The Old Man and his Chor

The boy walked to the crockery stall. He wandered about the stall admiring the arrangement of clay pots and ceramic crockery. It was time. He wiped the sweat of his brow lifting his stained ganji. He was aware of a dog gawking at him. He was scared. For a brief moment, he decided not to do it for a brief moment. The owner, oblivious, was busy negotiating a deal with a loud-mouthed lady. The dog dozed off. The boy stooped, picked up two clay pots and in a flash, disappeared into the crowd.

‘Somwaar Bazar’ was a weekly market, where two kgs of tomatoes could be bought for the price of one. Naturally, it was a ‘paradise’ for all women. From a pair of sandals to sandalwood, one could buy anything at a good price.

The sun rose, vendors took their spots; cleaning, erecting stalls, displaying goods, praying for good business. Somwaar Bazar was officially open. On display were fresh red tomatoes, succulent oranges, shiny steel utensils, embroidered kurtis, checked cotton shirts, elegant bangles, and many other things.

Ramji Saniyal, a sixty year old man, sold clay pots and ceramic crockery. ‘A-1 Kwalty product at good rate’ were the words written on a board besides his stall. Ramji was a wise man, well respected in the area. He never hired a helper for his stall; his fitness would shame a teenager. Monty, a street dog sat next to his stall all day. Monty was pampered throughout the market, especially by Ramji.

“Two hundred is too much uncle” said the young lady.

“Ekdum first class product Madam. If kharab, all money return, close eyes and buy.” replied Ramji, an expert at this banter.

Ramji never flinched in a bargain, he knew his product’s price and quality was the best. The old man seemed stubborn at times, but had earned it after 40 years of selling.

Monty lay down, besides Ramji’s stool. He noticed a shadow approaching the stall. It was a familiar figure, the same boy from last week. The boy ignored him and ran his hands over the clay pots.

Monty growled at him, trying to catch Ramji’s attention, it worked. The boy stooped, grabbed a pot, trying to get up lost his balance. He regained it quickly and stormed into the crowd. Monty ran after him, barking ferociously. Ramji ran after him, joined by a few angry men.

The boy ran like a stallion, speeding through the narrow lanes. He had to, one is not too lucky, when being followed by a ferocious dog and 7 angry men. Monty pounced on him, but the boy was quick. Shouts of “Pakdo…Pakdo…chor…chor” resonated through the air, but the onlookers stood still, enjoying the live chase.

They headed towards the rail tracks. The boy was in the lead followed by Monty. Ramji and the six angry men found it hard to keep pace. They ran after him, jumping and banging into some people. The crowded lanes were not best suited for a ‘swift-high-on-action’ chase sequence.

The boy jumped over a divider, the convoy had reached the rail-tracks now.

It was noon, sharp stones on the track were hot, they hurt the boy’s bare legs, but he couldn’t afford slowing. Finally, he jumped off the tracks, ran into a small hut. His parents were out to work, he was on his own now. He closed the door in an attempt to hide. He was naïve.

“Baahar nikal haraami, itni si umar mai chori karega, maar maar ke laal kar dunga, nikal baahar” yelled Ramji.

With a yelling Ramji, a barking dog and the six angry men, the boy could not gather the courage to come out. He was in tears. He wished he had never done that.

“Rone-dhone se kuch nai honewala, baahar nikal varna police ko bulaunga”. The last threat hit the boy, “Nahi, nahi, mai ata huu, bus uss kutte ko pakad ke rakho.”

One of the six angry men took charge of the angry dog.

The boy reached below a charpoy, picking the two pots. He opened the door, handing over the pots to Ramji.

Ramji was stunned at the sight. Two pots, beautifully decorated in bright colors, golden glitter, shiny beads, shells and tiny red bindis. His eyes were shining, looking at the work of art.

“Aapse hi churaye thhey, agar inhe aise bechoge toh zyada paise milenge” said the boy.

Ramji smiled at the boy, he ran his fingers through the boy’s moist hair, “Kaam karega mere saath, sara samaan laake dunga. Profit 50-50”

The boy broke into a smile and nodded.

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