Chandi Lal left his non-descript village near Ambala five decades ago for greener pastures in Chandigarh. As children, we remember him hawking roasted groundnuts, which he called Bhiwani special, on the streets of our sector. Once, someone said, “Chandi, groundnuts of Bhiwani have a fatter and a white coat unlike the ones you’re selling.” “Saab, when you roast these groundnuts, they turn brown and get compressed,” he replied and most of us bought his story.
In summer, he would transform his business to that of crushed ice lollypops soaked in varied syrups, terming them Arabian juices. In monsoon, he would take to selling hot pakoras.
With sparse traffic and in the absence of the accompanying rumble and honks, Chandi Lal’s call could be heard from a distance. His personalised service at the doorstep made his business flourish. But his real USP was the gift of the gab. He was up to date with the latest in town and served the purpose a local newspaper does today.
Tailoring of customised gossip was his specialty. Knowledge of the customers, their profession and areas of interest kept him in circulation with all, particularly the ladies. Once he was missing for days and his reappearance got him flooded with queries from the residents. The answers were varying, essentially to suit the target audience. They ranged from his illness, parent’s illness, wedding of relatives to a survey for a business venture. There was, however, the talk around that Chandi had upgraded his matrimony from an erstwhile village wife to a new one from Chandigarh. But, frankly no one knew the real story behind his unusual absence.
Well, Chandi Lal flourished by the sheer dint of his versatility and communication skills. This was a good 30 years ago after which I embarked on a career in the army.
Lately, I was diagnosed with tendinitis in my right shoulder disrupting my regular round of golf. A bout of physiotherapy and medication did not help much. During an informal chat, the local chemist suggested a massage by an expert he knew.
One early morning, an elderly fellow knocked at our door and introduced himself as Chandi Lal, the masseur. He had a familiar flicker in his eyes and a springy body language. I asked him the type of oil required for the job, to which he replied, “Saab, jab haath Chandi ke hon to tel koisa bhi chalega”. Good old Chandi ,he was! The week-long massage session, besides an expert handiwork, updated me with the happenings of the past three decades around the sector.
(The writer is a Chandigarh-based retired army officer)