'Pani-Puri' and the Visit to Mauritius
Neeraj Shinde Wednesday, September 14, 2016 Mauritius
It was not too difficult for me to establish a friendly relationship with Asim, my chauffeur during my business visits to Mauritius. With his honest and friendly nature, it was too easy for me to mingle with him in conversations which helped me to explore the new country, its culture, places, landmarks and his personal life too. He was a man who was born in Mauritius, stayed for his entire life on this island and humbly stated, “I have never ever traveled outside Mauritius”. He lived with his wife and a two year old daughter who shared similar past. It was a wonderful experience for me to get to know his family during one of my visits to this island. The family spoke the local language Creole. French is widely spoken across Mauritius for official and casual purposes.
I got to know more about Asim and his family when they joined us during our sightseeing tour one fine Sunday morning. Just like most of the other Mauritian locals, the couple were a great fan of the Bollywood movies. More importantly, Salmaan Khan. Asim’s wife proudly flaunted her experiences when she publicly kissed the actor while he was on a shoot in Mauritius. It was then when I complimented Asim for being such an open hearted husband. Why should I feel bad about she kissing Salmaan, he said as he reiterated that he himself is Salmaan’s greatest fan. This couple indeed depicted the simplicity and innocence of an unadulterated human mind living on a beautiful island. Movies was one of the biggest topic amongst the family even at home.
One of the questions which Asim asked me during most of our conversations really touched me. “How does it look in India?”, he asked as he stared at me for a satisfying answer in return. I was unable to understand his question in the first shot. “Does everything in India seem the way it seems in Mauritius?”, he asked as he clarified his earlier question. Well, it took a bit of time and explanation for me to make him realize that Indian cities are bigger than Port Louis and more polluted and corrupted than his innocent mind. Everything else looks the same, the sun, the cars, the buildings, the trees and the sky too, I tried to explain him in better words. I invited him to India and offered him to stay at my place if he ever planned to visit. But, it seemed like a dream to him, a dream of which a poor chauffeur like him was unsure of its realization. “Yes, I will”, he mumbled.
That Sunday, when I was about to get dropped at the Guest House where I was resided, I heard Asim’s wife and Asim murmuring something amongst themselves. I was about to travel back to India the other day and Asim was pretty much aware that I was scheduled to travel back to Port Louis a week later. Probably, he had shared this information with his wife too. I realized that there was something Asim’s wife was trying to instruct him on. When I interrogated, Asim opened up. “Can you please get Pani-Puri for us from India?”, he asked hesitantly. We have watched Bollywood actresses craving for it in the movies. We really wonder how it really tastes there in India. I was flabbergasted by their simplicity. Spontaneously I promised them that I will bring it next week.
Carrying a bunch of Pani-Puri without breaking them in the check-in baggage was quite a challenge. I was not sure if carrying a water bottle filled with the sweet and spicy Pani (water) was a good idea. I must thank my smart wife who suggested me to carry the water concentrate which gave the same effect. It was too difficult for me to resist carrying a few other Indian sweets which would really amaze Asim and his wife.
It was such a wonderful feeling when I handed over the Pani-puri to Asim during my next visit to Port Louis. He was very much amazed to see me keeping my promise. “My wife will be very happy to taste this!”, he spoke as he was overwhelmed. When I started back to India after the business visit was over, Asim came to drop me at the airport. This time he was with his wife and little daughter. Initially, I thought that they were just along but later Asim clarified that they had been with him to accompany me to the airport.
“Hi, Good Uncle”, said the three year old as she smiled at me.
“Aapki wajah se mera barson ka Pani-Puri khane ka sapna poora hua”, Asim’s wife said as she thanked me from the bottom of her heart. I had never imagined that eating Pani-Puri, for someone in Mauritius, would be such a big dream. I was mesmerized by the impact I had unknowingly left on their minds.
“We have come just to see you off to the airport and we are not sure if we could ever meet you again”, Asim’s wife said as she handed over a soft toy to me. “This is for your little baby!”, she said. I accepted the gift after she insisted. I left the island for one last time with a very heavy heart.
|Asim and his family|