January 19, 2015

While you weren't looking...

What do you do when a box full of gulab jamuns from your sweet meat shop slips from your hand and falls on the road?
Curse yourself for what happened and scurry away to pack a fresh replace for the delivery?
Go get a broom from your shop nearby and sweep it into the thrash? ('Swacch Bharat' and you wouldn't want stray animals calling a gathering in front of your sweet shop for a feast?)
Or Traumatized by the incident, stop delivery of gulab jamun's forever?

Zoom in the picture above, and you will witness one of the rare occurences in history when an innocuous little citizen (aka 'Me') beautifully captured one such 'Wrong number' from the safe confines of her car parked nearby. Let me fill you in with the details *rubs her hands in glee*
So it happened like this.
After having a relaxed Sunday lunch, the family decided to go out for ice cream. Too stuffed to even step out to make a choice, I decided to stay back in the parked car.
"Get me anything except dark chocolate," I instructed the family.
"What if there is nothing except that?" they asked. Well living in Goa, we have learned to expect the most outrageous circumstances.
"In that case, get me DARK CHOCOLATE," I smirked.
The family rolled their eyes and were on their way, muttering something under their breath about lazy me and how I could do with a bit of exercise, which I chose to ignore.

I got back to texting 'Looney Tunes', my friend group on Whatsapp.
My attention had hardly wavered from my cell phone until I heard a soft thud followed by a collective groan from nearby. Immediately I looked from my car window and noticed a man on a scooter looking down at his feet and frowning. I recognized him to be the delivery boy from the nearby sweet shop. My gaze instantly shifted to where he was looking, and what I saw made me wince.. Scattered below at his feet was a boxful of perfectly golden sugar soaked  gulab jamuns. Even in that sorry plight, they looked so lovely and inviting.

Slightly vexed at the clumsiness of the delivery boy in handling the delectable sweets, I continued to observe. This initial reaction was instantly followed by an empathic one. Mistakes can happen with anyone, I thought.
"Poor guy. He is surely in for a dressing down from the owner," I thought to myself. "Maybe I will go and buy a box of fresh gulab jamuns from the shop just to make up for his slip."
I was about to open the car door and step out to do the needful, when I saw another man come out from inside the shop. He whispered something in the ear of the fore mentioned guy and handed him an aluminium tray (that I recognized as one used to display the sweets in the shop).
This was my cue to stay on and watch what happened next. So without a sound, I sat back looking closely at the drama that was unfolding at a distance.
The two men glanced left and right to see if anyone was watching. When they realized that the coast was clear (they did not notice the pair of eyes watching them from a safe distance).
Much to my disgust, they then bent over and started picking up the gulab jamuns one by one, choosing the ones that were intact from the ones distorted, and placing them carefully on the tray that was promptly produced from the store.. I watched with horror as a third man stepped out to inspect the job. This was when my cell phone came in handy.

When the family returned with the ice cream, I proudly proudly pointed out my discovery. They were aghast at the sight. We had a healthy discussion on the way home. While someone said that he might be picking the Gulab Jamun's out for disposal, the other pointed that this didn't seem true as the tray that was being used  looked exactly like the trays that were  displayed in the shop window. I, on the other hand, wanted to know which disposal method involved carefully picking only the best fallen  Gulab Jamun's by hand?

The pics were transferred to 'Looney Tunes' and we all swore to steer clear from the shop. Here was a place that was well known for its sweets and savories. This was clearly not done.

I am normally a peace loving person. I always abide by an imaginary fourth monkey (the one with eyes shut, ears plugged and hands over the mouth---the sum total of Gandhiji's famous three). But in situations like these, the cute little fourth chimp gets transformed into a mad orangutan
Honestly, I strongly believe there should be no compromise when it comes to public safety. If this can happen in a small place like Goa, it is possible almost anywhere. Basic education teaches us not to eat anything off the floor, even at home. But what about situations like these we aren't aware of?
In a country like ours, where almost every common road and street is strewn with filth, right from human piss, chewed up paan, spit, cow dung etc, do you think we have achieved that degree of a 'Swacch India' where spilled food is suitable for consumption?

On reaching home, I was thinking about the incident. Maybe I should have stepped out of the car and reprimanded them instead. Why didn't I stand up against it?
"Why would you ask for trouble? You were alone and they were so many. Nothing would come out of it anyway," my inner voice counter questioned.
 But a part of me was ashamed of myself. Maybe I could have stopped them from delivering those soiled gulab jamuns. If I could prevent even one person from consuming them and falling ill, it would have been worth the effort.  Isn't being a silent witness to a shameful act as much of a crime as committing the act?

There was a huge mental debate before posting this write up. One voice within me thought I should stay away from conflict. What has happened has happened anyway. But there was another voice within me that said  'Go right ahead. Post it so that it does not happen again. Post it so that people are aware. Post it so that when someone like you is witness to a shameful act like this, they raise a voice for public safety.'
I decided to heed to the second voice with the promise that I will take better and more prompt action next time.

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