When granny sang a song !
Travelling is counting number of memories, not places.
That’s my tag-line. If you read my profile anywhere, this is what I always maintain. For me memories of a journey are far more important & cherishable than places. Places change their shapes, sizes and the looks with time. Memories never.
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“Excuse me; can I help this lady in some way?” I asked a woman standing behind the push cart pointing towards an old woman, her neighbour, who looked dazed sitting behind another food stall.
February, 2010. Seven in the evening, I was in night market at Krabi, Thailand where I stayed for a fortnight while solo backpacking in South East Asia. Being alone, I had all the time in the world exploring things around me and it was my second day here.
“Yeah, I would like to help that woman sell her things”.
“No, I am serious. I had her food yesterday and it was very delicious!” I tried to make my point.
She did not stop working and yelled at the old woman, the granny, telling her my intentions. The granny could not hear it clearly and came near us.
Granny’s food stall..
Krabi night markets or pasar malam are a favorite and individual food vendors rule the place. Activities start in the evenings and within two hours they set up their stalls with food & drinks… ready to be ordered & consumed. High competition, low prices leave them with very little profit everyday. For almost all of them, this is the only source of income.
The vendors compete with each other for taking orders, preparing food and serving. Not to mention, they all are young, energetic, comfortable with English and are extremely busy during these 4 hours as there are more customers to serve than they can handle.
But this old woman was sadly sitting idle. What was wrong with her? Her face bore a worried look. Her food looked good, hygienic and had variety, still she along with her grandson were patiently waiting. They did not know what to do. It looked very odd. I had seen this the day before also when I chose her stall to have my dinner. I had difficulty in communicating with them and not knowing how much to pay, had handed them a 100 THB (Thai Baht) note. I immediately knew both of them were novice.
Neatly covered and Ummm… yummy!
Today, I waited for this woman to repeat it again to granny. Lack of a common language always leads to sign language and acting. Don’t worry, I am trying to hone up my skills in these areas. 🙂
Granny had recognized me and smiled. After all, I was one of very few customers who ate her food yesterday.
It took a while before granny could understand what I wanted to do. More because the ‘interpreter’ woman was too busy to perform her freshly acquired role. 😉
Now I had two people … the granny and her 10 year old grandson Tep … none of whom understood a single word of English. It was difficult to convince them that I wanted to help them without any motive or money.
In short, after much cajoling they agreed.
We started off immediately. I became their interpreter. Her grandson Tep had already arranged plastic chairs for prospective customers. My job was to take orders, asking them to be seated, and help the duo as much as possible. Being my first day at the job, I could only bring in few customers, but more than their usual. 🙂
At the end of it, granny offered me a free meal which I politely declined. I was not here for any favor. I wanted to do it for my satisfaction.
Next evening at 6 I ended up visiting the same night market again as it was very close to my guesthouse. I was before time and could see all vendors cutting vegetables, salads, making satays & sauces and setting up their stalls. The said duo was also struggling to set up theirs.
Now I was curious to know about them. And their story.
Happy Tep with his grandmother.
Since it was not yet time for streaming diners, the ‘interpreter’ agreed to have a talk with me. It turned out that the granny’s son & daughter-in-law were running the food stall. The son had met with an accident and was in a hospital. The daughter-in-law was attending to him.
The poor family whose whole income depended on these four hours of business could not afford to sit at home. The brave duo of granny & grandson took this upon themselves to hold the fort but not knowing English had made them ineffective.
By the end of 5th day, I taught the grandson to mug up “May I hep you (May I help you?)”, “have a see (please have a seat)” etc. He would ask his granny the price and then write on a paper.
The granny would hum some song and smile while serving.
A routine was set.
I was happy. The business started picking up.
On my last day there, when it was time to say bye, granny wanted to give me something for all the help.
I requested her to sing for me.
And she sang … a song which I did not understand a word but knew it came from her heart….
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