It’s the festive weekend before Diwali. The store is jam packed with punters doing their last minute shopping before the festivities begin. By 4 pm my stomach starts growling with hunger, it’s a strange irony: we work for food, yet at times work comes in the way of food. Once the rush subsides, I grab my sandwich and sneak upstairs to the back room for a quick bite.
As I begin to make the most of my express lunch I find Raghu sitting comfortably in one corner delightfully savoring his 5 course home cooked meal. In his early forties, Raghu is the old soldier of his territory, the shoe section. He’s known to have worked as a door to door salesman selling encyclopedias and dictionaries but funnily enough it didn’t help to polish off his own English terminologies. With his grey hair and outdated views he’s a purple cow of sorts within the store’s squad of young sales assistants.
“Buddy, that snack won’t help you survive the evening surge, here, have some rice” shouts Raghu from the corner.
Being a social recluse, I’m a bit hesitant to unwarranted tête-à-tête, but on this occasion I find myself giving in to the aroma of hot rice and curry.
“I could eat all of this you know” I say cheerfully putting another spoonful of rice in my mouth. I see Raghu watching me sympathetically, his face showing a contentment one would get from feeding a starved street child.
“You live alone in the city, don’t you? I remember when I was your age, I was a solitary soul myself, surviving on cold sandwiches. Life’s much better now though. You look old enough to get hitched, why don’t you settle down?” His expected advice is no shock to me; I’m a bit immune to unwanted matrimonial advisory now. Here in India, if you’re hungry, lonely and over 24 – it’s time to get a wife.
“It’s only a matter of finding the right girl sir; you wouldn’t know an eligible single girl willing to marry a salesman, would you?” comes my cynical reply.
“Here, show your hand, let’s see what your lines have to say about your future.” In his keen enthusiasm, he draws my right hand towards his range of vision, forgetting that it is still a greasy memento of the delicious meal I just finished. I look into the glasses which cover his eyes, eagerly waiting for my future to be revealed by a shoe salesman cum palmist.
“Oh, you’ve got a really long life line kid, but too bad your fate line is fatally broken at places” he tells, adjusting his glasses. I’m sure that isn’t something to be excited about. Life is going to screw me, and to top it, it’s going to screw me up longer. “Don’t be disheartened kid, life may try to play up a few pranks on you, but eventually you’ll be a stronger man , look at me, I had my share of conflicts and struggle too. On the positive side I see a love blossoming for you in the very near future.” He says as he gets up to leave.
Love? What’s that supposed to mean? Is he talking about love making...the kind of love that blossoms and withers on my bed every other fortnight? Or that indescribable, deep euphoric feeling that poets write about? Whatever the case may be but surely Raghu aint no Nostradamus, and after all even this great French astrologer is best known for his failed prophecies. My father once told me that “The future lies in your hands and not in the lines etched on the palm of the hands.” I like to believe in the idea of fate... but only when I’ve failed to achieve something which I really wanted.
I get down to the shop floor and get back to work but the thought of Raghu’s prophecy keeps tossing around in my mind; for the first time I am eager to find out what the future holds for me. I wonder if I’ll still be eating cold sandwiches next Diwali and whether I’ll still be selling clothes.