Note: This occurred during the lockdown era – a time of relative piece and quiet in a small town of Goa.
I’m sorry couldn’t come yesterday, he didn’t look sorry at all.
But it was just 2 kilos, I protested.
We didn’t have big chickens to fulfil your order.
He shrugged in silence.
She was waiting for you .
I conveyed her dismay to the man whose name she had saved on her mobile as ‘Chicken Sagar’. I was outside his shop on her instructions. But it didn’t seem to have much effect on him as indicated by his next reply.
What to do? he shrugged.
It was a shrug so heavy – that of a man where everything had slipped out of his hands. The universe, pain, profit and loss, chicken delivery, all way-way beyond him.
Feeling bad for the weight in his shrug, I replied in a burst of sentences.
It’s okay – She also is very busy – she can’t come here – see she is a doctor.
As I said doctor – the chicken stopped clucking, the chicken cutting assistant stopped cutting, the man ahead of me in que turned back to stare at me.
She’s a doctor? After stopping his heavy shrugging, Chicken Sagar asked me for the collective good of all.
She really was a psychotherapist, but I didn’t know if they would understand the term. And my response to label her a ‘doctor’ had tumbled out due to Chicken Sagar’s shrugs.
Er- she’s a different doctor – doctor of the mind, I added.
A slow build-up of the chickens collective clucks filled the silence. I matched Chicken Sagar’s bulging eyes as we bonded over my statement of doctor of the mind. We began to see, smell & sense things beyond the chicken coops, the shop, the village heading higher into the deep blue sky. His assistant though didn’t give a damn – he had a chicken to cut. It was the man ahead in que who broke the impasse.
She’s a psychiatrist.
Ahh – Sagar clucked his tongue showing he knew what shrinks were. She wasn’t that kind but still, the bond was broken.
So, she treats people who have problems in their head? He said while caressing his rich dark beard.
That question made me think. Chicken Sagar’s world consisted of talking, trading, transporting all things chicken. The only break would be in clicking selfies for his WhatsApp profile pics.
Now I had introduced him to another world – of people with problems in their head and doctors who treated them.
They come home? The waiting man asked.
Video call, I assured them.
And payment? Sagar the ever-practical man asked.
They pay in advance through the app, I assured him.
Pay in advance! Chicken Sagar’s eyebrows shot up in respect. He rose from his chair – screamed at his assistant.
It takes you so long!! Don’t you know it’s the head doctor’s chicken!
It’s okay, I can wait, I said, feeling bad for the assistant.
But that is my chicken – protested the waiting man.
Wait there – Sagar admonished him which had an immediate effect on the protesting man’s protests. Perhaps the fact that Chicken Sagar also had a beer shop next to the chicken shop where the waiting man was a regular had something to do with it (more on that in another episode).
Next time, we will deliver the chicken to Dr madam’s home in time– Chicken Sagar replied while handing over the chicken wrapped in a triple plastic bag.
Don’t worry – if I have time, I will come myself, I replied thankful for the extra plastic and the reverence in his tone.
As I got on my bike, I knew we would never have a problem with chicken – lockdown or no lockdown. I started the ignition when I felt a hand on my shoulder – I turned – it was Chicken Sagar.
What if the person calling does not want to do a video-conferencing call? He asked
I avoided looking at him directly, appeared pensive like I was giving it deep thought.
Then they could make a regular phone call – I replied with a dead pan face & rode on.
While raised voices of the waiting man arguing with the assistant reached my ear, the last view I saw in my rear-view mirror was of Chicken Sagar’s pensive face making sense of my response.