the tang of coriander. a drum of idli mix, churning the contents, sloppy like grainy cement. rows and rows of powders and strange shrivelled seeds and pods and fruit. a woman who intonates between counters and sneaks nibbles from the pile of freshly grated coconut and my mother, taking note, whispers, well she really shouldnt be doing that. varieties of wheat and rice and barley and chillies. ‘today that’s enough to bring tears to your eyes, to know they dont want this to exist’ ‘they want to privatize it and control the seed’. on the wall three generations of men, leading to the one at the counter. estabilished in 1898. i can certainly believe that. a senile old man seated in a corner, observing his plastic bag in silence. going over it like a math paper he has to submit. trying to source out the silly mistakes and unearth the solutions to the blanks left behind. houses steeped in history outside, people with lines of the past on their face. a hurt-faced handsome young man with greasy hair that hangs over his face. his lips defeated in a strange coy curl. eyes like a solemn devil, full of silent, lapsing madness. flints that refuse to die out. i look away.
on the way home i see the beggar woman everyone is afraid of. her fingers have been reduced to stumps, her eyes are without pupils and lids, raw, pink, probably drowned in acid. ive seen her before. she sits outside my little brother’s school sometimes. oh no una, its that lady again, he had said to me once, looking away, harrowed. she wipes her sweat away and sits with her tin can. i feel nauseous. ‘how do you look away from someone who is terribly poor and indigent?’ ‘it’s a survival technique. meaning, how else are you to survive? you have to find a way of continuing with your life. so you just filter it out.’ we pass her. another man at the signal, fingers knotted and swallowed by his wrists. i look down. he persists. who does the money eventually go to? you can never know. my mother hesitates, but decides to fumble in her purse and give him a note. the signal screams red. hurryhurryhurry just give it to him. we hand it to him in time and the rickshaw scoots off. i drop a bag of herbs on the road my mistake. we carry on home.
the next morning a man is passed out by our apartment block entrance, dozing in the sun, limbs awry, slippers a metre away.
everyone walks right past.