The Dosa Vendor

The tawa sizzles.

Unperturbed, the breakfast vendor at the corner of a crowded road of Secunderabad picks up a jug of water, pours a little in his folded fist and sprinkles it on the hot pan. It sizzles again as the water evaporates and forms a line of smoke in the air.

“Two dosas!” A man shouts, trying to push the throng of people standing around the cart. He holds up two fingers as his face puckers up in frustration.

The heat is glaring down, as the sweaty office-goers hurriedly stuff the breakfast down their throats. The vendor, from time to time, removes the cloth he has folded around his head and wipes his face. Then, dusting it off, he ties it around his head again and picks up a ladle of batter.

Image Credits: Sanjay Bora
Image Credits: Sanjay Bora

“Plain dosas?”
He confirms.

Meanwhile, the two men in the front shout at the vendor.

“I was here first!” One of them says.

“Next, I came!” The other mimics.

“We both ordered Masala Dosas!” The first one reiterates.

The vendor acts like he hasn’t heard them, used to this quarrel. They don’t understand the way his mind works. Plain dosa takes lesser time to make.

Spreading the batter round and round, in spirals, he creates a cleanly circular, white sheet against the iron tawa. He repeats the process till there are two perfectly shaped circles getting ready. 

He wipes his sweat off again as a customer, eating at a side, approaches the vendor, his plate held out and his dosa half-eaten.

“Chutney!” He demands.

Scooping up some of the chutney, the vendor drops it on the man’s plate. On the other side, another man is holding out a hundred rupee note.

“Change?” The vendor asks.

The man shakes his head, shrugs and says he doesn’t have any. Muttering inaudible curses, the vendor puts his hand into his the pocket of his grey pant and pulls out his stash of notes.

Meanwhile, a white sedan pulls up.

Almost all the men eating ogle at the girl sitting in the back seat.

Her hair is tied up in a high pony as it falls over her shoulders beautifully. Her eyes are thickly made up to match the vibrancy of her lips. She’s of very light complexion. With headphones in her ear, she’s bobbing her head to the music. The driver stops the car across the road, blocking traffic, and runs across the street to the vendor. 

“One dosa” He says, pulling out cash from his shirt pocket. “How much?”

“30!” The vendor says.

Image Credits: Rashmi and Mayur Polepalli
Image Credits: Rashmi and Mayur Polepalli

All the men eating around the cart have only paid 20 Rs. But they don’t speak up. This is the price of luxury. They’re standing in the scorching heat, eating as fast as they can so that they can get to work and she’s inside, in the air conditioned car, with no care in the world. The vendor makes a dosa hurriedly and hands it to the driver, causing anger and dismay among the crowd that has been waiting. The men watch as the driver gets in and drives away.

It is shocking to one particular man how insensitivity has become obvious these days. The girl hadn’t asked the driver to order breakfast for himself. The man had seen the hunger in the driver’s eyes as the vendor spread the masala and onions on the dosa.
Shaking his head, the man places his plate on the floor and washes his hands with a mug of water. Paying the vendor, he walks away.
As the clock strikes 10:30, they all disperse to start their work. But the vendor’s job is done for the day.

His pocket heavy, he cleans up all the vessels, ties up his cart with a piece of cloth and walks away, satisfied with the hard work he’s done. The beads of sweat on his forehead and the gleam in his eyes are proof enough.

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