He Sat Smiling Under the Neem Tree



Nagesh is someone,

Who inspired me,

He is neither my friend,

nor my dear one,

He is a common man,

Who sells vegetables in Mumbai.


He was a young, a
poor boy of thirteen,

Who helped his father,

Pichamani, hawk vegetables,

Under the big, old neem tree.

In the year 1990.


His younger brother Suresh,

Joined him a few years later.

Nagesh was very efficient,

But the quieter one.

One had the marketing skills,

And the other handled the bills.


I watched them sell vegetables,

Pumpkin, Brinjal, Drumstick,

Carrots, Beans and Turnips,

Bananas in all varieties,

You can ask for anything,

It was always there.


What I liked about him,

Was his cheerful nature,

And the business acumen,

He was well versed with.

He always used to be kind,

Garrulous, and humorous.


There was a small garment shop,

Just next door.

When Suresh sat in the hot sun,

Wiping sweat from his brow,

That man was comfortably seated,

On a cotton bed on the floor.


He had a perpetual frown,

And was quite stern and rude,

People gave him dirty looks,

And cursed him when he spoke.

Sometimes I looked at him,

And wondered why he was not good.


In five years Suresh had,

Mushroom, basil and broccoli,

Grapefruit, avocado and blueberry,

Neatly placed in trays, all in a row.

I told my daughter, “Mark my words,

He will open a supermarket tomorrow.”


He would call out to me,

“Chechi why don’t you try our Methi,

You will love it. Have you taken Papad?

And the juicy, golden mangoes,”

He knew every customer by name,

The personal attention he gave,

Made them all rave.


One day I was surprised,

He was not there under the tree.

The whole place looked desolate,

When I noticed the banner on the tree.

“AP MANI & SONS” in black and white.

He even knew how to advertise.


I couldn’t believe my eyes,

When I saw his shop.

It was AP Mani & Sons Supermarket.

With the Haiko contract in the bag,

The Nadars set up their business,

In a plush 2000 sq. ft. shop.

Then they shifted from the chawl,

To a beautiful apartment with a lawn.

Unbelievable, but it’s true.


Sadly, the owner of the garment shop,

Still sits on the same old cotton bed,

In the same old worn out shop,

With the same old frown.

Older and thinner,

With hardly any people around!


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