The Tibetan Sweater Seller

It had been long time since I had used a sweater. There was no need to touch it because neither Mangalore nor Chennai weather would demand someone like me to wear one. It was only yesterday, I picked up my sweater and wore it at home because it was really ‘cold’ in Tumkur. 

The next day I was sitting in my mom’s cloth store, where I was reminded of an old memory. I just picked up my tab and started to write about it and the story just poured out.

When I was a kid, maybe in second standard or so , there was a Tibetan middle aged man who used to set up a makeshift sweater stall beside the entrance of our cloth store. Amma and grandpa used to pronounce the word Tibetan as ‘Tibe-teeyan’. Only in my later years did I spot a place called Tibet on the map. I understood about their history and continuing struggle only in recent years.

It wasn’t much. He had about 50-100 sweaters with him. I can say that he sold about 3-4 sweaters on an average day. He used to pack it and unpack the entire thing everyday. I never knew where he lived or slept in the night. It was not a matter of concern to me at all. I was just a kid.

Out of curiosity, I used to go and sit along with that person and talk to him about random things. After all a cloth store is not a great place to spend for a kid. The roadside makeshift place seemed to be more interesting to me.

It was surprising, how I was welcomed to sit beside him on the floor. Mom or grandpa didn’t stop me from going out. Even he was a friendly guy who used help us out in the store during busy hours. At some point of time Amma/grandpa agreed to keep his stuff in our store so that he could avoid carrying it everyday.

His Kannada accent was a bit weird, but I could understand him very well. He could sell to villagers and city people alike. He used to come to the same spot every winter. And at the end of every winter he used to gift me a sweater.

Years rolled on. Grandpa died. Mom took over the store. Eventually there was road widening exercise taken up by the municipality. Even we lost a few square feet of space in the store. The pathways were rebuilt. The Tibetan sweater seller disappeared from the scene in this mess. He never came back. Till this afternoon, he had disappeared from my memory (not entirely) as well.

But then, one simple line remains in my memory forever. By the end of everyday he used to say ‘It takes just five minutes to close your store, but I take 30 minutes ‘I don’t understand why I remember that line so distinctly. Maybe I just thought it was fun or something of that that sort. I never knew that Tibetans were refugees from a distant land. They were packing bags on a daily basis. Perhaps they missed their homeland. Some of them wouldn’t have seen Tibet  in the first place. Yet this distant memory helps me in appreciating their experience/concern. It also helps me appreciate how distinct people cross our paths and leave a trace of their personality without our knowledge.

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