There is a vegetable vendor in our colony. You can find him at the street corner from the wee hours of the morning to late at night be it the hottest day of the year or the coldest night. Several times during the day he walks the streets of the colony and you can hear his cry as he passes in front of your home hoping against hope that someone will call for him. After each round he goes back to his assigned place at the street corner.
No matter how hot or cold it is, no matter if it is raining or scorching our vegetable vendor does not miss his rounds. His cry is like the comfortable chime of an old clock. When you hear him you somehow know that all is well. Yet each time I hear his cry I feel oddly disturbed. Many of us do not know that to be present on time at his street corner, the vendor has to leave his home in some slum or the other in the dead of night and reach the whole sale market to purchase his ware. He then has to carefully display all the vegetables on his cart and make his way to the place where we find him everyday.
Many of the parents of pwhy children are such vegetable vendors. Most of them left their home because of a flood or a drought that made it impossible for them to feed their families in the village they belong to. Many of them have large families to care for and often have to send money back home to ageing parents that they had to leave behind. Many have huge debts to pay, debts they contracted long ago to marry a kin or fulfill some family commitment. Many have to save for the forthcoming marriage of a daughter. And one must not forget that the family often waits for his return to buy the evening meal.
We often haggle with the vegetable vendor as often his prices are outrageous. It is true that in the recent past we have taken to shop in the air conditioned comfort of the newly built local supermarket or even taken to visit the very wholesale market our vendor buys his vegetables from. But just take a moment and think of all the baggage the vendor carries: a big family to care for and many responsibilities to fulfill then perhaps the price he asks for does not seem that shocking.
There was a time not so long ago that our vegetable vendor did not need to make umpteen rounds of the colony. He was the only option we had. Today he has many unfair competitors and he needs to survive. I guess that is what disturbs me each time I hear him cry: it is a cry for survival.