Ajmal – I love to hate that man for reasons I really don’t know. A tall and dark fellow whose shrewdness oozes out from his gaze and smile; his side-burns and moustache with his jet black well oiled locks matches his personality as much as his olive like eyes which forever looks red and swollen.
The way I have described him might sound eerie and maddening. But he is exactly this; wait till you see him one fine day if luck is by your side and you will thank me for telling you this well in advance!
And if his looks were not enough to characterize his persona, you will go bonkers when he opens his mouth. He possesses perhaps the ugliest set of teeth, stained almost in a shade of something seemingly yellowish and grayish layer of plaque with crimson lining on the edges for his mouth is eternally busy chewing tobacco. I wonder if he has ever brushed his teeth!
I’ve been seeing this man in our locality for a long time now. Not only does he despise me but even the hounds (the self-proclaimed kingpins) that wander about in the lanes are not too fond of him either. The very sight of him and they bark unstoppably.
I don’t remember the first conversation we had but I very well remember the last one we had a few days ago.
For the past few months Ajmal and I were not in talking terms. If his looks were not good enough reasons for me to hate him, he had the guts to actually siphon money from me in broad daylight! That was it. I asked him to “leave” immediately and never to step in our compound ever again. He tried his best to plead, persuade and assure me that it was “just a mistake” but I had no energy left to buy all the things he said in a bid to defend himself.
I hate stacking things. I firmly believe that if I don’t use a thing for a year; be it clothes or other stuff, I am sure I shall not be using this again in the near future. And hence I dispose off clutter. Old clothes, shoes, curtains etc mostly sees their way to Clothes bank a local N.G.O but what do I do with old newspapers, beer bottles, cans etc?
That was precisely the moment when Ajmal stepped into my life as a big rescue.
Ajmal is a measly scrap and junk collector. Thus he made my life a whole lot easier and clutter free. I am a kind of someone who doesn’t remember faces too well, maybe it’s the Aquarius in me – the “out of sight out of mind” syndrome. But his face is one thing I could never miss for sure, even if that meant seeing him while going to the nearby market to buy vegetables. Years passed on and he knew his timings well. He would come gather all the junk and there have been times when I’d offer him tea and snacks. In a bid to return that favour he’d also tidy up the compound sometimes, brush off dried leaves from the lawn and also mow the lawn if he had time. And I was happy with this arrangement no matter how disgusting he looked.
But with time passing his behavior seemed had changed. He was no longer dedicated towards his work. He was disinterested in his chores. He would still say “yes” when I’d ask him if he’d like to have a cup of tea but he no longer would mow the lawn or brush up the dried leaves. I had no time to ponder into these trivial issues then. I was too busy mending my own life.
And one fine day Nirav casually tapped me on my shoulders and said, “Do you realize that this man is deceiving you?” He further said, “Have you ever crossed checked whether he weighs the newspapers correctly?”
All I had as an answer was a simple, “No”.
The next best thing Nirav did was to ask Ajmal weigh the entire heap of newspapers yet one more time. I wasn’t too happy about it, especially on a hot and humid afternoon. Ajmal could see the wrath in Nirav’s eyes for sure and he heeded with much fuss. Nirav made sure his scales were accurate and on the second count I realized that I was actually being duped by about five kilos of newspaper! And I wondered in the last nine years how many kilos of junk he had deceived me.
And that was it. I asked him to “leave” and keep the entire bundle of papers and other junk where it was and never to show his face or dare talk to me again.
For the last couple of months I’ve been throwing away all the junk in the garbage bin. But the pile of newspapers was getting larger and larger. I didn’t know what to do. There were other scarp collectors too, passing by our home and many a times I’ve had this desperate urge to call one of them and clear the mess. But then I thought of Ajmal and said to myself, “they are all the same”, and I let the heap get larger.
Day before yesterday, I was in the balcony watering my plants and Nirav was in the porch washing car. And from the corner of my eye I could sense someone was near the gate. As I looked down I saw Ajmal. As I looked into him, he sheepishly smiled at me. I did not respond. I looked away and kept watering my plants. I looked towards the gate again and saw him still standing there hoping I’d let him in. I came inside, got busy with preparing breakfast and about fifteen minutes later as I went to the balcony to call Nirav for breakfast I saw Ajmal still waiting. Nirav by then had finished his washing and was coming upstairs. As he stepped in I asked him, “Should I ask him to come and take away the newspapers?”
Nirav nodded his head and reminded me of what had happened about eight months ago.
I assured him, “I’ll be careful this time around”. And as walked towards the balcony to call Ajmal i could see a sheer excitement in this face, that shrewdness oozing out from his gaze and smile yet one more time…
As he weighed the newspapers he asked me if “dada” was around just in case he wanted to “check the scales” …
Maybe Ajmal again duped me. I am not sure. He assured me he did not. And I trust him. Not because he means much but because he helps me in tidying up my home.