……..as I stepped out on to my balcony the smell of fried fish drifted upwards from the road below. The vendor, a middle aged man who sports a Veerappan moustache, had conveniently set up his stall near the wine shop across the road from our apartment. The fish, five rupees each, came wrapped in old newspaper with some onions and a slice of lemon. If you are a regular customer you might even get an extra lemon. Although a bit on the salty side the fish is tasty, cheap, good value for money, and a big hit with the boozehounds who patronize the wine shop as day turns into night and shadows become relatively longer. I secretly wonder if the fish man and the wine shop fellas are business partners. Because, you see, the saltier the fish is, the thirstier one becomes, and with a wine shop at arm’s length all one have to do is ask for another bottle of whatever one’s poison is. And what’s the point in drinking if one doesn’t have snacks to keep the mouth busy, and what better snack than a good non-vegetarian one?
I see him now; briskly doing his business, taking less than a minute to wrap a fish, and exchanging conspiratorial smiles with his co-conspirators, the liquor barons. The wine shop will close at 11 pm, and he will push away his trolley and go home to his family, and will lie in bed and smile and think of another successful evening gone by.