Every winter, the old man would come from his village to the city to sell biscuits. Vani’s grandfather was his regular customer. While Tani would go to one of the shops in the plaza to buy whatever she needed, her grandfather would go to this old peanut seller and strike a little conversation. When tani would return, the biscuits seller would greet her with a ‘Namaste tani gudiya’ and tani would greet him back with the same zeal. Towards the end of winter, a few days before leaving the city, the biscuits seller would inform his old friend about his departure. Vani’s grandfather would request him to save two packets of biscuits for him and on the seller’s last day in the city for that particular year, he would go and get them from him, wish him a happy journey and come back home.
And so these two friends would part, waiting for winter to establish the connection once again.
Every year, the winter breeze would bring the old man to his friend’s city and somehow, tani’s grandpa would always meet him on his first day. The ritual of buying peanuts the whole season, the seller saving two packets for his friend every year before leaving and his friend meeting him on his first day in the city every following year continued for a long time until one summer morning, tani’s grandpa did not wake up. Tani started going to another shop to buy things because going to the old one, where she had always been accompanied by her grandpa, made her heart heavy. A few years later she went abroad to study and when she did come back, it had been 17 years.
It was towards the end of winter when she came back, around the time when the peanut seller from the past would retreat. Everyone from the family had come to meet her. The topic shifted from her life abroad to the life she had lived before leaving the city and eventually, to her grandpa and his love for biscuits. The moment she heard the word ‘biscuits’, she knew she couldn’t live in peace without meeting her grandpa’s old friend whose face now flashed in front of her eyes like a vague memory. That winter evening, she went to the plaza with the hope of finding the peanut seller and seeking forgiveness for not telling him about his friend’s death. When she did reach there, the old man was missing. In fact, the place where he used to sit was now occupied by a boot polisher. However, in another corner of the road, there was a young boy selling biscuits. Tani thought it’d be nice to get some in memory of her grandfather. So she went to the young boy but before she could say anything, the seller said, “Madame, the stock is over. You know winter has almost ended, not many people buy around this time. That woman wearing the blue shirt bought all that was left with me.”, pointing towards a lady.
“No problem. Anyway bhaiya, do you know anything about the old biscuits seller? He used to sit where that boot polisher is sitting, around 10 years ago.”, Tani inquired, still hoping to find the old man.
“Yes. I am his son. He passed away three years ago. But, how do you know my father?”, the boy answered.
Tani, a little shook by the boy’s statement, replied, “I used to come here with my grandpa. He would buy peanuts from your father every winter. I’m sorry for your loss. I just came to tell your father that my grandpa passed away but as it turns out…”
“Are you tani didi?”, the young seller spoke with a shine in his eyes.
“Yes, but how do you know my name?”
“Wait.”, the boy said, taking out two packets from his big bag.
“Abbu jaan used to save some biscuits for your grandpa every year, hoping he’d come to take them. Every year he would do so but no one would come. Before dying, he told me about your grandfather and you and asked me to carry on doing the same. For the last three years, I’ve been keeping aside two packets for your grandfather. I think these belong to you now.”, the seller said, offering the two packets to Tani
Tani took them, paid the due amount, turned back and left, both smiling and crying at the same time. The ritual was reborn that evening.