Delhiwala: The pickle store tolls
It ought to be a truth universally acknowledged that dal-chawal-subzi remains an incomplete meal without being accompanied by aam ka achar. Or, for that matter, by any pickle.Updated: Jul 08, 2020 06:09 IST
The obvious and subtle ways in which the pandemic has affected a landmark store
It ought to be a truth universally acknowledged that dal-chawal-subzi remains an incomplete meal without being accompanied by aam ka achar. Or, for that matter, by any pickle.
The humble pickle has even been recognized as an essential commodity by the authorities, and “so we were permitted to open our pickle shop before the complete lockdown was lifted,” says Rohit Dhingra, 38. Along with two of his brothers, he run the landmark Shri Sai Pickle Store in Gurugram’s Old Subzi Mandi in Sadar Bazar. He is chatting this morning on WhatsApp from his home on “Gali Number 1, Madan Puri” and is just preparing to leave for the shop.
Obviously, the pickle shop took its toll in the going coronavirus pandemic too. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of them.
Toll no. 1
The two employees who had been serving as store assistants for a long time left for home before the lockdown began, Mr Dhingra says. Aakash went back to his village in UP, and Sanjay returned to his parents in Bihar. “The last time I talked to Aakash, he said he was busy looking after his mango orchard and would get back only after the (mango) season gets over, while Sanjay is more vague about his return.” Sanjay actually says he will consider coming back only after the virus has disappeared.
For now, Mr Dhingra is running the shop with his two brothers daily from 7 am to 7 pm.
Toll no. 2
It was a difficult time for the eleven women who make the pickles in the shop’s factory, in nearby Rewari town. “They all have been working with us for a long time, so we had to look after them even when the business was closed,” notes Mr Dhingra. Now about seven women have started reporting to work—Ravi, Bhagwati, Angoorie, Jyoti, Seems, Mahindra, and Madhu. “The rest of the staff will also come hopeful soon.” Being women, Mr Dhingra observes, they have additional responsibilities at home too.
Toll no. 3
Mr Dhingra’s wife, Kirti, remains suspended in a state of anxiety. She was greatly alarmed when the shop reopened. “But she understood that we had to restart the business, and I assured her that we all would wear masks and gloves in the shop at all times, and would exercise physical distancing from customers.”
Nevertheless, Kirti isn’t taking any chances. Every morning she keeps some additional two masks in her husband’s bag “because it’s hot and humid now, and one sweats a lot, making it tempting to change the sweaty mask for a fresh one.” Kirti also serves Mr Dhingra an extra-fortified breakfast with two pieces of their shop’s very own aamla ka murabba-“an immunity booster, and currently our best seller.” She also arms him with a large bottle of freshly squeezed musambi juice.
Toll no. 4
Mr Dhingra’s 9-year-old son, Priyansh, also had to change his ways. In the BC (before corona) era, he would run out to welcome his father and two uncles as they would return from the shop in the evening. He would first join his palm in a respectful namaste, and then would reverently touch the feet of each of the three men. “But now we would immediately tell him “Nahin nahin beta abhi door rahon! (No son, stay away!)” The men first head straight to the bathroom, thoroughly wash themselves with soap and change into clean, sanitized, clothes before entering the rooms and letting Priyansh follow his daily ritual.
Despite these professional and personal tolls, however, Mr Dhingra isn’t perturbed too much. “This situation is beyond one’s control, it’s happening to everyone... so we need to bear it and carry on with caution.” He later Whatsapps a joint portrait of the achar shop-owning family.