There was this market just like all others in Delhi, hustling-bustling with people going about their lives, buying stuff, you know what a market looks like. Just that in this market, there was something different. There was a man, Sam, always found splayed on the ground in the same old dungarees that he had always been in.
Nobody even knew whether Sam was his real name; it had always been that ever since…well, I can’t remember. All I remember is that he wouldn’t get anybody’s way. And he was a sort of a grounding post for the market; if they had anything in common, like the mithaiwallah put it, it was Sam.
He wasn’t a beggar, but then again he wouldn’t refuse the few tidbits that people would hand him, with a compassionate, “Here, Sam”. A gruff show of gratitude that vaguely sounded like “Shukriya” was all that the most generous of all dole-out would elicit of him.
Sam was there at his spot, day in and day out, every public holiday, guarding the market. He would have a glazed look in his eye, observing the world go by him as he would remember a lost loved one – watching them frolic in a forgotten garden of roses and butterflies through a kaleidoscope with Clayderman playing in the background a octave higher and a beat slower. Who knows, maybe he didn’t have the courage to carry on after his darling went on to the great big amusement park in the sky.
Much water flowed under the bridge; it was nearly ten years, since all of us could collectively strain our memories and remember Sam.
The mithaiwallah was just closing his shop for the day; all his earnings in hand he was going to the bank to put in what he didn’t require for the rest of the week. A group of youths had been watching and waiting. As he turned the key in the lock, they made their lunge. Two of them came zipping on a motorcycle, The chap on the backseat grabbed at the mithaiwallah’s suitcase and then the motorcycle made a dash back.
But it was not to be. To avoid Sam, the rider swerved towards the left, a bit too quickly perhaps. The motorcycle fell and skidded towards a wall. The screech of metal tearing across the pavement was only stopped by the sickening crunch of their skulls. The third boy fled; he couldn’t understand how it had gone so horribly wrong.
Dazed, the mithaiwallah just walked over and picked up his suitcase and gathered his things which had fallen out and just walked away. It was too much to comprehend.
He didn’t hear Sam saying, “You’re welcome”, him getting up, taking his blanket, folding ever so tenderly, seemingly oblivious to what had just happened. He didn’t see Sam just walking away, whistling, light hearted, like a man whose job was finally done.
It was only the next day, when the mithaiwallah was relating the story to anybody who cared to listen, he noticed Sam had gone. And for the first time, the mithaiwallah probably understood where he he had come from.
You see, its not that we do our bidding silently in the shadows; its just that nobody cares to ask us who we are.