Bacchu was the man, whom each and every girl in our college loved. He was the man responsible to brighten up our days. Most of us preferred him over our boyfriends. This man used to give us pleasure like no one else. We used to utter ‘ooh’, ‘aah’ ‘mmm’ ‘wow’ ‘ssss’ ‘arekta (one more)’, while keeping our eyes closed with pleasure in front of him.
Hold on!!!! He was our beloved fuchkawala (a street snack seller).
Those who are from Kolkata know how fuchka can transcend us to a different ethereal level of pleasure with its amazingly hot and spicy flavour. And as Bacchu was the person responsible to bring us closer to this pleasure, we all loved him.
We get the equivalent of Fuchka all over India and these days even abroad. Fuchka is known as PaniPuri in Mumbai, Golgappa in Delhi and Batasa in Lucknow. I have tasted golgappa/pani puri all over India and even in few foreign countries, however, none of them taste as good as Bachhu’s fuchka. The fuchka that is part of our youth.
Bachchu used to be an ever-smiling man. He was soft spoken and not even once in my life I saw him getting angry or talking to anybody rudely. He used to put up his fuchka stall right in front of our college gate. During our lunch break, we used to rush out of the classrooms and head straight towards his stall. Occasionally on few days, he used to be late to reach and in those we used to anxiously keep walking in and out of the college gate expectantly waiting for him. We used to not even wait so anxiously for our boyfriends on a date. The moment we used to see him, we used to rush and all of us huddle in front of his stall. Bacchu used to smilingly and affectionately ask us to keep patience.
Once another Fuchkawala came and put up his stall next to Bacchu’s. We all thought Bacchu would have competition. Many students initially started going to this new fuchka seller. We asked Bacchu if he was afraid of this new man. Bacchu replied confidently with a smile that people would soon realise who was the best. He was true, within a week the new fuchkawala was sitting idly and shooing away house flies while Bacchu was frantically serving fuchka to customers.
Bacchu was probably the person who knew many of our secrets because we used to gossip a lot while gulping fuchkas. He never showed curiosity in our conversation and kept serving fuchka like a true professional, keeping count of the numbers. However, he used to hear our stories. Long after leaving college when I met him once he asked me about all my friends in detail. He knew who was dating whom and categorically asked me if those couples got married. When he heard that few of them broke up he expressed sadness.
I remember one particular instance. It was almost five years after leaving college. I was working in Hyderabad. When I reached Kolkata I planned to go to college to have fuchka along with my friend Subha. However, when we reached college we saw Bacchu was not there. We asked few people and they said since a week Bacchu was not putting up his stall. Dejected and heartbroken we started walking towards the nearest bar. Our plan was to bury our sorrow in beer. Fuchka nahi to beer hi sahi.
When we were leaving the bar we saw a couple crossing the road. The man was wearing a white pajama and carrying a cloth bag, the woman was wearing a red saree and the edge of the saree was pulled on her head as ghunghat. She had a huge load of clothes on her head. The man resembled Bacchu. For a moment we thought it was a beer induced illusion but then rushed towards them. The moment we confirmed that it was indeed Bacchu, our friendly fuchkawala, we almost gave him a hug. His poor wife was squinting through her ghunghat trying to understand why two young women were trying to hug her husband. Both I and Subha almost screamed and asked ‘where were you Bacchu?’ His embarrassment was visible but he smilingly replied that he had taken his wife to Gangasagar for pilgrimage and therefore couldn’t come to college. He asked us to come the next day.
After Bacchu left both Subha and I burst out laughing. We were just thinking about the shock his wife must have got seeing her husband be so much in demand among young girls. I guess this was part of his professional hazard.