A Veg Sardar

A Veg Sardar !!

Aryan General  Store  is  a  one  of  the  six  shops   in  the  Bahuguna  Market in Allahabad. He  keeps  most  of  the  items  of  daily  use  ranging  from  stationary,  confectionary  and  cosmetics. The  proprietor,   Mr  Ramesh  is   a  middle  aged  person with  receding hairline  and  a  serious  demeanour. The  shop  is  frequently  visited  by  people  from  nearby posh colonies and being  near  to  the  Cantonment  I  too  go  there  for  routine  purchases for  the  house. Today  I  was  slightly  early  and the  market  must  have  just  opened. There  were only a   few  people  in  the otherwise  crowded  market.   As I approached  the  shop I  could  see  Ramesh    sitting in  his usual position  behind  the  counter on  a  raised  chair  so  that  he  could  keep  vigil  on  every passerby.  Ramesh ji  he never  smiled  and  he  meant  business  during  business  hours.

I went  directly  to  the  counter.  Maintaining his perennial serious  demeanour, he  looked  at  me  as  if asking  what  I  wanted  to  buy? I  scanned the shelves and  not  finding  what  I  was  looking for  asked  him, “Do  you  have  eggless  Britannia  cakes?”

He  knew  that  I  always  bought this product.  He  scanned  his  counter  and  then  his  shelves in  which  items are  stuffed and  pat  came  an  expressionless  reply, “Sir  ,  they have  finished.”

I  stood  motionless thinking  what  to  buy  in  lieu.

“Sir,  try  the  other normal Britannia   cake ,  that  too is   very good. May be  very little  egg, but that  should  be  OK, No?” He  added  sensing my  dilemma.

There was  no  other  customer  in the shop  at  this  time  so  he  was  giving  me  some  attention I  felt.

“Ramesh ji,  we  are  pure  vegetarian. I  have  never  tasted  egg  in  my  whole  life and nor  my  family. We have not   tasted  meat too.” I  replied.

He  was looking  agog at me  for  some  seconds  . His  serious expression  softened for  a  while. I  could  see  him  come  down from  his  high  chair  and  he  was  standing  across  the counter  with his  hands  folded(  in  a  Namaste)  in  front of  me.  I  didn’t  know  what  was  going on  in  his mind. I  felt  he  was  looking at  me  with  reverence now.

“Sir,  you  are  a  Sardar  and  Vegetarian?   a  pure  vegetarian? You  have   not tasted  even  egg”? His  soft  voice  asked   of  me. But  somewhere  there  was  a  doubt.

“No Ramesh ji,  I have never.” I  replied. He  seemed  to  believe  me though still  frozen in the  same  position with his  eyes  gazing  in  veneration.

“Sir, we  are  also  pure vegetarians”. He finally  answered  with  a never seen before  smile which said , aren’t  we  are  from  the  same ilk?

And still  his  eyes  seemed  to  question  me, as  to  ask  me  how  it is  possible, come  on , after  all you  are  a Sardar!.

“Ramesh  ji , how  I  am  a  veggie?  I  also  don’t  know.  What  I  know  is that   my great grand  father converted to Sikhism in  1886. He  may   have  been   a  Brahmin, may  be   but  I  am not sure . I  don’t  even  know  his  caste, gotra or  the  title before he  converted. He  shed  his  caste and   title and  became ‘Singh’ and  thereafter  the  family  tradition  just  carried  on  for  three  generations and  no one  questioned  it.”  I  said respectfully  as  he  was  attentively  listening  to me with  a  smile.

He nodded as if in full agreement to my  story. We  were  both quiet for  a  moment but a  bond  seemed  to  have  matured,  a  new friendship seemed to  have kindled.

As  a  new  customer approached the shop  counter , I  bowed  and moved  out and he too started  to  attend  him.

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