He played god. He was one of those people who really did have a hand in making everyone’s dinner. Literally! Baner Gaon had but just one of those people who could do it; grind dried grains to flour. No one else would do it. They had not the good old machine with a couple of defunct stones that worked like magic on the hardest grain nor the grit to fill their lungs with anything other than tobacco. He gleamed in pride at the machine that he had mastered over the years; that earned his daily flour. He waited patiently as the machine’s drone went from the deep guttural crush to the smooth rubbing of stone against stone with a layer of fine dust sandwiched in between. He brushed the flour into their little cloth bags and pocketed what they gave him. He never haggled. Baner Gaon loved him as the machine-vala.
Today was just one of those days when everyone brought their bags of wheat to him. A tiring day which left him all white. He cut a sorry figure; hooded and dusty. His hair was all floury. So were his face and eyes. To put it short, there was flour everywhere.
But he didn’t mind it. He eyed the pack that he had left standing at a remote corner on the sole table he had in his little shop. And there it was; the little bag of flour that would feed his little family for the fortnight. He could tell a good grain from a not so good one and he knew that this was one of the best that he had ever ground; fresh from the fields. He could already taste the rotis that his wife’s hands would make of the flour. He couldn’t wait to get back home and smell the flour roast against the tandoor. He carefully brushed himself as he emerged from a white floury monster to the brown little maratha that he was. He popped his cap on, the tip still pointing majestically, reminding him of his people who had worn it over the years. He laid the bag out carefully and locked up the room with his machine, which would rest until it would resume its droning the next day. He walked out with his treasured bag but the rain wouldn’t let him pass. He struggled with his bag as he opened his umbrella and held it high. A drunk passed by. He couldn’t hold his cycle too well. He swayed from one side to the other, falling at every pothole. He had nothing in hand save what the puddles had given him. He was going home too.
He fell to the ground near our machine-vala, his cycle tripping him down with the flour and all. The machine-vala cursed the drunk as he watched his precious flour half emptied into a nearby puddle. The drunk didn’t quite follow what he was hearing but then he got onto his cycle and tried to pedal it again. Pedal it back homeward, where his wife would be waiting with rotis and all that he wanted to forget but couldn’t. He was going back. He was falling into every pothole but he was going back.
The machine-vala tried his best to rescue all that remained of his bag of flour. He wanted to go back home too. Go back where his wife would be waiting for the flour and all that memories that he would never want to forget and can’t. He was going back. His flour lay in the muddled pothole but he was going back.
He stopped cursing. He spat at the drunk and walked on.