I was just going to come there, he said while checking on his chickens in their pen.
I was back at Chicken Sagar’s shop. He hadn’t delivered the last order as usual.
Yea right, I muttered to myself.
Chicken Sagar was wearing his run-down shorts, tight T-shirt ending at his navel & flip-flops so thread-bare that except for a poop-smothered butcher shop, one wouldn’t dream of wearing it anywhere else.
Mashe you forgot me, I turned around to the voice who had made that statement.
The voice that had addressed Chicken Sagar with the prefix of a sir in local lingo belonged to a middle-aged man, reed thin, protruding stomach & bow legs. His face shone a bloated red that came to people who indulged in alcohol on a daily basis. In his long Bermudas & a young Mohammed Ali T-shirt, he stood there with a smile – the smile of a man who wanted something.
Patrao you are the reason for my very existence, chimed Chicken Sagar on cue. He didn’t even look up & said it with a straight face.
Chicken Sagar’s undivided attention was with his beloved chickens as he separated some errant ones who had decided to walk about instead of sitting down. The errant chickens had broken their agreement – a lifetime of food & shelter in exchange for their life. So now he separated that lot so the others didn’t get affected.
Can your highness wait or should we leave everything & tend to your orders first?
That statement posed as a question & dipped in sarcasm as made by Chicken Sagar’s assistant. He was at the other end – busy chopping, cutting & cleaning up my order. Just about reached the gut & spilled it out when the smiling man had made his statement. This disrupted his rhythm. And in his business routine & rhythm were everything.
But I am waiting – who said I’m in a hurry, the smiling man now looked hurt & said that still looking towards Chicken Sagar. Chicken Sagar continued to attend to his errant chicken. When the smiling man didn’t get a reply he turned to face the assistant and said –
Why are you telling me things? You mind?
It couldn’t have been worse timing. My chicken was cut & ready. All the assistant had to do was bag it, hand it over & I would be off. But after smiling man’s emotional outburst no way was the assistant going to let it go.
I am telling you will have to wait – the assistant turned to face him.
Let Mashe say that – smiling man countered.
I’m telling you that! Now the assistant was pointing the huge butcher knife pointed at the smiling man.
I was sure there was history there between the two. Something about Chicken Sagar’s beer joint hidden behind where the assistant worked when business was slow at the chicken shop. That would have been the place where smiling man boosted the red on his face & broadened his smiles. Somehow things had begun over alcohol place & spilled over to the meat shop.
Now we were at an impasse. And I was stuck in the middle.
The battle lines were drawn. They had Chicken Sagar’s attention. On the one side he had his assistant – an irritating requirement in his shop that he needed to get things done. On the other end was the smiling man – the customer who drank on credit – way past his due date but still kept showing up, kept the show running. Sagar couldn’t sit the fence out on this one.
Chicken Sagar stopped minding his chickens, looked up towards the two. A decision had been made – he took a stand.
You will have to wait for some more time Patrao – Chicken Sagar told the smiling man.
The smiling man immediately stopped smiling. This brougbt a smile on the assistants face.
And it takes you a year to pack one chicken’s order – this, Chicken Sagar told the assistant.
The assistant’s smile changed hands. The waiting man became the smiling man again.
The assistant went back to cutting chicken, a new swish in his blade. The waiting man looked to the sky, twiddled his thumbs, pretending to care a damn. Clearly this was not over.
508 is your total – Chicken Sagar told me. I paid up.
Next time, I will come there – you just call up.
Its okay. I will come.
No way was the missing out on this.