The All-Attractive Butter Thief
Without even asking my permission, he invaded my “bubble”, saying, “Let me see this” while he pulled open the top of my shirt as if I were his own grandchild.
A couple of years ago, when humans were coming out of Covid-hibernation, there was a subtle feeling of celebration we felt just seeing someone outside our “bubble”.
Running low on a particular item, I visited an Indian grocer, where there lived an elderly man with an often grumpy disposition. At some point in the past, I must have upset him, or maybe he was just that way to everyone? In any case, I usually respectfully avoided asking Him for help, deferring to his son, who was almost always there.
But this day, he was the only shopkeeper and, due to what I assume to be a similar longing for human interaction, he was bright-eyed and friendly to me as I walked into his shop. He actually greeted me, and came out from behind the counter to ask if I needed any help. This brought a mild rush of relief into my mind, as I’d always wondered what I must have done to create the subtle friction between us. Were it not for the masks we had to wear, he would have seen my smiling appreciation as I stood there happily looking at him, a short well-proportioned man in his late sixties or early seventies with his face partially concealed with a mask and forehead ornamented with fresh Tripuṇḍra.
He then noticed the top of my tilak that I have tattooed on the upper portion of my chest, revealed due to my neglecting the top button of my shirt. Without even asking my permission, he invaded my “bubble”, saying, “Let me see this” while he pulled open the top of my shirt as if I were his own grandchild. He then read the accompanying mantra that is tattooed underneath ॐ ङोविन्दाय नमः (oṃ govindāya namaḥ ).
Puzzled, he affectionately asked me in a quiet voice, “Why you have oṃ govindāya namaḥ permanently on your body?”
Feeling a little shy, I gave a glib response, “Because Govinda is beautiful.” I turned to grab the bag of aniseed powder from the shelf and brought it to the counter.
His forehead creased up slightly as he reflected openly, “Hmmmm ….., so you like Govinda do you?”
“Nope. I love Him.”, I cheekily replied.
He did not expect this response it seemed, as he immediately dramatised in a gently mocking tone, “Oooooooooooh. You loooooove Govinda.” Then he looked at me abruptly, “Tell me why you love Govinda.”
Without a pause, this answer came from my still masked mouth, “Because he steals the butter and feeds it to the monkeys.”
Expressing satisfaction, he slowly contemplated whilst moving his head in a wavy motion, “Oh…. yes …. He does steal the butter and give it away to the monkeys …… yes.” He then made eye-to-eye contact with me, and I could see how much he appreciated my answer.
“He’s a naughty thief”, I reiterated while looking back into this beautiful man’s eyes, whom I had so long misunderstood.
“Yes ….”, he confirmed lovingly through layers of cultural incongruence and philosophical difference.
I may have still been a mleccha monkey in his eyes, but we definitely had a moment together. He then rang up my order and didn’t give me a discount.
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No part of this presentation was generated with artificial intelligence; just “flawsome” human thoughts here … with, of course, due homage to The Algorithm that abides over us all.
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