The apni mandi is in full swing. Everybody in this cacophony is busy either buying or selling fruits and vegetables. Ear-splitting shouts of vendors fill the air. In this deafening crowd, there can also be spotted a typical figure who is neither a vendor nor a customer. Clad in khaki, he is pot-bellied, red-eyed and walks with an inflated chest. At times he twirls his rolled up moustaches to show his authority. He holds a stick in hand that sways it in air while talking to people.
"Sa'ab !" a groundnut vendor dares to ask him, "Why are you deputed in this mandi?" The question is enough to invite his wrath. He hits the ground with his cane and rebukes the vendor, "You foolish man! Don't you know we keep things under control and ensure nothing unlawful goes on?" He doesn't forget to help himself to tasting some crispy groundnuts before moving on.
He halts at the banana vendor, who is wise enough to hand him over a freshly peeled banana. Gobbling down the fruit in two bites, he asks the vendor: "Is everything OK? If somebody creates a problem, just tell me." The vendor salutes him as he marches ahead.
Hearing a commotion in a corner, he rushes there. Hitting his cane on the ground, he yells, "What's going on here?" It is a vegetable rehri. The vendor stands there grabbing a shabbily dressed woman tightly by the hair. Sighting the khaki figure around, he releases her hair and explains, " Sa'ab, she bought the tomatoes and wanted to flee at the time of payment. We've just caught her red-handed."
He gets mad with anger and thrashes the culprit before leaving the place, muttering "Muftkhor kahin ke".
Turning back to the vendor, he selects some fresh and juicy tomatoes. The vendor puts them in a polythene bag and hands them over to him before saluting him. Our man in khaki marches on to a tea corner. It is a makeshift shack by the roadside.
He makes himself comfortable on a plastic chair and rests his legs on another one. He needn't place the order as a cup of tea is handed to him with two bread pakoras. After relishing the feast, he lets out a belch. Before leaving, he doesn't forget asking the tea vendor if all is well. "If anybody harasses you, just tell me," he adds. The vendor prefers to keep mum.
He yawns and walks out the his 'apni' mandi, hitting the road gently with the magical stick. He will now come next week, same day, same time to keep the things under control and to ensure nothing goes wrong.
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