The Potato Man
He looked weary, and needed rest. He was panting after walking for almost four miles. The roads zig zagged to smally tiny villages. He had to come to the district headquarters, as it was market day. With him were a sack of potatoes. This he did every week, but once in a month he travelled to Shillong by a local bus. For the last two months he was not going, there was some problem or the other. Once the crop was not ready and on another occasion there was a bandh in Shillong. He did not understand what it meant, all he could say that it derailed his financial position.
A little boy looked at him and said: ''Aloo?''. He replied in the affirmative. The boy ran away to continue with his kite flying. What is there to be afraid of potatoes he thought.
He remembered the days when he was a child. Every morning he would get up early to help his mother or father in the field. Sometimes his mother would accompany him, sometimes his elder brother. When it rained during the monsoons, the field was a slush. They cultivated rice, vegetables and potatoes.
But he now sold only potatoes. There is a story associated with it. Once when the crops were dessicated because of less rains, he saw a very small variety of potatoes lying nearby in the fields. ''Small potatoes are tasty'' someone said. ''They go well with curry and dal''. He found that this brand had an unique taste, slightly sweet, but would almost melt in the mouth. It could make good vegetable curry, if you combined it with some leafy or meaty vegetables. It would be potatoes he would sell, he thought.
Two more miles to go. The mind was still in a flash back mode. After his father died he concentrated on selling potatoes. People knew him as the ''Aloo Man''. Some would take that infinitesimal variety and keep it in their houses as a souvenir. Foolish people he thought, this feeds mouths, does not water them.
He walked faster. It was amost 12.30 the haat would end by two thirty or so.
There was still a mile or two to walk. Even the sack looked tired. Don't worry he told the sack (and the potatoes), you will be sold, eaten, and I will get some money out of you. You feed people and I feed myself because of you. Ah there he could see the village, tiny dots, houses lined in a horizon. The tinned roofs of the house glistened in the sun. Potatoes cannot melt. They are small, rounded but strong. He heaved his sack once more to complete the final round.
There was a deafening sound. Two people were running past him. Catch him, catch the thieves people yelled.
The market was in a commotion. They were all winding up. What happened? he asked.
Someone said that two men had entered the market area and arerunning away with a sack of potatoes. There were tears welling in his eyes. Imagine stealing potatoes from someone who depended on them to ensure the everlasting nature of his belly, and to feed the mouth of a family by the potatoes he grew?
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Ananya S Guha
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