, I went to a nearby "paan" shop and bought myself a "paan". After finishing the "paan" I was climbing the staircase to my room when I saw my previous paan-seller bounding towards me. I cannot describe in words what I felt at that moment. The only wish uppermost in my mind then was to break my head and also her's.


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