Monday, September 18, 2006

The missing link

2006, right now am in Bangalore. Elbowing through the huge crowd in the Forum Mall on a Sunday evening . Many who throng here have more than one credit card in their wallets to buy a coffee mocha in Java City, shop in Westside and Mochi. The scene is no different in many such departmental stores in the city. But something is missing in these poshe stores __ a bond. A bond which can neither develop with the big businessman nor the buyers.

Flashback to 2002. I still remember Bishnu of Bishnu Stores, Laxman of Laxman Accessories and Monu of Priyadarshini Jewelleries. Those shopkeepers of a small township of Batanagar. A huge locality of small shops was the heart of the town. The joint where youngsters to oldies used to meet for different reasons. There was not much of a polished touch to these small stores, yet there was a friendly relation that existed between the buyers and the sellers. The locality people could pick up any thing from a shop and pay it later. It was written down in a small register kind of a book, marked as credit account. Even if we had nothing to buy at times, we never missed the chance to say a Hello to them. So was our relation.

If it was a mid-week shopping in the mandi, we bumped into our local friends and many whom we knew. Banshi, the fish seller was the well-known in the fish market. The Sunday shopping was incomplete without a visit to him, even if we did not buy some fish for the week. Sometimes, he even used to force some fresh shrimps or hilshas of the season in the bag, convincing that payment won't matter at all.

During the Bengali New Year, all these shops used to invite their customers to clear-up their payments. And the shop owners used to open a haalkhata, a new account book for the next year.

The frolic that marked the festival was endearing. We used to visit the small shops embellished with colourful bulbs. Sweet boxes and calendars were common gifts for all of us. But, it was not just an ocassion where we were invited to clear the year's debts but it was the bond that was revived and nurtured when there was no boudary between the person who stood inside the shop counter and the other outside.

Things have changed. When I pay my bill in the Food World and the salesman hands over the change and says Thanks I miss those petty shopowners, who did not say thanks yet maintained a bond.

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