With bright smiles plastered across their face, a clan of college students flock around him like bees on a honey comb. His face is flushed with the orders that he is bombarded with on a serene Wednesday evening. Little puffed semolina balls residing in a colossal cardboard cone has its share of aesthetics. These dough balls are hollow as if it’s complete only after it’s unison with the mashed potatoes and spices; an Irish moss green tamarind water to optimise the exquisiteness. What power does this crunchy wonder hold that elevates the customer’s mood is indeed marvelling.
A spruced up cooperate worker steps out from his car and joins the flock to treat his taste buds. He carefully slips his 500 rupee note from his wallet and hands it over to the pani puri wallah who breaks into fits of laughter, “Arrey, what makes you think I can give you change?” . More than the adequate spicing and perfectly shaped spheres, it is his charisma that perhaps draws the customers. He is curious to listen to their feedbacks and secretly urges them to bring in their friends to his shop too. His mastery of dipping the gol gappas in the tamarind mix and placing them on paper plates without spilling them is a treat to watch. It is an absolute piece of art of handing over at least 50 places in two hours without a break. His hands move swiftly as in a rhythmic fashion as he finishes each cycle.
On the next day, he shifts his place 100 metres away from his previous one closer in vicinity to Christ University back gate. Amidst mumbling of making evening food choices, pani puri invariably comes up and they end up settling for it. It’s the most affordable and soothing culinary they could revel upon after a tiring day. His share of customers narrow down after another pani puri wallah shop sprung up opposite to where he was positioned. There was no tinge of animosity amongst them which is quite contrary to how a business competition works. Instead of miffing at his counterpart, he chose to exchange light smiles as if he acknowledges his effort and sees a sense of collectiveness in him. Next day was a Saturday which meant more customers looking ways to retrieve them from the monotonous week. Unfortunately, the first drizzles of rain convinced him that it is going to be different from the rest of the week. He rushes to shelter in front of a super market with his mobile stall and is shooed away by the owner as the rain subsided. It was difficult to locate him the next day.
Hygiene is a torturing thought for pani puri adorers. Where does the water come from is perhaps one question that continues to run along the mind of everyone who drops by to delve into these crunchy flavours. Interestingly enough, Kailash gol gappe walle uses mineral water and has embraced latest hygienic methods which could be the reason why he continues to draw customers. One of the concerned customers enquired about the source of the water to which he responds, “ Sahab, I buy a big can of mineral water and store it at home.” Even though the customer is not entirely convinced, it doesn’t stop him from sinking into the flavours of these spicy dough balls.
On one particular day, he positioned his stall in front of the Christ Junior school in S.G.Palya at around 3.00 in the evening. After school, children raced to him to tantalise their taste buds with the plethora of spices. Some pester their mothers to get them another round of Gol Gappe; their tiny mouths struggling but carefully agreeing to the rule of taking in the dough ball all at once. It is also worthy to note that a pani puri shop requires comparatively less capital and is an excellent way to start off a business in the busy streets of Bangalore where the cravings never end. To substantiate the stigma of pani pur wallahs migrating from the Hindi belt, Kailash Gol Gappe wallah was no different as he converses in Hindi to his customers.
On the final day, he is joined by a 4 year old girl who I later constructed to be his daughter. Dressed up in a pale green laced frock, she stuck around her father and nudged him to buy her something. He mumbled something under his breath and she sood there disappointed. The customers stop to acknowledge her charm as they widen their lips with a grin. She toys with the pot of pani until her father instructs her to stay away from it. As the day concludes, her face is vibrant and exhilarated as though she would receive what she was promised to by her father at the break of the day.
Perhaps he has migrated from the Northern belt to the fast paced streets of Bangalore for better opportunities and accommodation. They see the promise these cities harbour that no village can substitute. Even though his work hours are strenuously long with little earning at the end of the day, Kailash gol gappe wallah would pitch his stall after carefully examining the potential hot spots which could fetch him more customers. . His day starts as early as 5.00 in the morning on days when he has to buy the potatoes, flour, peas and tamarind from the market. The day could leave him with sore legs after long hours of standing and how the first spells of rain could turn tables for him, points to how daunting this job is which demands determination and perseverance The earnings are just enough to make ends meet and make sure there is enough food on his family’s plate. As the evening darkens, he welcomes office go-oers whose face lights up on spotting a pani puri wallah.
Does he plan to make the Bangalore city his home?
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