Lost in Monda Market

Thursday, December 03, 2009 Vishaal 0 Comments

Secunderabad is quite a large city in the State of Andhra Pradesh in the south Indian peninsula. However it is not that well known as its immediate neighbour – Hyderabad, the capital city. Together they are the twin cities, divided by the Hussainsagar lake. I grew up in this very beautiful city in my formative years. It had huge open spaces and clean and uncluttered roads and was a very cost-economic city in the eighties and early nineties, prior to globalisation and cable TV. The Secunderabad of today though is just like any other metropolis and has completely lost its charm. However that is not the story of this piece.

A few months after the tomatoes at Muddunur episode, my sister was born and around the same time, dad got transferred to a branch in Secunderabad on promotion. This was quite a welcome change for my parents. The city was then a good place for people from Karnataka as there were quite a few localities with Kannada and Konkani speaking families. Also my dad had begun planning for us and considered it a god given opportunity to begin my schooling at a good convent school. A few years after the transfer the episode – lost in Monda market happened.

As at Muddunur, Sunday was still regarded as the day for shopping, because dad was free only on this special day, other days were spent working on countless files, account sheets and what not at his office. This was the cost he had to pay to assure his children of a good life and the remaining day was for us. On Sundays, after breakfast, dad used to set out to the nearby Secunderabad market or as it was then known as the Monda market. One hand would hold a shopping bag or basket (I do not remember which), the other would be carrying my sister who was still very young to walk on her own. And since those where the only two arms he had, I used to put a hand in his trouser pocket and walk alongside. Mom usually stayed at home in those days. After a few hours, the shopping bag would fill up with vegetables and fruits and then we would walk back, for mother to cook us a delicious lunch. This was the usual routine for quite a long time and was a very exciting thing for me at that age.

However one Sunday, the usual routine was broken. As usual I was walking alongside my dad with a hand in his trouser pocket. I think what happened was that I got distracted by some sweets at one of the shops in the market and temporarily let go of dad’s pocket; or, maybe dad had to get his wallet out of the pocket and in the process asked me to let go. Whatever the reason, my hand was out of his trouser pocket for a short period. What happened next seems funny now, but at that time it created a lot of stress for my parents and my dad was close to a nervous breakdown.

I placed my hand back in the trouser pocket, but not that of my dad. I had started walking alongside a complete stranger without realising it. As was my habit I was looking at the various exciting shops, while the stranger was completely oblivious to the fact that he had a hand in his pocket which was not his!! My dad meanwhile was frantically searching for me. The stranger kept moving along and when he reached the shop where he wanted to buy a few items, reached for his wallet and there it was… a hand that did not belong to him… tracing it further there I was… a child… which he had not conceived. At the split second it took for him to realise what had happened… I looked up and my tiny brains realised that something had gone wrong. This wasn’t the person I stayed with… this wasn’t my dad!! I began crying.

People in those days were very helpful and compassionate. Unlike in the present, people usually cared for others in all circumstances and not just during adverse situations. This complete stranger could have just left me and gone about his work. However he was genuinely concerned about my safety and picked me up and retraced his steps till he came to a shop where the shop keeper knew me. Here I was given sweets and made to calm down. Dad meanwhile had retraced to this shop and not finding me, searched a few other areas and returned home to inform my mother that he had lost me. He then returned my sister and went to a cousins place to get assistance and return to the market.

Meanwhile the stranger who was looking after me tried to ask me where I stayed. The shop keeper gave me more toffees to calm me. The problem was that I did not know much of the local language – either Telugu or Hindi and they did not know Konkani – my mother tongue. After much pacifying and prompting I indicated that I could diect them to my house. The poor chap then walked in the direction I took pointed (Probably across all of the shops in the market where dad used to buy stuff) which must have been quite a roundabout as I don’t think I could remember a direct route. Finally after much pointing and walking we reached my home and there mom was waiting for me. The Good Samaritan did not even have a glass of water. He just scolded mom asking her whether this was the way to take care of a kid and such other things and left.

My dad by this time was on the verge of giving up the search and posting a missing persons report at the Monda Market police station when as a last resort he reached the sweet shop where I was having some chocolate just a few minutes ago. The Shopkeeper told him about how the stranger had found me. He told my dad that the stranger had decided to take me home. After waiting for a few anxious moments there and since we did not return, he decided to return home and see whether I had taken the stranger along the correct route back home. And there I was welcoming him home. My dad was relieved man that day and the coming Sundays where then spent by me either at home or on trips to the market without my sister.