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The Food Chain
Name’s Sanjay. No more than 16 or 17, he sells bananas nearby. Whether or not we buy from him, he’s always got a cheery wave for us as we pass, particularly if our 17-kilo chatterbox is along. One recent afternoon, I heard a commotion. Looked down in time to see a man run up and overturn Sanjay’s cart, spilling bananas all over the driveway opposite. Ever seen bunches of bananas cascade on to the road? There’s something unsettling about it. Anyway, the man trundled the cart off to a municipal truck at the corner, where a small crowd had gathered. I could see several local vendors—sandwich man, key-maker, old fruitseller—in the crowd. All arguing with the municipal officials who were taking away their carts and stands. Sanjay’s cart vanishes into the maw of the truck. But he’s not with the crowd. He stands in freeze-frame, staring at bananas sprawled over a driveway. Eventually, Sanjay picks up the fruit. Within an hour, he has found a way to display them again for his customers. Now they lie on a large sheet of cardboard that itself sits on two supports. One, a crate. The other, something that someone had no more use for, so simply dumped on the side of the road—from where Sanjay has retrieved it. It’s a commode.
Life carries on. Sanjay’s banana business has not suffered. His cheery wave has returned. All his customers still buy from him. I don’t know how many notice that the bananas sit on an old crapper. I don’t know too what saddens me most: the vanished cart? The callousness of dumping the fruit on the road? Municipal willingness to crack down on people like Sanjay? Municipal unwillingness to fully crack down on him, so he can and will be tormented again? Or a white pot under bananas?