Bhoonja in thonga: With love from Boring Road
In all these years, fifty-four to be precise, I have never felt even for a moment that I am challenged in any way.
When God has gifted us with so many capabilities, who are we to limit ourselves?
I thought of focusing on one thing and do the best I can. People here love ‘bhoonja’ so here I am, preparing and selling this snack in Nageshwar Colony, right in front of Gold's Gym, for more than two decades now.
Right here in this lane, I have seen worlds in motion.
Generations growing, buildings coming up and raising down, families moving in and moving out, political affiliations and loyalties changing with time, cycle rickshaws blocking the road to Scorpios lined up in front of Gold Gym, from people getting scared to roam around after 7-8 pm to parents bringing their kids midnight for ice-cream, from garbage occupying almost half of the street to bright street lights, from simple thelas to online food deliveries, from backward Bihar to striving to become a solid smart city – I feel so much has happened here. I have seen so much, learnt so much. And there’s more to come.
But ‘bhoonja’ is still so popular. I have customers coming from as far as Kankarbagh, even late In the evening, just for one ‘thonga’.
This brings a huge smile on my face because as you can see, this small lane has everything - from phuchka to tandoori chai, from chaaps to Chinese, from eggs to fried chicken. One might wonder if bhoonja still has a spot here.
Well, I’m doing okay. I don’t really have time to worry about the future. My wife and three kids back home are my biggest strength. My kids are smart. The eldest one, with the kind support of one of my old-time customers, is pursuing his graduation in Bengaluru. The other son manages his finances by himself, he has his own thela for eggs next to mine. Gym freaks love their protein and so there’s a huge demand for boiled eggs here. My daughter is the youngest one, she wants to become a singer. She loves listening to and singing English songs. My son will just show you a video where she is singling her favourite song. (And yes, this lovely girl is singing ‘Unstoppable’!!) I do the best I can to support them but everything is getting so expensive. I don’t want them to fall behind because of the lack of money. The pandemic had been a difficult period, the business took a huge hit, but then we didn’t lose hope and started again when things normalised. Our life is all about today, I know time takes care of everything.
There are quite a few initiatives for physically challenged people in our state but I am willingly not leveraging any of the benefits. There's a reason behind this. A close relative had helped me get a bus pass but I pay for my bus fare because the conductor didn’t like the fact that I was travelling for free. It didn’t bother me because I know I will get by, my work keeps me going.
‘Divyang’ sounds nice but if the perspective or the outlook is handicapped, you can’t do much.
(This article features an exclusive account of Ashok Kumar's journey, running a business selling absolutely delicious 'bhoonja' in Nageshwar Colony, opposite Gold's Gym. We request you to visit his stall and support him by buying this healthy crunchy snack.
Written by Garima.)