‘Bhenchod! This shutter gets stuck only at the time of bohni!’ grunted Chandan, trying to roll up the shutter of his shop, ‘and this Raju is of no use as well. I’ve been continuously telling him to get it repaired! Madarchod, all he wants is to smoke beedis, that’s all!’
Even at the age of sixty, Chandan had never been a minute late than six o’ clock in the morning to open his shop of medical supplies in Nauroji Nagar market. Opening the shop earlier than everyone provided him an extra edge over the other chemists near Safdarjung hospital or even the ones in front of AIIMS. Doctors at both the hospitals were aware of Chandan’s routine of opening his shop earlier than usual, therefore most of the midnight patients were told to buy medicines from his shop.
At last, the scuffling with the shutter ended and he managed to roll it upwards. He dragged out the glass column of three square boxes, displaying sanitary napkins in colourful packing along with baby diapers and began to sweep the shop.
‘Excuse me uncle, do you have Kamasutra condoms?’
Chandan turned at the voice and saw a young boy looking intently at him. An expression of disgust appeared on his face over the boy’s demand. But, he couldn’t say no to the very first customers of the day and thereby calling for ill will of Goddess Lakshmi on his business. He threw the broom in a corner and attended the counter in a hurry.
‘Kamasutra is out of business beta. I suggest you buy Manforce. Sunny Leone is advertising for Manforce these days. It lasts very long!’ he said.
‘Alright alright! Give me one’, the boy said in embarrassment.
‘One condom or one pack?’ Chandan asked playfully.
‘One pack, the smallest one.’
‘The smallest pack contains three condoms, should last for a week’, Chandan chuckled.
‘How much?’ the boy asked.
‘Twenty rupees. I can’t take more than the MRP, even though sometimes customers are ready to pay more for it. You know, when you got to do, you just got to do it!’ Chandan said, smiling sheepishly.
‘Here’, the boy handed over two ten rupees notes and hurried away from the shop.
Chandan’s eyes followed the boy until he disappeared into the nearby street.
‘Must be in his early twenties. Saala Chutiya! He thinks he can use all three in a day!’ Chandan said, while placing the bohni between the photographs of Goddess Lakshmi and Ganesha, both of whom looked at him from within the frame, showing their right hand to him, as if telling him to keep it all for himself.
Chandan continued sweeping and murmuring about the first customer of the day, ‘These kids of today, they start fucking before they learn how to. It is the irony of this generation, they are always in a hurry. They think they know everything about everything. Saalo, what good a condom would do? It was much better in our times. We used to just eat and fuck, eat and fuck, eat and fuck, no fear of any disease. Where does a disease come from anyway? Commitment has to be there. If there is commitment, there would be no disease. These kids don’t even know the C of commitment. All of them are diseased already!’
‘With whom are you talking uncle?’ Chandan looked upwards and saw Raju standing at the entrance.
‘Look at the clock, you are late again! And, when will you get this shutter repaired? I am always struggling with it and there are customers in the morning who want to have fun in life and nothing else. I have never said no to anyone at the time of bohni, but I am sure I will have to do it someday soon.’
Raju walked into the shop and took the broom from Chandan, ‘Do you not know the reason? We do not have time to get it repaired.’
‘Why don’t you get it done on Monday when the market is closed?’
‘Why do you have to roll it up? Can’t you wait for me to come? Anyway, if you jerk it a little towards the right, the shutter won’t jam.’
‘Oh yes! Wait for you and lose bohni?’
‘What did you sell anyway before you started sweeping?’
‘A pack of condoms.’
Raju shook his head and said, ‘Who the hell buys condoms first thing in the morning?’
‘Must be very desperate.’
“Whatever, let me clean the shop.’
As the sun heated up the blue ball of life, the dew drops on the tree leafs made their way to the foreheads of the people working for food and shelter. Chandan folded a newspaper and began swinging it to and fro. His eye caught a boy standing at a distance and he instantly knew what the boy was upto.
‘Ay Raju! See that boy?’
‘The one fiddling with his phone over there’, Chandan pointed towards the boy, ‘the one in the green t-shirt.’
‘He wants to buy something from us.’
‘He looks at our shop every now and then, walks towards it and walks back as soon as another customer arrives. Notice this time ok!’
Suddenly, the boy began to walk towards them, as if judging that the duo were aware of his intentions. He walked straight into the shop and said to Raju in a very low tone, ‘Do you have condoms?’
‘Give condoms to sir’, Chandan chuckled.
Raju passed on a pack of condoms to the boy. The boy gave Chandan a fifty rupee note and didn’t even wait for change. He walked across the street, sat into a car and left.
‘Shy guy, wasn’t he?’ said Chandan.
‘Probably buying condoms for the first time.’
‘O Raju! Whether they are first timers or experience holders, in India everyone shies momentarily before asking for things like condoms or sanitary napkins. I remember when I was young, all elderly women used cloth during menstruation and those women never fell sick. Healthy as a cow, they popped out child after child. Women of our time used to have huge stamina and physical toughness.’
‘True uncle, true’, Raju said in affirmation, while looking at the semi-nude poster of Sunny Leone in the Manforce condom poster.
‘She has made a name for herself no?’ asked Raju.
‘This girl in the picture, Sunny.’
‘She used to be a whore!’ Chandan said with wide eyes.
‘She is into movies these days.’
‘Why won’t she be? Look at her body, this is exactly what sells these days. All these condom buyers fuck their women with eyes closed and imagine Sunny under them.’
‘Oh come on! Do you want tea?’
As the day progressed, Sun crawled across the sky, ultimately marking the beginning its journey to the other side of the world, promising to return tomorrow with the same warmth.
Inside the shop, Chandan was busy handling cash counter while Raju kept the inventory flowing.
It was still alight when a car stopped in front of the shop. The car caught everyone’s attention because of the loud music playing in it. All work halted for a brief moment. The window of the driver side slid down and the face of a boy in his early twenties appeared. The boy seemed in a great hurry as he shouted from within the car, ‘Uncle! Condoms?’
Chandan was stunned. This was not the way to ask for condoms. Nobody had ever asked for condoms like this. All heads turned towards the boy at the word ‘condom’. Raju simply ignored the boy but Chandan widened his eyes at him, as if gesturing him to shut up.
The boy in the car, seeing no response from the shopkeeper, honked the horn and shouted again, ‘Uncle! Do you have Skore condoms?’
Chandan raised his arm instantly and signalled the boy to come. The boy turned off the car and walked towards the shop.
‘Son, you shouldn’t shout like this about condoms’, Chandan tried to reason with the boy.
‘It is a private thing no?’
‘Private thing? Every man has got a dick uncle! Don’t tell me you never used a condom. What is the shame in asking for it openly?’ the boy said blatantly, paying no attention to Chandan’s advises.
‘No, it’s not about the shame, it’s about manners. It doesn’t look good if you shout Condom! Condom! when there are already so many people at the shop. It’s embarrassing.’
The boy gave him an irritated expression and said, ‘Uncle, don’t waste my time. I’ve come back after six months and my girlfriend is waiting for some real action. How about you just give me a small pack, the one that has three condoms, dotted ones, strawberry flavoured. She likes the smell of strawberry, you see. Please, hurry up.’
Chandan let out a sigh and handed over a pack of three condoms to the boy. The boy left in the same hurry as he arrived in.
The murmurs of mannerless, shameless and various others flowed into Chandan’s ears. He didn’t comment further on the boy. He hadn’t had to deal with such an embarrassing situation in a long time.
At around 11 in the night, while calculating the inventory and preparing purchase orders for the next lot of stock of medicines, Raju said, ‘I was at INA metro station this morning and I saw a condom vending machine installed there. People were looking curiously at it, as if it was a ghost.’
‘A condom vending machine?’ asked Chandan.
‘Yes! You have to just punch in the code, the machine asks for the cash, and after accepting the notes, it releases a pack of condoms you paid for! It’s that simple! No embarrassment for anyone.’
‘Condom vending machine?’ murmured Chandan.
‘Why are you surprised?’
‘I was thinking about the boy who shouted for condom, if we had a machine, he wouldn’t have to shout. We must install one. Can we go and check how the machine works?’
‘You want to install a condom vending machine outside the shop?’
‘What is the harm in it? People have the right of not being embarrassed.’
These days, even after installing the machine, people who need condoms during the day ignore the machine and ask for condom in privacy. Nevertheless, Chandan is not regretting his decision to install the machine, because he doesn’t have to wait for bohni anymore.
*Bohni is a commercial custom based on the belief that the first sale of the day establishes the seller’s luck for the rest of the day. It is considered good omen if the first sale takes place in cash.