The Vada Pav Wala

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I alighted from the train; people
packed tighter than luggage on
the return trip. The rumble of the locomotive
could not mask the rumble in
my tummy, and I sought out the nearest
vada pav wala, shouldering a city’s hunger
since who knows when

I walked up to dull, oily shirt and raised
one finger in a mute signal given meaning
by my predecessors, who perhaps also
did not heed their mother and skipped
her warm breakfast that day

he understood me as a lover understands
her lover; silent gestures and silent words,
an elegy in blank verse on blank paper
he flipped over a golden vada
from steaming hot oil. from the frying pan into the
fiery red chutney, laid fast and thick
in well-trodden motions on soft pav, clouds
of sinful carbs, barbs in my diet

with the skill of a craftsman and the
confidence of a marksman, he
wrapped my prize in today’s paper
rapes and murders and scams darkened
not by human depravity but vegetable oil
used many many times

outstretched hand offered me the hot
temptation, yet I in that instant, I looked
into his eyes, and saw dirty little huts
with blue roof and black moat
buttressed by the sweat of children

the contact snapped and I accepted his offering
munching on my vada pav, I was content

Abhijeet Krishnan