As businesses resume my thoughts go back to our neighbourhood heroes…
This weekend for the first time in 2020 I stepped out for a neighbourhood stroll. A weekly practice, which has become a privilege like many other things. Did we ever imagine our weekly grocery buying or visit to a market will be filled with anxiety, fear and apprehensions?
However, on a brighter note I sensed some of the old vibe on the streets. The local shops and vendors are back to business, but with caution. Firstly my neighbourhood general store greeted me with a new look, some new brands, categories have found place on the shelf. As an entrepreneur pandemic made him relook at the business, customer’s needs, and think of retaining his loyal customers. Neighbourhood stores like these are the lockdown heroes when online deliveries failed.
Then I noticed a new bakery has opened near my house. Breads, cakes, puffs have brought some sweetness to the lockdown anxiety. Like me, either you have learned to bake or have ordered from one of the home chef entourage. Is opening a new business amidst a pandemic a risk or an opportunity? Certainly a courageous decision, which many of us had to take at some time since last 7 months.
On the other hand, the optician was putting up a brave face. With eateries allowed to open, local stopovers for snacks have started seeing some footfalls. A cautious crowd gathered along the roadside vada paav, sandwich stalls.
But last few days my mind was going back to ‘The Tamarind Man’. An elderly, grandfather like gentleman I had started frequenting for my purchases. In a traditional attire of dhoti, white kurta and a cap, he quietly sells tamarind, juiciest carrots and seasonal produce like amlas, sweet potato, etc.
The last batch of tamarind purchased from him would make me wonder about his health. After all he falls in the vulnerable age of the virus.. I went looking for him at the regular spot on the street. It was vacant. He is yet not back, said a fellow street vendor. I hoped he does soon..
Moving ahead, my steps took to me find another regular vegetable vendor – an elderly person with a warm smile. He travels from Mumbai’s western suburban belt known for its local vegetables. Travelling in crowded local trains, he sets up vegetables for sale in the afternoon. I like our greetings and brief chats. Again I was disappointed. I thought of his health and wellbeing. Reminding myself he won’t be able to travel unless the Mumbai local train services resume for everyone.
The pandemic has been cruel. Many of us have lost our loved ones. We have seen people struggle for hospital beds, blood donation, searching for ambulances to seek timely treatment. But there are so many others whom we have a different connect with. This period has made us realis their presence matters. Many times subconsciously, conscious mind tends to overlook it.
The virtual world is convenient and safe to fight the virus. Our hearts are in these physical conversations and bonds we subconsciously nurture. The local businesses and enterprises – vegetable vendors, fisherwoman, neighbour stores, roadside stalls, florist, baker,etc. There are the tracks on which the engine of our life runs.
As we embark on the festive season, taking another step towards adopting to the post-Covid world, let’s pay gratitude to these relationships. Our winning spirit will be in purchasing from these neighbourhood heroes with a warm smile and a large heart.
Nurture Winning Thoughts!