Every summer he came to our colony on his cycle. His transition over the years from my childhood can be traced from the devolution of his dentures. Age and with years turned his teeth from paan(beetle leaf) stained reddish white to yellow and then gradually to hollow mouth with out any sign of a teeth. His signature style was his smile, which leaned more towards a guffaw. The cycle was full of tender coconuts and on the handle was a cotton bag with his machete and small red purse to keep money. He always wore a blue and black checkered lungi, which he used to fold before starting his business.
The cycle was a very old specimen and the rims were all brown with rust. with the load of tender coconut it always looked liked panting and while he used to ride it, it looked like a snail dragging itself on a very tough surface. I always thought, his existence is the only force which makes the cycle run otherwise time would have consumed the cycle for better.
May be he was the harbinger of summer. He often announced the arrival of summer by standing under the Gulmohar tree of our colony. Otherwise green for the rest eight months, the tree also changes during the summer four months from march till end of July. I think the tree decorates itself during the four months to hug his friend. During the first touch of summer the leaves fall from the tree and cover his business with little yellow leaves, then the red flowers fall on the ground and welcome him to our colony, soon the red flowers turn in to long sword like fruits which dangle on his head when he cut the coconuts.
He never ate anything apart for the paan which perpetually was in his mouth and his mouth always in action of regurgitation…he just sat there under the tree until someone approached him. He would pluck the best coconut from the branch on his cycle and then with expert strokes will carve the coconut in to a bowl with a straw for the person to drink the satiating liquid.
For me he was an artist, who knows how to carve the green coconut in to a little oasis of relief. He was the coconut whisperer, who new the secret of water. He would stroke each coconut and tell which would have more water, he knew each sound his coconuts made. Nobody ever talked about him, he was of no significance to the busy people of our locality. He is even less valued than the Puchka vendor, whose absence always created a commotion and deposited a lot of enquiry until his next visit but the coconut person was just as apparition. His existence was mingled in the silhouette of the Gulmohar tree. I think his only best friend is the Gulmohar tree, who welcomes him each summer and cascades him with love.
Now a days his business is gradually decreasing, now kids do not feel for tender coconut water, they want aerated drinks. I know his frail body would not support him in coming years, he will not visit our locality and with him all my memories of summer will vanish. No one will miss him apart from the Gulmohar tree.
I and all my friends stay in this same locality from our childhood. Now in our mid thirties, we are very busy with our lives, we have so much to talk about, so much to worry abut from family to politics to country but we do not have time to talk of our childhood and the life beyond the shackles of society. My friends and all the people of locality will not miss him and will not listen to me about a poor person selling coconuts. This is not exciting for them no matter how real his existence is in our lives.
Perhaps we are socialised in such a way that he would never matter to us. Only his coconuts will matter to us and those too until they satiate our thirst and are cheap. He will always be just a vendor, a small business man. All the emotions we used to feel as child to see him, to wait for our turn to drink coconut water is now very trivial. His guffaw is more of a menace now than the tickle it used to arouse in our stomach. His mere presence in our locality created a lot of imagination among us, he was our source of world outside our locality. But today he fails to register any presence in our mind and soul. I wonder how we grew up that from being a real person, a harbinger of summer he just became a vendor and then just vanished in front of us and we accepted this reality without any sense of remorse.
It is high time to wake up from this immoral slumber, so I decided to talk about him with him. I will listen to him and I will preserve him in my memory. If possible I will tell him, how important he was for me, how he defined summer for me. I will narrate how inspiring is the amazing bond he created with his craft and how during every summer he nurtured me wth the peace of tender coconut water filled with his love. He most probably will find another friend apart from the Gulmohar tree and i would capture his Guffaw as reminiscent of the innocence of my childhood. I will hug him until my tears will mingle in to his. Will do it tomorrow, definitely tomorrow.