Dinesh Maurya’s short story is tender and evocative with a heartwarming narrative of how life moves on, irrespective of what happens with us.
Gopichand spent a fair part of his life sitting in front of a greasy iron pan, kept on a clay stove outside his shop every day from early morning to late night. With a ladle in his skilled hands, he kept stirring and boiling fresh milk until it became rich pindi used to make barfi. Run now by the second generation of Gupta family, the sweet shop, Amrit Mithai, was seventy years old and had become a landmark in the labyrinth of Kanakpuri bazaar in Allahabad. Gopichand started working at the shop when he was just ten. Now he was a fifty-year-old widower and had devoted almost every day of his life in the last four decades to sweeten the lives of the residents and the visitors of the city alike. His famous barfi was made with the same time-honoured culinary skills and some secret ingredients.
The tin roof of the shop needed repair or even replacement after every few years, and the hand-painted name of the shop on the sign-board hung from the front of the roof had faded beyond recognition. Inside the shop, the empty cardboard boxes of various sizes for packing sweets were stacked in the two shelves that lined the sidewalls. An old display counter, which occupied much of the entrance of the shop, housed pyramids of sweets – colourful and alluring. Like a doctor is only remembered when one is in pain, people thought of the sweets of Gopichand when anything good happened in their lives or if there was any auspicious ceremony. Seeing Gopi Chacha, dressed in a shirt and lungi with his coiffed hair, sitting outside his shop created a sense of security and awaiting happiness in the eyes of neighbours.