Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Paanwallah

He plays a lively role
In everybody’s life
With a shack that he throws open
On the road side.

Saffron-coloured powder
Marks his earlobes and forehead;
His dhoti-kurta, a striking white
But fingers are dotted red.

“Kulkatta” he says with pride,
When I ask,
About his roots, which reflect
In the expert movements of his hand at the task.

He lays the betel-nut leaf
A maroon paste spreads over it unevenly
Layers of gulkand, supari and sauf
The last of the ingredients are only sprinkled

The paanwallah smiles and chats as he prepares
This traditional betel-nut delicacy
Wrapping up the leaf, he dips it in syrup
And feeds you the first bite, as part of his proficiency.

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