Wednesday, February 6, 2013


         At exactly six thirty in the morning, Bemvinda lowered a cloth bag from the balcony of her third floor flat at Laxmi Cooperative Housing Society. The bag hung about a meter from the ground for about twelve minutes before Puroshottam the baker rolled along the street and into the building compound on his cycle, squeezing his green horn languidly. He paused at the hanging bag, turned to his basket and deftly separated four loaves from a mat of twelve. He dropped them into the bag and extracted the six rupees from within, all in one smooth movement. He honked in greeting to the smiling old lady at the balcony who waved back, and then was on his way.
         At six forty-five a dark and dirty figure crept up to the still hanging bag. His eyes were wild and his hair matted with the dirt of many months. The cotton vest that he wore was filthy and torn. He looked this way and that, making sure that no one was around. Then he put his hand into the bag and pulled out a loaf. He slouched away from the building as stealthily as he had come, biting hungrily into the crisp warm bread.
         At six-fifty Renuka entered the building area carrying her one year old brother. The bag that hung a meter high was difficult to get to with one hand. So she placed the infant on the ground resting his head carefully on a discarded plastic bag. Then she stood on her toes and extracted one loaf from the bread bag. She waved the loaf high above her head and called out 'Ammaaa!' to the woman on the third floor balcony. Then she picked up her brother and gave the loaf to him to hold. She picked up the waste plastic in her other hand and then they too were gone.
         At six fifty-five Johnson walked into the compound. He padded up to Neugi the watchman who slumbered heavily in his chair near the gate and waited. After a minute he gave a short bark whereupon Neugi jumped up and barked back. Then the watchman went up to the hanging bag and pulled out a loaf of still hot bread and tossed it to the waiting dog who jumped neatly to catch it.
         At six fifty-nine, Bemvinda hoisted up her cloth bag, took out the remaining loaf of bread and sat down for breakfast. Bread cost two rupees a loaf nowadays. Six rupees for three. But Puroshottam always gave her an extra loaf. That made it six rupees for four loaves. Bemvinda silently blessed the baker for his generosity and carefully dipped the bread in her tea.


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