12 February, 2017

The Boy Who Sold Vegetables (aka "The Vegetable Seller")

Short Story
I saw him at the side of the road as I was walking to the station that morning.  Selling vegetables that he had laid out on the jute sack.  Just a few different vegetables.  How much would he earn selling such a small lot of vegetables, I wondered.

On the way back from work, in the evening, I noticed that he had moved across to the other side of the road --- probably following the Sun as it moved from East to West, settling down in the shade of a tree.  He didn't seem to have made much of a success selling the few vegetables.  Just on a whim, I stopped and asked him "Kya bhav aalu ?"  ("What price the potatoes ?")  He named a price, hardly looking up at me.  I had no idea what the current retail price was for any vegetables.  I never did the vegetable shopping in my household.  A woman walking past overheard and stopped and said "Badshahi aalu hai kya ?  Is kimat pe kitne bechega ?" ("Are the royal potatoes ?  How many will you sell at this price ?").  The boy just shrugged his shoulders.

I wondered about careers. I was a junior executive in a rapidly growing corporation.  Soon I would be a deputy manager.  Who knows what rank I would be holding 10 years from now.  Then I asked myself about the boy.  Would he still be selling vegetables 10 years from now ? At the same location on the same street ?  Or would he be dead in some alley, killed by the drugs he might have become addicted to, just to escape the misery of his life ?

Life went on for me.  I ignored the boy the rest of the week.  I even forgot about him the next month.  I moved to another location, with a promotion.

Ten years later, I happened to return to the same street to meet a long lost friend of mine.  Did I see the boy, now ten years older, a teenager ?

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