Once upon a time, in a land far away, there was a pakodeawala.
Well, actually, it wasn’t too far away, just 120 Kilometres to the west of Delhi, in a sleepy town of Hansi, around 30-40 years back, there used to be a famous pakodewala named Badri.
Badri (full name was not known to most of us) was one of the famous snack joints of Hansi. The city had a quartet of such famous joints, actually. Badri ke pakode, Chand ke Chhole, Shankar ki Kulfi and Gangu ki Jalebi were like four reigning kings of food landscape. Their four shops were landmarks that defined and completed this small town and any important event or happening was not complete without visit to one or two of these joints. Whether guests from faraway lands had come to stay or a casual meeting of few friends or happiness of passing an exam or even the relief of it getting over or a potential girlfriend accepting a love letter or even recovery from a small ailment, every reason was a good excuse to visit one of them.
Last one was my favourite. As a kid, I used to fall ill once every two months and my recovery celebration was always a plate of chhole samose from Chand’s joint.
Badri, however, was the most famous among them. His shop, situated in the main market of the city was always crowded. Customers had around a dozen varieties to choose from and Badri would always serve them fresh and steaming hot, it only meant that 45 minutes to one hour waiting time was normal. Still people loved the crispy but succulent pakodas and were willing to wait. In the evening hours, one could count even twenty customers waiting at his small shop that had a frontage of only 8 feet.
The recipe or the methodology Badri used was the talking point in most drawing rooms (or Baithaks as they were called back then) and at card games sessions at the roadside, rumours were rife about some secret ingredients he added, some even claimed to know that Badri had not even revealed the secret ingredient or methodology to his family for the fear of it leaking out, many believed that he had accumulated immense amount of wealth and buried it underneath his house.
And the closed environment of our small town, coupled with limited awareness of the rest of the world and the immaturity of our ages, we kids believed that no other town had the pride of having such greats.
So much so that in those days, if anyone asked kids of our age about what we aspired to be in our lives, some of us, other than those who were not worried about the uncertainties of world outside and were willing to sacrifice the comforts of hometown for regular jobs, would have expressed a wish to become a Badri or a Chand or someone like them.
And now, Rahul Gandhi’s party Congress, mocks the pakodewalas as P Chidambram, ex Finance Minister and leader of Congress, calls them beggars!
Was Badri, who was a respectable member of our town, who was believed to be having a secret recipe, believed to have immeasurable wealth including a buried treasure and subject of jealousy for many others, a beggar?
Hundreds of others who dot the lanes of small town of Hansi, lakhs of such hard working aspirational people of India, are they beggars?
Bhaggi, who sells eggs on his handcart is a respectable member of his community, part of the decision making body of his caste panchayat, Jaggu, who alternates between selling juice in summer and roasted peanuts in winter, his daughter is studying MBBS, Ramesh, who began with a corner kirana shop is now expanding into distribution of eggs on a larger scale with his business graduate son helping him, or Titu, the photographer, whose son is in Mumbai, aiming to be a film director, or Jaidu, the one who sells vegetables from his 5 feet by 5 feet shop and still manages to arrange a grand mata ki chowki every year, are they beggars?
Such insulting, contemptuous view of hardworking people reflects not only an elitist mentality that considers working people as inferior but also but also exposes their woefully limited knowledge about what moves the economy in the small and medium towns and villages in India.
It represents a myopic world view where only three classes of people are worthy of being acknowledged or respected, the classes that fulfill their needs; Mallyas and Vadras who provide cash chests, NREGA level poor who would vote to return them to power and thirdly, those who create a narrative of the greatness of the halfwit dynast i.e. media. Everyone else can be wished away disdainfully.
This is also the view of a rent seeker, of a dynast, who cannot understand why some people want to earn a living using their own intelligence, skill, talent and hardwork, and not using a family name. Why some people are motivated by their aspirations of a better tomorrow and want a better future. Why they do not wish to remain freeloaders, waiting for a mai baap government to give a dole, a job, a grant.
This world view hates aspiration, the self esteem that new India wants to live by, because every hardworking person makes the freeloader dynast look smaller, in his own eyes.
However, unconcerned by what Rahul’s pals like Chidambaram think about them or call them, Bhaggi, Titu, Ramesh, Jaidu go on with their life, working from morning to evening, fulfilling their aspirations bit by bit, creating a better tomorrow, for themselves and their families, powering the economy of their small town, while Badri, the ‘Pakodewala of Hansi’ is smiling on them from his heavenly abode.
P.S.: Rahul, at your next pre-election photo-op when you visit the local pakodewala for a snack, do remember what your party feels about them.
Disclaimer: All the people mentioned here are or were real people. Some names have been changed to protect their privacy.