Saturday, May 6, 2017

The old banana seller

Come heat or rain, the old man sits sullenly in a plastic chair by the roadside and sells bananas from morning till night. He is unshaven, grim-faced, and wears a soiled kurta and dhoti. A vegetable vendor and flower seller keep him company on either side. 

I see the old man every day and wonder what motivates him to sit like that for ten hours and more. He has a tired and frowning look on his face. Maybe, it's not motivation; maybe it's compulsion born out of a necessity, to feed his family. Then again, maybe, his family wants him out of the house because he has become a burden, or, he has worked hard all his life and wants to remain active till the end.

One night, I saw the banana seller hand over money to a man on a bike. I realised he was paying commission on the bananas he sold. He owned neither the place he occupied nor the bananas he managed to sell. His net earnings must be meagre, just enough to see him through the next day's meal.

When he has no customers, the old man watches people walk past or nods off, his chin resting on his chest. What must his life be like? For a perspective, I have no right to crib about mine.


  1. This is so touching. It breaks my heart a bit. The lives people live. I would buy bananas from him every day. Could you describe a kurta and a dhoti, please?

  2. Thanks, Nan. There are hundreds and thousands of people like him, in India, living a simple and often a hand-to-mouth existence. We often buy bananas from him.

    Nan, a kurta is a cotton knee-length loose or flowing full-sleeve shirt generally worn with cotton pyjamas or dhoti. The latter is a traditional men's cotton garment wrapped around the waist and legs. The area below the calf is usually exposed. Dhoti-kurta is worn all over the Indian subcontinent and is most suitable for hot tropical climates. I wear a kurta but not a dhoti, which requires a certain amount of skill to carry it off.