Sunder squinted at the pile of pumpkins, lifted one by the stalk, and
ran his palms over its orange rind. He wore khaki trousers and khaki
shirt, and his hair, parted in the middle, glistened because of the
"It's OK. No dent or scratch," said the vendor in white dhoti and
vest, squatting on a tarpaulin sheet, shooting crimson tobacco juice
by his side.
"How much?" he asked the vender.
"Ah! " said the vendor wiping the fluid oozing out of his mouth, "Look
at those walls."
Sunder turned toward the rows of exposed bricks, Ashlar masonry and
the mould infested peeling plasters. As also the great wall opposite,
the moat surrounding it, the green water, the greener hyacinth.
"Oh! The same old palaver," Sunder whispered. "You talk too much, always."
"What did you say?"
"Why don't you sell coconuts, betel leaves, betel nuts, too?" He lit
up a cigarette. "Flowers, holy basil leaves and incense sticks?"
"Well. I'd love to do that. But where's the money for all that? I've
been sitting here, in front of these walls, for ages. Waiting for the
doors and windows to open, a face to pop up."
"All right. Ten rupees?"
"Take it, then. What for?"
"You mean Lukkamma? Not seen her for quite some time."
"No, not her. Lucky, my Ashok Leyland truck. I'll break the pumpkin in
front of my truck, Monday morning."
"Oh! Take it. Monday's a new moon day." The vendor said.
Sunder gave him a ten-rupee note, went away, carrying the pumpkin over
Next evening, Sunder came back with the pumpkin. The vendor paused
from chewing and raised his eyebrows.
"You're here! Again?"
"This pumpkin has got a scar by the stalk. Inauspicious."
The vendor examined the pumpkin and dropped it into the pile.
"Why did you give up the cock?"
"For Gagan's sake. He doesn't like it."
"You take another pumpkin. But you owe me a quarter. Remember?"
"Yes, I do."
Sunder lifted another pumpkin and examined it closely and nodded.
"That Bagwan wouldn't have allowed you such an exchange."
"Thank you so much."
Sunder nodded again and walked away with the pumpkin, peering at the
walls on his way back, doorless, windowless walls.