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Ojha Uncle and His Shop of Optimism

Debayan Ganguly (Dev Ayan) is an MBA with 2 years of experience in B2B sales. He likes to write and spread his learnings through blogs.

Some people have a brief appearances in our lives, but leave a lasting impression on us.

Some people have a brief appearances in our lives, but leave a lasting impression on us.

It was June 2019. I was posted in Delhi for my first job.

Exhausted after a long day before the office computer, with a credit-seeking boss hovering over my head and an ever unsatisfied client filling my inbox with dissatisfactory comments, I was slowly walking my way home. It was well beyond my usual time of return, and I was way past my threshold of patience. I sighed at the thought of having to work all night and return to the office early morning next day to complete the presentation that my boss will tell his boss that it was done under his supervision, and his boss will present the same to the client as if he had done it himself.

Walking alone, I decided to avoid the shortcut through the unlit children’s park. The safe, well-lit road added to my tiredness as my steps became more and more drag. Even the dogs pitied me and turned away without much shooing. As I entered my street, the gloomy luminescence welcomed me. I saw Ratan, the juice seller by the sidewalk, busy with his night customers. I didn’t know he worked till late. At least he had no boss to report to. No one should have a boss like mine. I was disgusted at the thought of my supervisor.

I regretted my life and decided I would not recommend this job to anyone. All my optimism towards my work was waning as I proceeded forward.

My stomach grumbled. I was famished. I decided to stop at my usual takeaway for packing my dinner. I had discontinued my meals at the company guest house once they began cost-cutting on the employees’ food. Since then, I bought my dinner from Ojha Uncle’s shop.

Cabin to Home, their shop, was listed in various food delivery apps, but I preferred to visit them. It was my way of cost-cutting. Also, Ojha Uncle knew my taste and preferences. Coming from the eastern part of the country like me, we connected through many things. Needless to mention that he was the only affordable shop for regular consumption of fish curry.

“You’re wearing formals again?” greeted Ojha uncle as I approached the takeaway window. From the void adorned by menu cards and payment gateway scan-images pasted around, I saw him smiling in his revolving checking accounts.

I looked at my attire. I was wearing a brown and white checked shirt that, unlike me, had given up following the code and was unconstitutionally freeing itself from the forces of my belt.

“Yes,” I said. “I am coming straight from the office.”

He had noticed that I wasn’t wearing my shorts and tee with sneakers, my usual attire for the gym. I realised I had missed the gym for the third consecutive day. I wanted to continue working on my fitness; I had even turned down the cake they cut last week to celebrate one of my team members’ birthday. My client didn’t believe that a healthy mind resided in a healthy body. They kept me away from the gym without remorse. Will Gupta understand why I lost the bet despite not wanting to? Who cares! I’ll pay him from the commission I will get from the client.

“So, what will you have for today?” Ojha uncle, the ever-smiling man, asked from his chair, bringing me to the present.

I gave my order. And a little more than my usual. I would have a long night with an unsatisfying project; at least my stomach should feel satisfied.

“How was your day?”

“Don’t ask Uncle,” I say. “It’s a real pain,” I stop midway, looking at his two kids running around. I saw them every day since their summer vacation began. I resumed my narration of the day, refrained from cribbing any further.

Ojha uncle listened to every bit of it with patience, smiling and occasionally oscillating in his chair. As I was talking, his younger child came running from inside the shop. “Will you play with me?” the toddler asked me.

“Does he look like a friend to you?” Ojha uncle spoke.

“It’s all right,” I said as I took the ball from his hand and threw it at him. Unable to catch it in the air, he cursed me asking to throw slowly. I smilingly obliged. I threw the ball again as he ran to catch. I playfully threw them away from their reach to see his cute angry face. And occasionally give easy throws to see him celebrate.

“Caught it,” he said, jumping. His loose fit t-shirt having Captain America and Superman’s photo fluttered with air. I felt a cool breeze on my forehead. The touch of dry air lightened my face from the heaviness of the day.

“Your meal is ready,” Aunty, Ojha uncle’s wife, called me.

As I took my parcel and made the payment, she asked me, “How are you, son?”

“I am fine,” I said with a smile. Living solitary in a place far away from my family and friends, such small gestures of warmth felt like I am back at home.

After I paid for the day, I found Ojha Uncle dictating notes to two youths.

“They are my new tenants,” he said. “I love interacting with people of your age. I feel so alive talking to them. Here I am guiding them for their upcoming interviews. These management students will one day be working as you.”

“My best wishes for them,” I said and bid my goodbyes and good nights for the day.

I began walking when I saw Ratan returning from his spot.

“Brother,” he shouts. “I have sold out today.”

He seemed so excited; he was oscillating in joy as he pushed his cart towards his home.

Delighted, I began my walk towards home.

I knew my job wouldn’t change. My boss would sulk again the next day, my client would still remain unsatisfied because they are the ones paying to juice us out of our lives, and my team would gather and complain during tea breaks.

I realised my agony was going to persist, but at least I had a window to look out from the walls of my prison cell to feel the night breeze once in a while.

With nothing changed in my life or my job, I still dared a smile as I returned home that night.

© 2021 Debayan Ganguly

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