It was an ordinary August afternoon. I was working at my Father’s shop during the weekend while my Father was at home enjoying his two days off. I phoned him to see what he was up to and he told me that he was relaxing, leisurely gardening colourful per-annuals in the backyard and trying to control the visible green algae which blanketed his new backyard fish pond. The algae multiplied unexpectedly over the past few weeks, taking over the pond and turning his little oasis into a sea of green. The algae made the pond look less like a pool of fresh clear water and more like a deep pool of split pea soup.
I stood there at the shop behind the counter disinterested in everything around me, bored of doing nothing while consciously ignoring all the little tasks that needed to be complete before close such as straightening displays, vacuuming and dusting the shelves. Instead of doing actual work that was expected of me I’d stand for a while and then sit down and then stand up again. Going back and forth between the two until a fresh batch of customers came in, in which case I would walk around the store pretending the look busy waiting to be approached for help. The only thing that occupied my mind was lunch. I couldn’t decide weather I wanted ma-pao tofu with vegetable fried rice rice or a vegetarian sub as both were my favourites. I was leaning towards the sandwich because it didn’t require the use of utensils.
I felt like Sisyphus except only I wasn’t doing anything remotely close to pushing a boulder up and down a mountain only to to wait and see it roll down again. But I was involved in a rather futile activity except only it didn’t involve strenuous movement as a result of condemnation. I was repeatedly sitting and then standing and then sitting and then standing, not being able to commit to one posture. I guess if you think about it, it could as exercise! Still contemplating about what I will have for lunch I would occasionally looking out the window wishing that I wasn’t cooped up inside the shop that smelt like agarbathees and India. On one hand I felt imprisoned but on the other hand I felt free, free from having to help my Dad in the backyard where I would eventually sneeze up up a storm, have an allergy attack as a result of my encounter with nature and pass out after taking drowsy allergy relief medication. I guess being in the shop was better than suffering from itchy eyes and a leaky nose which would inevitably cause me to look like Rudolph the red nose reindeer six months early.
I was sitting on my rather uncomfortable basic chair studying my phone, reading tweets from strangers that I follow when a family of four entered the shop. I acknowledged them with a Hello and folding my hands in a Namaste. Greeting them in both traditional English that reflected the salute of a country that I was born and raised in and the traditional language of a country whose set of practices that despite my facticity I will not part with. Although I was born in a Sikh household, I greeted my guests in their customs. The family was Indian. I could tell by the powdered red tika adorned on their forehead worn for special religious occasions that they were Hindu. My eyes began to study the family who were dressed in traditional Indian clothing, they must have decided to visit our shop after a worship at the temple I thought to myself as I looked at them slowly walk around the store adoring our collection of traditional art, handicrafts and home decor sold at a prices which would appear to be a rip off to anyone born in India. I could almost sense that any moment they would begin to convert the dollar prices listed on the merchandise into Indian rupees, quietly thinking to themselves that these goods would be less than half the cost back home.
The family appeared to be a mom, dad, brother and sister. I let them walk around the shop in peace, careful not to disturb them. Giving them ample time to engage themselves with the space, the shelves and tables filled with Indian imports collected from various cities that would immediately fill anyone with nostalgia. I waited for a reaction in their body language to reflect hints of a wistful desire to return to a former glorious time in their life back home before they were immigrants to a foreign land. I waited for the moment where they would pick up an item which would remind them of their childhood. A time of happiness that they would momentarily yearn to be reunited with. I waited for them to pick up the old rotary dial phone and show their kids how telephones used to look like when they were younger. How they would have to use their finger to turn a wheel until it stopped in order to make a phone call which is now replaced with a simple touch screen.
I stood there looking at the family almost about to go up to them to see if they needed any help when the son, a young man approached me to ask me a question. “Excuse me” he said. “Where can I find a case for this, my phone?” he asked holding out his smart device. I told him that he should try a mobile phone store a few shops down. He smiled at me indicating that he was thankful for my informative response and he walked away. I noticed through our brief interaction from the way he spoke that he had a developmental impairment, one that seemed present from birth. He was tall, had beautiful black hair, wore sneakers, jeans and a t-shirt and spoke slowly with a little difficulty. I could hear that he had trouble making certain sounds.
I continued to stand there resting my back against the clear glass counter, messing up my hair and then straightening it out again with my fingers only to mess it back up again. I looked at my wrist at my Seiko 5 wondering when it would be an appropriate time to go for lunch, still not having made up my mind about where I would eat. The young man shyly walked in my direction. I thought that perhaps he wanted to walk past me to get to the other side of the shop so I took a couple of steps and walked around the counter to give him comfortable space. Except only he didn’t walk past me but came up to occasionally smiling to himself and then lowering his head. I smiled politely acknowledging that he was in my personal space but not quite sure if was going to walk from me any second or ask me a question. With the smile still glued on my face he looked back up at me and then looked immediately back down. With his eyes studying the light cream tiled floor he rain his hands down the back of his head and smiled once again. Adorably shy, I could sense that he wanted to say something but I couldn’t predict what was on his mind. He looked straight at me with a look of friendliness in his eyes. “Excuse me” he said with a brief pause and then continued, his eyes looking up at me and then back down. “You look beautiful” he said with a smile that stretched from ear to ear. In that moment when his words, unexpected to me fell upon my ears I could feel my heart begin to melt, my mind finally stopped thinking. There was not even a tiny space for doubt. “Thank you” I replied. He took his time to pronounce his words and he spoke exactly what was on his mind.