Friday, 21 October 2011

A little dash of Amreeka

You know what it feels like to give that usual smile to your paani-puri waala down the road, right!? Of course you do! Didn't we like totally like accommodate like this-is-what-the-next-gen-should-know kinda jazz from Family Guy and South Park? Aren't we in the world of Simi selecting and simpering over pubescent celebrity men in true cougar town shows? Haven't we often felt like Central Park was just a couple blocks down our street?
So then you know what I'm talk about, right? NO?!?

See, I thought we were doing everything the American way - where it's perfectly normal for a bus driver to greet you with a chirpy 'good morning', and for you to wave back without ever stopping to wonder if he's going to hijack the bus to molest-station.

"That happened in the late nineties, early two thousands...!!" I tchah-tchah'ed to myself all along the way. India's changed a lot since. What with FB, Twitter and the whole gamut of worldwide people on the computer screen, we sure have adapted well now, haven't we?

And so I went to the same old paani-puri waala who I'd visit regularly on my yearly sojourns to Mumbai.

With a mouthful of spicy gol guppas, an almost runny nose, and a sentence punctuated with appropriately slurp-ish sounds, he seemed pleased to have found my appreciation for his culinary skills.

"Hellooo Maydumji. Kaise ho aap? Aajkal aap dikhte hi nahi ho" he managed to mutter through his permanent smile in one uninterrupted breath.

I exchanged the usual pleasantries and made small talk, until I touched upon a seemingly personal question.
"Waise, aapka naam kya hai?" I asked, wondering if his name would reveal a little about his roots.

The habitual smile dimmed behind his glorious moustache. He focused on cracking the epicenter of the next puri with absolute concentration, and coyly revealed "Prem." 

I almost choked on the gol guppa in my mouth, and the spicy paani felt like a shot of wasabi streaming down those nostrils.
"Prem Dayal" "Prem Dayal Shukla," was repeated in quick succession which, if said with a little more panache, would've passed off as a good local impersonation of the classic 007.

Beaming ear-to-ear his annoyingly white, symmetrically toothed smile had returned to his oily face. Putting two extra puris on my plate, he casually asked me the same question.

Oops! Spurted it out in a matter-of-fact manner. How often does one go to their favourite street chaat corner with an alias identity in mind? Okay, I said it! The local paani-puri waala knows my name.

So what? It's not like he can do much with it. It is the American way. It's cool to know people on a first name basis.

So what if I now have a creepy looking picture of a 'Shukla' requesting to befriend me on Facebook!

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