Saturday, October 1, 2011

Boogie Nights in the Mithai Ka Dukaan

Hey, everyone. For reasons I'd rather not divulge, I won't be putting up any fiction for a while. However, that doesn't mean I won't stop posting altogether. About an hour ago while I was heading towards the market, I was mulling over a few possible blog posts. I'd formed a couple of them in my head when I saw something that made me stop and take notice.
It was your average neighbourhood sweet shop. Jalebis being fried in giant vats. Lots of people milling around. Sweets which have probably had enough flies crawling over them to erode all tastes except insect feet, all neatly arranged in gleaming steel trays. A steamed corn stall manned by the usual red-uniformed dudes. On a side note, why is it that all steamed corn outlets everywhere have the exact same flavours (Classic, Masala, Pepper, Chinese and so on), the same colour scheme (TGIF red and white) and very similar names (Hot & Juicy, Spicy & Sweet, Sweet & Sour, Hairy & Mildly Discoloured... okay I might have made up that last one)? Anyway, after squeezing my way to the back of the shop past a tray of what looked like tiny translucent bits of snot/petha bearing a label which called it 'Chana Murgi' (despite the fact that it had absolutely no chickpeas and sure as hell no chicken) towards the kaju burfi, I found myself staring at a rather large, very shiny, spinning disco ball.
Take a minute. Picture it in your head. A mithai ka dukaan. With a disco ball.
For those of you who don't know what a disco ball is, it's a large-ish spherical ball, suspended from the ceiling and encrusted with small reflecting plates so that when it spins, it reflects tiny moving rectangles of light on the walls in a manner which was, no doubt, all the rage around the time Saturday Night Fever came out. You've probably  know what I'm talking about. Here's a picture:

I should probably mention here that although I've seen disco balls on TV, this was the first fully functional one I'd ever seen. There is one in our school auditorium, high above the stage and never turned on, occasionally turning when a stray gust of wind manages to sneak up there. This one, however, was spinning like a ceiling fan. But that's not the best part. Here's the best part. It was almost completely surrounded by mirrors and CFL bulbs with the result that it reflected as much light as is physically possible onto a portrait of the deceased original owner of the shop, most likely a close relative of the current owner. I kid you not. You have a large portrait of an old, white-haired man, adorned with a pink and white, tiny mirror-dotted mala  he probably wouldn't have been seen dead with when he was alive but ironically is doomed to wear perpetually now that he actually is dead, condemned to stare at a relic from the 70s till kingdom come or the MCD bulldozers, whichever comes first. A relic that spun as fast as if the old man's immortal soul depended on it. 
I stood staring at it for a couple of minutes. Later, I realised that no one else seemed the least intrigued by it, its incongruous monstrosity notwithstanding. That made me wonder. Were they just being polite? Had they seen it countless times before, in which case why the hell hadn't I? Or did they actually find it completely normal to come across a disco ball as an accessory to the portrait of a dead man? I also wonder where and why in the name of all things holy the proprietor managed to get a disco ball. Chances are some shady knick-knack dealer convinced him that it was a genuine Hanuman Suraksha Gend and that the faster it spun, the happier the late Shri Motilal Mehta (obviously not his real name), recently deceased, would be in the great beyond. In fact I'm convinced that's the case. I just can't imagine someone walking into a store and saying, "Bhaiyya, woh ek bada sa disco ball mil sakta hain, Papa-ji ke picture ke liye?"
And so let that disco ball spin in the mithai ka dukaan. No doubt because of it, the soul of Shri Motilal Mehta (recently deceased) is boogieing down in Heaven as we speak.