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The Vegetable Vendor – Chandra Mohan Bhandari, Adajan, Surat

By the roadside on a dusty ground

a dozen baskets – few big, some small,

stacked with vegetables—some full, others in part

placed artistically as if they were trophies won.

Baskets arranged in configurations

to optimally use available space;

in the middle of it all on an wooden plank

she sat majestically, ready to take

a long day’s job at hand,

commanding her one man army

comprising her son, barely ten.

She wielded an authority,

neither commensurate with her earnings,

nor with her over all status in the scheme of things.

She kept her customers disciplined and satisfied,

her elegant management even during rush hours

queue jumping strictly forbidden,

it was her usual rule of law,

where exceptions were hard to find.

She was timeless, time was less for her

to peep into her personal life

as for her son who needed her care most

she had hardly any time around.

Passing along the road in late hours

I found her fast asleep embracing empty baskets,

by her side lay her son,

having bypassed most of his childhood

almost a man in boy’s face,

his head resting on mother’s arm

Next to the boy a dog was half asleep

keeping vigil on her empty empire.

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