Waiting for Rampal: A Leaf from the Past

Waiting could be exasperating. It could be taxing, tiring, humiliating. It can leave you fuming, fretting, annoyed. Sometimes, however, waiting can be fun, especially if one is waiting for ones D-Day, expecting a promotion, a salary hike or meeting a long lost friend or a loved one.

Sitting in a coffee house, waiting for a business client, I was finding it difficult to stay calm. I was forced to meditate on the nature of ‘wait’ and how ‘waiting’ impacts the human mind. As I kept ruminating, my thoughts unconsciously led me to the time when I was still a young child. I traversed back in time, dived into my past and became completely oblivious of my present ‘wait‘.

On a hot Friday afternoon, in a small sleepy town in the remote corner of the country somewhere in central India, the kids waited anxiously, straining their ears for a distinct sound. It was almost 3.00 p.m. The sound was expected anytime between 3.00 p.m to 4.00 p.m. The long and dreary summer afternoon had prolonged the wait. It seemed like ages before the familiar ‘toot-toot’ of the bicycle horn could be heard at a distance. The kids rushed to the window and there at the curve of the road emerged a hazy outline of a man riding an old black bicycle. As the figure came closer, the sound now became loud and clear. The kids grew excited; the curls of their lips widened into broad grins. The kids jumped and leaped towards the main iron gate entrance at the far end of the garden road with finely trimmed hedge on either side and small white and purple petunias flowering in the artistically designed flowerbeds that were encircled by small pebbles and painted white with lime powder (chuna). Stop! stop! they shouted in chorus. The hooting sound and the cycle came to a standstill.

The mysterious rider alighted from the bicycle, there were two large white bags hanging down from the two handles at either side of the bicycle. The bags were overstuffed with soft, spongy, sweet smelling, mouth-watering delicacies, whose aroma filled the air. “Why did you come after so many days, this time” ?, asked one of the kids. The lean and thin man with dark brown complexion and small brown eyes responded with a feeble smile. He unloaded the bags  with mild difficulty as his left arm was amputated or he was a victim of natural disability. Mother signaled them to come near the shaded verandah. She asked him if he needed some water, as he looked pale and worn out. Mother went inside and brought him a glass of water and some jaggery, which he accepted gladly. After that, he asked the kids in a more enthusiastic voice “What would you like to have children” ? The bag when opened, appeared like a Pandora’s box which revealed packs of freshly baked cakes, candies, pastries, cream rolls, muffins and assorted cookies. There was a whole range of  delightful delicacies to satiate the sweet tooth. The children picked their favorites and their hearts were filled with boundless joy. Mom payed the bills, the kids waved happy hands and in unison shouted, “Come soon again Rampal bhaiya!

Rampal, the thin man with one arm and a bag full of goodies used to visit the Campus once in every 15 days. He was a welcome guest and indeed the most awaited one. He was a harbinger of priceless happiness to these kids. Living in a campus residential area, situated on the top of a hill, surrounded by nature, cut off from mainstream, where marketplace was miles away, the small vendors like Rampal were a blessing in disguise.

Today, there are a thousand places just round the corner where you will find the most exquisite of bakers and confectioners. The market is flooded with shops which offer the finest and most scrumptious treats of delicious cakes and cookies. Pineapple cake, Truffle cake, Fruit cake, Black Forest, Marble cake, there is an array of cakes available. I relish them all, but nothing tastes as pleasing, as luscious, as gratifying, as heavenly as the cakes and cream rolls that rolled out of the magical bag of  Rampal. None of these can match up to the aroma and the sweetness that was delivered to our doorsteps by Rampal.

The sound of the cycle bell is still ringing in my ears,  I can see you riding towards our house with your bags filled with tempting yummy delights. I am standing at the same  old gate hoping to find you there…

Waiting for Rampal was like an endless wait but the ‘sweetest’ one that one could have ever craved for. It is amazing how different people from different walks of life, touch our lives and leave such lasting impressions on our mind and heart.







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