This article belongs to Sweet Grace column.
Call it a good or bad or an undesirable habit. But I can't give up the practice of stopping someone on a public road and talking with him. "An instant friendship maker" kind of strategy.
Most of them reciprocate my friendly gestures. But there are many non-cooperative guys too. Quite a number have snubbed me and told me to get lost and fast. And some have been very diplomatic saying, "Is it? How great? But I am in a hurry brother. See you some other time." One or two would say, "All right, walk with me up to that post office. OK? " The darned post office arrives even before I ask for their name and profession.
The school boys are more considerate. They do lend their ears and heart but in a very selfish way. A majority would address me ‘grandpa' after every 4 or 5 words and sit by my side. But then what they talk about is their own burning problems such as, more pocket money and less home work in school. "Being senior and wise, could I do something about it…. ?" One boy, who probably was in his 10th standard and more knowledgeable, suggested that I get a resolution moved in the State Assembly to lay down a minimum amount of pocket money from Std IV onwards; Girls, only two thirds of that amount! "Teachers must be ordered, to give homework only once a week and such that needs only 20 minutes of answering.…"
Then something very heartwarming happened one fine morning. "Hullo there!" he greeted me first. I also greeted him, "Hullo there …" His captivating broad smile caught me wholesale.
After a little pow-wow, I learnt that he was a professor of Economics, still in service. He appeared to be a conversationalist type of person. "It must be thrilling to teach the younger generation. They are a curious lot these days, aren't they" I remarked to bring him to my wavelength.
"Oh no, you are wrong there. They ask too many questions?"
"That's an excellent thing, isn't it?"
"Wrong again. The college boys nowadays., instead of asking serious questions, they question all the answers in Economics. See what I mean?"
The professor scratched his head trying to recollect something. "Ah, I got it. My wife had asked me to buy some vegetable. See you.." And he was off leaving me all alone. He is a typical absent minded professor.
My next client was an old lady. She didn't mind floating a dialogue with a man about her own age. "Well, well, Mrs. Subramaniam. Of course I would be of some help to you. Tell me what's the problem?
It is about my grand daughter, 17 years. She has too many boy friends.
"You want me to cut that number into half or one third or something?" I asked butting into her thoughts.
"No, no," she cried out. "She brings them all to the house one at a time. And her parents don't seem to mind it at all. It's very bad, isn't it? During our earlier days, did we do a thing like that?"
"No," I agreed. "So, what do you want me to do…"
She sized me up like she was assessing my suitability for her job. "Sorry. You won't be able to. You are too soft a man for it. See you. Bye." and she was off.
A week later, the man I had accosted invited me for tea that evening in his
house which was not far from mine.
Another benevolent customer asked to see the newspaper I was reading.. "Oh
"Yes." And then we walked almost hand in hand for the next half a kilo meter. Then he wished me ‘good day'. It was only some half an hour later I realized that he had taken away my morning newspaper with him.
But all the above is nothing compared to what happened a week back. Instead of me, the other man greeted me warmly and most familiarly "We met here at the same spot some two months back, remember?"
I couldn't remember a thing. Anyway, I could have. Friendship is friendship whether recent or old. We talked about weather and the political situation in our country in general and our own city in particular. Then he threw a bomb shell. "Brother, on my way here, I had been pick-pocketted. I don't know how my purse had vanished."
"Oh, that is very bad," I had agreed most sympathetically. "Did you have a
lot of money in it?"
"Not much. Twenty rupees only. My daughter-in-law had asked me to buy 2 CDs after my morning walk, you see? How could I go and tell her that I had lost the money?"
"Could you kindly lend me Rs 20 brother? I shall return it tomorrow. Positively tomorrow?"
That great ‘tomorrow' is still coming.
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