He would walk up slowly every day.
The whole way up from Doon,
Through the unkept path to Jharipani, from Rajpur.
Up the entire steep, on time, every afternoon.
His basket full of joy on his head,
Same soiled clothes and tired eyes,
Cracked skin and wrinkles on his face
Were way beyond his actual age, am sure.
Little money, in coins mostly, would make,
Chiming sound through his torn pockets, as he approached.
He was never sure how much would he sell,
Or if he would sell at all today.
But his cheerful smile and hopeful voice,
Is what remains fresh in our memories;
Fresher than his lovely guavas.
Boys would come in packs, surround him or sneak up behind him,
There were a few naughty intentions and hands that arrived too,
Who would try to steal some guavas from him.
As young boys we prided on fooling him yet again,
While the old man would come every day, same time,
Knowing all the while that he is being robbed.
He knew the arm that would stretch from under his arm,
That small palm which would fail and end up pulling a leaf instead!
He still kept coming back and kept smiling, unfailingly, every afternoon.
On one such afternoon today, when spring arrives,
Biting a guava sitting on my stairs leading up to the terrace,
I fondly remember the old man and his weary but spirited smile.
And it dawns on me that all those afternoons that he came,
He wasn’t careless to allow guavas slip out from his basket.
He walked all the way up, every day to play;
He was selling us guava-flavoured memories.

– Kanishka Mallick (1996)


This poem was shared by Kanishka Mallick on  February 25, 2021 via a personal message.

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