In school, lines related to either geometry or language. In college, it meant flirting (in Hindi Line Marna means wooing someone), on the map it means borders and on the face it defines age and experience. Walking past an elderly man on a lonely street in Khoparkhaine his facial lines were telling a story. We stepped back to explore that story.
Looking at the bag in his hand, Kantilal Bhanushali said, “These are khakras and theplas (gujarati food items). I supply them to a restaurant in the vicinity. I buy them for Rs. 70 and sell at Rs. 100. I go there 2-3 times a week.”
He added, “My son and my brother-in-laws invested big in the stock market ten years ago. My son sold my farm in Jamnagar, took loans from his sisters and bank to invest. They suffered a loss of 1 crore. My son spends his salary to pay the 20 lakhs that is his share.” On reaching Preeti Sandwich & Fast Food, he handed over the bag to the staff members with a smile that they reciprocated.
As he was returning to his place, we took a walk down memory lane. “In Surba village in Gujarat, my mother worked very hard in the fields to support my younger siblings and me. My father had passed away in my childhood. I started doing hard labour in Jamnagar after I lost my mother. In the 80’s, I came to Mumbai and started doing odd jobs. Some 15 years ago, I got a nice job in a clothing shop and my financial condition improved. Then I bought a house in Borivali.”
Looking worried he added, “I sold that house and moved to Navi Mumbai 10 years ago to pay off some amount of the loan. I think we should sell this house too and stay on rent. Loan is a very bad thing.” It’s ironic; he doesn’t stop being concerned about his son, even though they are not on talking terms.
Talking about the Gujarat he left behind, he said, “I have not been to Gujarat for a very long time. They say it is developed, they say Modi will do good things for the country. But only one person can’t bring about a change, he would need a good team.” He also recalls Navi Mumbai has changed significantly. They were more open spaces, lesser people and more affordable houses.
About his better half, Jigna, he said, “She is my support system. My sister who lives in Ahmedabad brought the proposal for me. My sister is 20 years older, she got married when I was very young. I didn’t even know that I had an elder sister till then.”
As we neared his house in a lower middle class locality, we were amazed at how much he walks to deliver the foodstuffs. Bharat, an elderly resident from the locality said, “ I know him since the time he came here. He’s a very nice man.” His grandchildren Rushi and Vaishali hugged him as he entered the house. Hardships, worry, sadness, hope and laughter – the lines defined his life.