The woman was overjoyed when she saw me - her joy was no less than the joy of a washer-man who has found his lost donkey. You can, of course, well understand my frightened state by imagining what must be going on in the donkey's mind.
"Fie, sir! Fie! You changed residence in such a hurry that no one even got an inkling. There are quite a few good vacant houses in the locality. How was I to know that the house where you lived was not to your liking! There is a big vacant house right behind my shop. I will not allow you to stay here; I will carry you away. How much rent do you pay here?" the woman directed this torrent even before she had reached me.
"Ten rupees," I replied with a woebegone expression on my face.
Actually, the rent agreed upon was twenty rupees; one does not get even a burial space for ten rupees! But I thought if I lied to the paan-seller and told her I paid mere ten rupees she would not be able to find me a cheaper house in the old locality. But the strategy failed; she was not the least nonplussed.
"Ten rupees! You pay ten rupees for this small room! You have to pay a rent of only eight rupees for the house I am talking about; if you don't like the place, you may leave any time. Come along, I have brought the keys of the house along with me. I will show you the house directly."
"I have changed residence only today, how can I leave immediately?" I asked. "Besides, I have made an advance payment for the rent."
Smiling coyly the woman said, "Oh, you have paid only ten rupees. That's a small amount for you. But if you don't come back, my business will suffer and I will be ruined. You have brought me loads and loads of good luck; whenever I sell the first "paan" of the day to you I am assured of good business throughout the day! If you don't come, I will move my shop here!"
I was disheartened. What if the woman really moved her shop! I wanted to give her a tongue-lashing but the tongue refused to be so unkind. I made one last ditch effort, "I lead a very unpredictable life; I cannot say for sure how long I will remain at one place, I can be transferred at a moment's notice."
"But you have not been transferred yet."
"Life is uncertain."
"Then, I will come here every day and bring a 'paan' for you."
"You will walk such a long distance every day?"
"It is hardly two miles. I have to sell you the first 'paan' of the day under any circumstances. By the way, here is your 'paan', please accept it as the first customer."
I accepted the "paan", paid her for it, and went and lay on the charpoy feeling miserable.
I have been trying to think of ways to get out of this troublesome situation but my brain refuses to function. I can see no escape. I wish to live a peaceful life, but, then, I don't wish to be unkind to anyone. I will forever remain indebted to any person who can save me from this hopeless plight.