He was a man of posture. With his bulging pot-belly with the vest drawn up to the chest and “Malkhan Sing” style mustache; he had started greeting me lately whenever I went to his fruit shop in the north eastern corner of downtown Itahari. I was buying fruits from his fruit shop from the time I came to Itahari, 19 years back. I rarely visited other fruit shops. A kind of affectionate and loving friendship had developed between us.
Thus, when I heard of his sudden demise from his neighbor fruit seller few weeks ago; I felt as if a lump of flesh has come up to my throat and is choking me heavily. I was finding it hard to regulate my breath. I never thought he would pass away so soon. That day I didn't dare to look at his shop, closed though it was. I just avoided look towards that direction and went home with gloomy face and weeping heart.
We casually talked about so many things that sometimes other buyers got irritated. He mostly claimed about the best quality of the fruits he sold and I believed as if whatever he was telling was not anything but the truth. And sometimes, his claims became totally untrue as the grapes or oranges I bought from him would be as sour as tamarind. Days later I would forget about the sour fruits and go to his shop again. We talked again; I bought fruits and parted with smiling faces. The cycle continued for 13 years. I brought fruits from his shop and he sold me. I didn’t know his name he didn’t know mine. Actually we didn’t need the names until one day:
He said he had bagful of grapes detached from the bunch. If I wanted to buy he was ready to sell me a kilo or so of grapes in half the actual price. I examined the grapes and they were in good condition. I nodded, he weighed and I was happy to have them.
Then a thought crossed my mind and I asked, “Can you inform me if you amassed such grapes? I would love to buy them.” He readily agreed and asked for my phone number. Then to save his phone number, for the first time in 13 years I asked his name, “Your good name please!”
“Tribhuwan Shah.” said he.
Then I told mine. We exchanged the numbers, with renewed enthusiasm, and of course, with names.
He continued to call me for grapes since then. This happened for another three years. He still called me when I moved to SOS quarters after three years, and couldn’t manage to go to his shop regularly. He stopped calling but became little bit shy; and started greeting me ‘Namaste.’ But nonetheless, we were still friends and I didn’t stop buying from him.
Yesterday, I gathered courage to go to his shop. A young boy was there. I knew he was his son. I paid heartfelt condolence and said about the relation his father and I had. The boy was in tears. I tried to hide my tears and went away to my bike with a kilo of black grapes.
Tribhuwan, rest in peace. I promise I will find you in your son. I promise I will continue to buy fruits from your shop. Our friendship won’t die; rather it will find a new dimension. Bye.
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