As all humans do at some point of time in their lives, I went to buy bread one day. I thought buying bread in Chandigarh would be no different from buying bread in Mumbai. Oh how wrong I was.
First of all, nobody buys bread in Chandigarh. That’s right. Nobody ever buys bread in Chandigarh. They all eat paranthas. If you ever saw people in Chandigarh eating bread on TV… well that’s just special effects. SPECIAL EFFECTS I TELL YOU! They show people eating bread on TV so innocent residents of other cities like myself are enticed into thinking that you get bread in Chandigarh and go about the city asking for bread. You still think I’m joking don’t you? Well then… COME TO CHANDIGARH AND BUY SOME BREAD AND SHOW ME! SHOW ME! AAAAAARGH!
So as I was saying, one day I went to buy bread in Chandigarh. The name of the store I went to was ‘Patiala Stores’. Now I don’t get the point of calling a store in Chandigarh, ‘Patiala Stores’. Anyway, there was a nice sardar gentleman sitting at the counter eating paranthas. I assumed he was having breakfast.
I said, politely, “Paaji… Ek bread.”
Nice sardar sitting at the counter eating paranthas: “Haayn?”
Me: “Ek bread.” (holding out a finger to symbolize the number one. In case you’re curious, it was my index finger)
Nice sardar sitting at the counter eating Paranthas: “Bredd? Bredd?” (looks at me suspiciously)
Now I’m standing there holding up a finger and saying “Bread” and the gentleman is looking at me is also saying “Bread”. After some time, he calls his helper boy to see if he can help the strange overweight guy holding his index finger out with whatever it is that he wants.
I repeat the exercise with the helper boy.
Me: “Bread, bread.” (holding out my index finger)
Helper Boy: “Hmm…” (holds out a finger to match my position ss if he’s trying to communicate with me)
He turns to the owner and says, “Bredd? Bredd?”
The owner, not wanting to be left out, raises his finger and says, “Bredd”.
The three of us now are holding out our index fingers and saying “Bread”.
After a while, the owner starts looking around me for a hidden camera or something. He’s looks around his shop wildly and violently turning his head from side to side like Stevie Wonder in the midst of a live performance of ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’.
He’s confused, he doesn’t know what the overweight guy with his index finger held out wants. So the helper boy and him get into a debate that is more intense than the one Barrack Obama and John McCain were having about the war in Iraq. And at the end of what was more than a fifteen minute discussion, they tell me that they didn’t have what I was asking them for. They stared at me hoping I would lower my index finger. But I made like Shaktimaan and further raised it to demand from them the main ingredient of my breakfast!
The situation was tense. Tempers were flaring, teeth were decaying and all the matter in the universe was about to come together at the epicenter that was Patiala Stores when another gentleman walked in.
Another Sardar: “Ik Paaav dena”
Nice sardar sitting at the counter eating paranthas: “Oye Paav? Oye Babloo… oye ik Paav nikaal oye.”
Another Sardar: “Oyeeee!”
Nice sardar sitting at the counter eating Paranthas: “OYE!”
Babloo calmly takes out a sliced loaf of bread and hands it to the mew gentleman who pays for it and eventually leaves the store after another round of Oyes.
The two of them turned to me again and were about to raise their index fingers when I said, “Ik paav.”
I cannot describe the feeling of relief in that store. They had what I was asking them for. Index fingers were lowered and a sliced loaf of bread and money were exchanged. Everyone was happy. And I turned around to leave for home where I would make a nice sandwich for myself when I remembered something else.
I turned around and said, “Aur ek sauce ki bottle.”
Nice sardar sitting at the counter eating Paranthas: “Soss?”
– Chirag Mahabal