Fiction: The Little Market Girl

V. Ramsamooj Gosine
    ‘I always say you wasting time in school,’ Vidya’s mother of sixty said. She was wearing a long blue flowered dress. She and Vidya were sitting in their cramped kitchen. ‘Money gone down the drain. Flat down.’
   Here mother had given her that answer many times before.  ‘Ma, I don’t want to be like the other girls. I want to work.’
   ‘Want to work? You getting bright. Little too bright.’
    Vidya recognized her mother’s opposition to her status and said nothing to aggravate the situation.  
    Her mother, who had wholeheartedly supported her during her student’s days at the university, felt disappointed that she could find no suitable job. Vidya herself was disappointed in her efforts but could do nothing about it. She regretted too that hard-earned savings had been apparently wasted. She understood her mother but was not going to allow her emotion to force her to surrender. 
     ‘Is better you did get married,’ her mother said. ‘At least I go be happy you settle down with a good husband.’
     ‘Me? Married? You could wait as long as you want.’ She laughed playfully. ‘When I ready, I go tell you. Ma, boys nowadays not easy you know. They not like pa.’
     Her father, a quiet sort of individual, sat unmoved during their conversation but now broke his silence. ‘Let the girl grow up na. Let she live a little na. I don’t want she catch she tail like the other girls and don’t know how to mind three four children.’
    Her mother, angry, did not like his support for Vidya.  ‘So let she stay home and come a grandmother then? That is what you want?’
    ‘She only twenty-one.’
    ‘Wait till she get a old lady then? Time does fly, you know. Time does fly.’
    The discussion of what Vidya should do professionally kept the house uneasy for a long while. Vidya’s mother continued to think that her daughter should follow the route of other girls and that there was no point in charting a career. Her father argued that she should be given a chance to fulfil her dreams.
     Vidya was clear. She needed to chart a career. Marriage could follow later.
     The days dragged on and the uneasiness continued. The government agencies weren’t offering vacancies. Private companies, so it was reported in the press, were struggling to keep their workers, and while her father was on the payroll of this rice-milling factory and that was commendable, she could not see the system employing young people. In fact, when she examined things around her, there were thousands of young graduates waiting to send in their application.
    In such a case, what could Vidya do?
    Kalyan, her brother, a vendor in the Windsor Town Market, was not complaining. In fact, he complained only of too much work and he wished he could hire a reliable assistant so that he could take a day off. Vidya was very concerned about his over-working days but could offer no meaningful support. After all, she had earned her degree at the university and felt it beneath her standard to work in the market.  
     Kalyan was doing well and had set his mind on buying a new van to transport his goods.
    ‘But ent Bobby is reliable?’ Vidya told him. 
    ‘Yes. But he’s very busy at times. More vendors depending on him these days.’
    ‘With a better van, I could bring more goods and go and come as I want. I wouldn’t waste time waiting on Bobby.’
   ‘Yes. You right. I used to depend on taxis and sometimes it full and I have to wait. And sometimes wait long.’
    ‘Sometimes I have to wait hours before Bobby agree to bring my trip and that is why I buy this old van.’ He smiled. ‘You want more coffee?’ They were sitting around the table in the kitchen.
    ’A half cup. Not too hot.’
     Kalyan said, ‘Doing anything today?’
     ‘Na. Usual laziness. Eat. Sleep. Eat. Sleep. And you know what else.’ And the two laughed. ‘And I getting fat. I eating too much. Roti and roti and rice and rice.’
    ‘You home you see. And things to eat right around. Just teasing you.’
    ‘Damn right and I just can’t take my eye off the eatables. The chocolate especially.’
    ‘Big eye, you.’ He carried the cups and saucers to the sink. ‘Have to rush off. Going to get some goods in Chauhaan. So will open late today.’
    ‘Want to go for a ride?’
    ‘Na. There too busy.  Too crowded. ‘
    ‘Okay. No problem.’
    By the time he showered, she said, ‘Wait for me.  I bored but I ent going Chauhaan. I will see the stall for you.’
    ‘You’ll do that?’
   ‘No big thing. Just bring two Shortman doubles for me when you coming. Make sure he put plenty kuchela.’
     Kalyan dressed himself, sat on a chair in the gallery and waited on Vidya. Ten minutes later, she emerged.
    ‘Oh. Finally you ready?’ He looked at her in short pants and jersey. ‘You not going again?’
   ‘Na. A UWI friend dropping in to say hi.’
    ‘I can’t go.’
    ‘Can’t go? Tell the friend you very busy.’
    ‘Na. She’s my real friend and she’s on her way. Next time I will run the stall for you.’
    ‘Ai. I’ll pay you, you know.’
   ‘Sorry. Next time.’
   Half an hour later, Vidya was still awaiting her friend and when she failed to show up an hour later, Vidya called.
     ‘Ai, sorry. Can’t make it. A friend coming over to see me.’
    ‘But you could have called?’
    ‘Sorry. Got taken up. Next time. Don’t dig nothing.’
     Vidya was displeased. I disappoint my brother because of you. And you don’t care.  You have your own thing to do and forget my feeling.
         In her disappointment, she called Kalyan who said,’ Yes. You change your mind? I can’t come back. I already in Chauhaan.’
       ‘My friend disappoint me. I going to travel and go in the market.’
        ‘You can’t. Well. Yes.  You can go but I have the keys for the cupboards. So make no sense going.’
         Stumped, Vidya felt foolish. Two hours later, Kalyan returned home with doubles and a red solo for her. He was in a rush so he handed the parcel to his mother. ‘For Vidya. The van heavy with goods.’
     Halfway through eating the doubles, she felt she should have been in the stall while Kalyan was out shopping.  And on her friend, ‘I damn stupid, yes.  I put aside my brother for a disappointing friend. She just push me aside and see about herself.’ And on Kalyan, ‘He was so good. He didn’t vex but bring home the doubles for me.  The van was load up but he didn’t complain.’
    To this feeling of guilt, her mother added, ‘You know, Kalyan. He don’t take on anything serious. He just quiet. He doesn’t fuss around too much. And if you hit him, he does take it on her chin and move on. That is he secret for success.’
     Vidya was mad with herself. She felt she had disappointed him when she should not. It was too painful.  Then something ran through her mind. You know what? Is really he who pay for my school. Ma give me the money but it was really his market money she was giving me. For really where ma will get money from except his market money? Especially since pa salary small.’
    The holder of a B.A. and no work? Kalyan …no certificate and work to pay my tuition fees. But no. I high and mighty. I can’t stand market people behaviour. But my brother could. You know what. I’ll begin like one of them. Na. Not me. I didn’t go to the best school to sell in the market. Not going there. Not me. My friends will wonder if I crazy. 
    ‘Mom, going to take a nap.’
    When Vidya had slipped in her bedroom, her mother said to her, ‘You don’t see you should go with Kalyan? How much sleep you go sleep? Day and night? Whole day whole night? You’ll get like a macaguel snake.’
    Vidya heard her mother but refused to acknowledge the truth. She was adamant; she was not going to sell in any damn market. Not with people who have no brains.
    ‘You listening to me? You hearing me?’ her mother said.
    ‘Em hm. Next time.’
    ‘Alright. Okay.’
   While lying down between sleep and wake, the same rejected feeling crept through her mind. Me? Market ‘oman? I didn’t go UWI to sell in the market.  My goal is to get a big job. An important job. Not any market ‘oman.
   One cool morning, sun hiding behind the Basti Hall Hills, Vidya discovered that no meaningful job was coming her way, not even a porter’s job. On that day, she answered two telephone calls, each one a story of despair and disappointment.
    Kiss me tail disappointing place. You spend your money to qualify yourself and now you can’t get a damn flicking job.  This country gone to the cleaners. Gone never to return. Not even the civil service employing people as far as I hear. Only friend and family getting through. And you have to lick some politician tail to get through.
     Some weeks later and still unemployed, Vidya visited Kalyan at his stall in Windsor Town. It was a Friday and a crowded day. His mother had prepared lunch of curried fish, boiled rice and a little coconut chutney. Instead of strolling in the town, she went directly to Kalyan’s stall, where she began immediately to sell.
    His stall was not extraordinarily large but he did sell about twenty items, and when she could not recall the exact prices, her brother reminded her.
    On that day, Kalyan sold out more than half his goods and was most pleased.
    At home he said to her, ‘Here’s something for pocket change.’
     ‘A little something.’
    Vidya saw the blue notes in his hands. ‘Don’t bother. I was having fun.’
     In the end, Vidya accepted the few dollars and returned to have fun again and again on weekends, especially when her brother went to Chauhaan to buy from the wholesalers. 
      The vendors saw workers repairing a few stalls in the market but those were routine and not significant and no one paid attention to them. Mr. Boss, the new C.E.O. (No one called him by his name.), imposed on the people, had come from a small town north of the island. He seemed a most enthusiastic one, so Kalyan said, had made great changes to Bottle Ali Park and was now turning his attention to the market. Other C.E.O.s had come before him, enjoyed the perks of their position and left when their term of office ended. 
    And to effect change, Mr. Boss contracted Ramesh to carry out his small projects.
     Ramesh himself was young and energetic and held a management degree from the local university. Firstly, Mr. Boss wanted a clean, organized market.   
    ‘And you, Ramesh, you are going to do that for me,’ the mayor said to him. ‘This place must change.’
    ‘But boss, these people are difficult. They don’t like change.’
    ‘I know that very well. Nothing new there.’
   ‘They should be selling in the old market. Spread their goods on the ground and sell from there…..’
    ‘Don’t worry with them,’ the mayor said. ‘We have a plan and we must carry it out.’
    In spite of what he said, Ramesh, with his swinging pony tail, wanted a clean market. That was his number one priority. So he had all the fittings in the washroom changed. Next he power-washed and disinfected the market every Tuesday.
       The vendors were happy and saluted him for the changes.
       ‘Mr. Boss,’ he said to his most senior, ’they like what I doing. A little more fixing and they very very happy.’
      ‘They smiling?’
      ‘Yes, sir.’
       ‘So they happy then?’
       ‘Yes, Mr. Boss. Everybody happy.’
     ‘Good. I like that. Easy picking. Those two were easy. With the next one, we might get into some trouble.’
    ‘Never mind. You don’t understand.’  Quietly and away from Ramesh’s hearing, he said to himself. They don’t blasted support us but they want market fix? And back to Ramesh. ‘We have to push things a little bit.’
    ‘Count on me, Mr. Boss. I with you all the way.’
    ‘For my lunch, Ramesh, go to the roti shop. The one with the green top and tell them I want a roti and duck. Slight pepper. Tell them is for me and they wouldn’t charge you.’
    ‘True, Mr. Boss?’
    ‘Yes. They selling on that spot because of me. Tell them is for the boss.’
     It rained on Friday and it leaked above the stalls.  The water ran down along the area where the galvanized sheets joined. No vendor knew clearly where and none could have climbed to see but the trickle of rain, pencil-slim in many parts, cascaded and with the help of the sweeping winds from the east, spread all over the back of the stalls. This forced nearly everyone to place his wares in the middle walkway.
     Customers, willing to shop quickly, saw no real issue with the encroachment. The dripping continued for the rest of the day.
    In fairness to all, the market was tolerable and many looked angrily at the leaking roof.
     ‘And you mean no one come to fix it yet?’
    ‘And where, Ramesh?’
    ‘Yes. Where, Ramesh? Ent he in charge?’
    ‘In charge in truth.’
    ‘I hope somebody tell him.’
    Many other voices expressed their concern. It was an inconvenience, but could such a change be effected within minutes? No one was sure and that uncertainty left the vendors displeased.
     On this day, Kalyan was negotiating to buy another vehicle and he visited the company’s office to do a bit of paper work. So Vidya was managing his outlet.  The empty space at the front of the stalls contained pools of water and because of the number of customers, there were footprints everywhere. Many customers did not appreciate this but tolerated it.

      Early the next day, Ramesh received this instruction from Mr. Boss. ‘Go across and see what’s going on there.’
   ‘What’s going on, Mr. Boss?’
   ‘I just got a message. These stupid lagoon vendors are getting on because a little rain fall.’
    ‘But it not hard, Mr. Boss. Not hard at all.’
    ‘That is what I saying. I didn’t see any flood.’
    ‘A little rainfall and they getting on for that.’
    ‘That’s what I’m thinking.’
    By this time, Mr. Boss was standing and he patted Ramesh on his shoulders. ‘Just go and see. You know market people don’t have brains. A set of duncy head people who can’t read and write.’
     ‘But what did the rain really do?’
     ‘Just fall. Something about somebody falling in water and a few drops maybe fall on somebody head.’ And with these words he exploded in laughter and the grating sounds echoed in the roof. ‘Imagine that, eh? Imagine rain falling and they can’t sell. Lucky is not a flood.’
    And Ramesh too joined Mr. Boss and his laughter echoed in the walls of the room. ‘Fall on somebody head! Boss, I never hear more. Maybe they don’t bathe. Imagine that, Boss. Imagine that.’
     ‘Do what you can but leave them smiling.’
    ‘Okay, Mr. Boss.’
    ‘And make sure you tell them we don’t have money for repairs right now. Just tell them that. Blame the government and they’ll be happy.’
     ‘Yes, sir, Mr. Boss.’
     When Ramesh reached the market, a few vendors approached him. 
    ‘We can’t sell goods here.’
    ‘Water only wetting up we foot.’
     ‘It will give we the cold bad bad.’
     ‘So do something for we, Boss. Eh, Boss?’
      Ramesh listened patiently, took a stroll in the market and then added his voice. ‘But no rain falling right now. The sky blue. The wind blowing. Only white clouds sailing. And all you not happy?’
     ‘Boss,’ one vendor said. ‘It very hard to stand up in the wet and sell.’
     ‘Yes, Boss, we will catch the cold.’
      ‘Take a broom and sweep it up or mop it up.’ He was walking away, his mission accomplished until he heard this comment from a vendor. ‘So what you really going to do about the wet place, boss? Just leave it and walk away?’
     ‘When you people in the lagoon planting rice, what do you do? Don’t you stand up in water and plant?’
   ‘That is different, Boss. That is planting. This is selling.’
    Vidya’s brother’s stall stood a short distance away but she heard the conversation distinctly. Who is this stupid man really? Look like he don’t want to do anything. Just boss people around. As though all of we from the lagoon. Can’t read. Can’t write. Can’t spell. Look I better stay quiet yes because I just helping out Kalyan. Let me just watch on and tell Kalyan so he go know what going on.
   Ramesh looked around at the angry faces and looked at the leaking roof.  ‘We have no money to fix the leaks right now. The government ent give we any money.’
    ‘Oh gosh, Boss, do something na. It have flood in the market and the rain go come again and if it raining, no customers will come out to buy.’
    ‘’I saying again. Help yourself. Mop it up. Sweep it out. You all accustom to this.’ 
     When one vendor pointed out to him that no vendor lived in Windsor Town and could not access cleaning tools, he told them, ‘Is not my business where you live. I showing you how to help yourself and you only complaining. I didn’t tell the rain to fall. If you don’t want to help yourself, I can’t help you. I gone.’
      When all thought he had had his final word, not agreeable by any chance, he turned around, his eyes focused on the benches and make-shift stands on which the vendors were now displaying their goods.
     ‘And get those stands out of the walkway or else I’ll bring the police for you. Do it now.’
    ‘Boss, you don’t have to treat we like dog so. We is people. and we trying to make a living.’
     ‘The law is the law. And you people are breaking the law and I will not tolerate that.’
       The vendors saw they were getting nowhere with Ramesh and this got them angrier. A ring of customers had now joined them and each one seemed to be in sympathy with the sellers. 
    ‘So what you going to do to help we out, Boss? Eh, Boss?’
     Ramesh walked away looking at the roof of the building.
    Vidya thought that perhaps Ramesh had a point. The government did not send them the money to run the affairs of the council and as a result the office of the CEO had no money to do repairs.   She could take it no longer. 
      She shouted from her stall. ‘Excuse me, Mr. Ramesh. I heard your story and that is not good enough. What are you going to do to repair the leaking roof? I want an answer.’
    ‘Who are you?’
    ‘My name is Vidya. I am a vendor. Just like the others.’
    ‘Help yourself because you people know about leaks and thing and how to fix it. Help yourself or suffer in the long run.’
    ‘What! You can’t talk to us like we are dumb. We’re not. ‘She took two steps forward.’ All I saying is that we need your office to step in.’
     ‘And do what?’
   ‘Tidy the place. Find the money to fix the leaking roof. No ifs. No buts. Quickly. This is your responsibility.’
    ‘You can’t tell me my job, Miss. I know my job.’
    ‘Then do it. And stop treating the vendors as they are nobody. Get your axe together.’ Vidya’s words brought his anger to the surface. ‘Do your damn job.’
‘You can’t talk to me so. I represent the council. My boss is the authority in this place.’
   ‘Really. For real? Well then get your boss to get the repairs done. And stop monkeying around.’
    Ramesh stared at her deep in her eyes, wondering if he had seen her before and if she belonged to the market. He couldn’t recall seeing her in a stall and this prompted him, confidence added, ‘You have no right here. This is about the market.’
    ‘Yes. It’s about the market. And I am a vendor here. Didn’t you hear me before?’
     ‘Yes. Me.’
      Defeated somewhat that she was a legitimate vendor, he said, ‘I have a degree, you know. I am a senior person. You have to respect me.’
    Vidya was going to say, ‘I have a degree too, you know.’ Instead, she blurted out, ‘Do your work and I’ll respect you.’
     ‘We have no money so mop the place for yourself.’
      Vidya was not going to be pushed aside. ‘I am talking to you, dear sir, Mr. Ramesh.’
     He turned around and seemed willing to take on a fight, especially since he knew Mr. Boss had empowered him. ‘And who are you really? You behaving as though you are my boss’. At the same time, he was again assessing her. She damn bold for a market vendor. But she doesn’t look like the ordinary vendor.  Something different about she.  Something but what? But what the hell she doing here in the market?
    In times gone by, Ramesh handled issues with ease. For the first time, he found someone challenging him. He tried questioning, hoping he could tell her something meaningful, quiet her for a few seconds and get her on his side but that was not working.  He sensed he could not contain her. He saw her as bold, loud-mouthed and fearless.
     And now this, ‘And really who the hell is you?’
    ‘A vendor. A simple vendor.’
    ‘Rice land vendor?’ He eyed the benches encroaching in the aisle space. ‘Get those benches out of the way finally or I’ll get the police for you.  I am the authority here.’ And he hurriedly left the market laughing.
     Vidya did not hear everything he said but when the vendors informed her that he called her a rice land vendor, she flew into a rage. She chased after him and he took to his heels. However, she managed to add, ‘Mr. Ramesh, sir. I have a degree too. Just like you. But this is not about who have a degree or not. Just you get the roof fixed by tomorrow, Mr. Ramesh, sir.’ She turned to her fellow vendors. ‘He’s not going to talk down to me. No way. I am a vendor. I am a woman and am no fool. If a woman never man-handle him before, I will. This woman will. Watch me.’
      Ramesh skimmed through the official files at the office and saw no unusual names. And he wondered.    She have to be helping somebody. She not on her own. He felt challenged and told Mr. Boss the story.
     ‘Don’t bother with them. We’ll do it by Monday or later in the week. And they can’t do one damn thing.’
    ‘But we must do something. The place really wet.’
    ‘Yes. That is true but we didn’t cause it. We didn’t plan for the rain to fall on the market roof.’
    That is true,’ Ramesh said. ‘Very true. The rain on it own.’
    When Ramesh and Mr. Boss had composed themselves, Mr. Boss spoke to Ramesh. ‘But we just can’t do things just so. We have to have a plan.  So go in your office and make a plan and when I come on Monday, tell me.’
    ‘Yes, Mr. Boss. That is it. A plan.’
    ‘See. We making progress.’
    ‘Yes, Mr. Boss.’
   With those words, Mr. Boss told his secretary. ‘No visitors. Am busy.’
     Later in the afternoon, near three o’ clock, Vidya said, ‘Like Ramesh not coming back or what? I thought he would send some people to clean up the place.’
     ‘And the rain coming again,’ one vendor said. ‘Look how dark the sky is.’
     ‘In that way, more rain, more water and more mess,’ another chipped in. 
    ‘And even though is late Friday and no new customers coming out, they’ll come on Saturday and it hard to leave you home dry dry and come and get wet here. And the market suppose to be a cover up place.’
     ‘Miss Vidya, you and your brother could talk better than we,’ one vendor said. ‘You think you could go with we to see Mr. Boss?’
    Another said, ‘Just to tell Mr. Boss and he might send people to clean up else we in hell tomorrow.’
    ‘He could even send the pump truck to pull out the water.’
      Unwilling at first but she accepted in the end to head a delegation.  Mr. Boss was housed in the newly constructed, three-storied, air-conditioned building about five minutes’ walk from the market. 
    The guard stationed at the gate said, ‘I know you. Yes. I know you.’
     Vidya looked at him closely. Questioning at first and then said, ‘Primary.’
     ‘Yes. Primary school.’    
    ‘That was long time ago, boy, Ten years maybe.’
    ‘Yes. You right.’
    ‘Your brother? Kalyan. We used to call him Tommy.’
    ‘Yes. Tommy is his home name.’
    ‘Nice to see you again.’ He switched conversation. ‘How I could help you? I mean I would be glad to do anything for my classmate.’
    I come to see, Mr. Boss.’
   ‘He there. I seeing his car.’
     Within minutes Vidya faced Mr. Boss’s secretary and immediately informed her that she would like to speak to Mr. Boss concerning an issue at the market. The secretary sensed Vidya’s anger and frustration and quickly took matters into her own hands.  She remembered too that he didn’t want to be disturbed.
   ‘Sorry. He just stepped out. He’s not here.’
   ‘Oh. I come in the wrong time? Oh, boy.’
   ‘You’ll have to try back some other time.’
     Blasted liar, Vidya said to herself. Stepped out walking? Just want to confirm something.  She felt if she quoted the guard, she would likely get him into trouble. She stood in front of the secretary’s desk. Look like you lying for your boss. I will find out just now and then is me and you. You want a showdown? You’ll get it. We pass the lagoon stage. Nobody ent going to treat me like a dog.  
    She said, ‘Okay, I thought he was in.  Thank you.‘
     ‘Okay then. Next time,’ the secretary said. ‘Next time.’
    ‘But…..’ the vendor was going to remind Vidya.
   ‘Okay, Miss. Thank you. Have a good day.’
     Outside she said to the vendors who had accompanied her, ‘I know what I saying. Shhh. ‘ Vidya returned to the secretary within a minute. ‘I wonder if I right. I think I seeing his car outside. The car with a red flag on it.’
    ‘Oh. Oh. I thought he stepped out. Yes. I think he went in somebody else car.’
   Vidya was ready for a fight especially when Ramesh belittled her lagoon background. ‘No, Miss. He’s in his office. Tell him we have a problem and want to see him now.’ Vidya stood straight. Her heels were firm on the floor.
    ‘I am afraid to disturb……’
   ‘You could ‘fraid how much you want. Call the damn man. Tell him I want to talk to him. Don’t give me any cock and bull story that you ‘fraid him. He’s getting pay and you are getting pay. Do your damn work.’
    And the vendors began drumming the secretary’s desk. Mr. Boss heard the constant pounding and came out to enquire.
       Ramesh did not furnish him with all the details and so he did not have Ramesh’s complete knowledge of the happenings. In part, he chose to listen only a bit to what Ramesh said and even that he dismissed, thinking it was not something important. So he remained only with a sketch.
      Mr. Boss rushed out of his office. ‘What’s going on?’ On seeing Vidya, poised for action, he asked, ‘Who are you and what do you want?’ 
    Vidya turned to the secretary. ‘Is he Mr. Boss? And why did you lie to me?’ Quickly she turned her attention to M. Boss and explained the issues which dragged her to his office. He stood listening unable to give a quick response.
   ‘Have no fear. Ramesh will handle it.’
    ‘Right now he’s doing a report,’ Mr. Boss said. ‘And as soon as he submit the report, we’ll begin acting on it.’
   “Yes. Of course.’
     Vidya sensed the slow pace.  ‘Sir, with all due   respect, can I help him write the report?’
    He looked at her in jeans and jersey. ‘What you know about report, young lady? Just leave us to do our work. This is for the experts to handle.’
    ‘Yes. I’ll do that. Leave you to do your work.’
    ‘Makes sense.’
    ‘Yes. It looks like you’ll spend time writing a report, not fixing anything, while our hard-earned money go down the drain. That makes no sense to me.’
    ‘As I said, Ramesh is writing the report.’
     ‘Mr. Boss, I can give you a report now. Verbally and you’ll know. No problem. No charge.’
     ‘Miss, you don’t know who I am but I work with plans and consultations and assessments and recommendations and committees. Nothing is done here by guess.’
   ‘That’s why nothing gets done at all. Forget all your plans and committees. Get the work done.’ 
    ‘You’re insulting my office.’
    ‘I am giving you facts. We want a roof fixed. We need the market tidied but you want a report and a plan and recommendations and committees and consultations. To do what? To fix a leaking roof.’
   ‘You have no ideas what it takes to run an office.’
    ‘Let me tell you this, sir.  We make plans and have consultations and assessments in our heads while we’re planting tomatoes and cabbage and bodi and baigan for you to eat. We don’t sit in an office and make plans. So don’t tell me foolishness. We plan every day. We plan on the spot and they work well. That’s why you get food to eat.’
    ‘Listen. I don’t know who you are. But I said Ramesh is seeing about it and that’s where we are. We are in the planning stages.’
      ‘Things in the falling stages but you in the planning stages. What a square peg!’
     ‘You little children think you know everything.  Why don’t you find a job somewhere?’
   ‘I didn’t come for your job, you know.’
    ‘Then leave the market people to themselves. Go from this place.’
    ‘I’m not going anywhere. I am a vendor. And you have to deal with me.’
    ‘Just go from here, little girl.’
    ‘And stop calling me, little girl. Stop talking to vendors as though they are nobody.’
    At this point the five vendors were intimidated and wanted to leave.
    Quietly the words came out.
    ‘Miss Vidya, he’s Mr. Boss. Don’t argue with him.’
     ‘He go pressure we.’
     ‘He is the big man so don’t argue with him.’
   ‘And just don’t be rude.’
   ‘Miss Vidya, let’s go or he go call the police and the police go beat we up.’
   Vidya looked angrily at them. And then she turned her energies to Mr. Boss.  ‘To answer you, sir. I sell in the market. I come to help.  I could write the report for you so we could get things done in a jiffy.  And I could show you how to stop the leaks in the middle of the roof. You see, sir, my father used to be a full time carpenter. And I grow up with him. So I know what I am talking about.’
     Mr. Boss was taken aback. She was no ordinary vendor. This look like trouble. Better get this woman out of this place, yes. He turned to his secretary. ‘Where’s Ramesh?’
   Ramesh! Ramesh! she asked herself. ‘I don’t know. Maybe he in his office.’
    ‘Just check. See what’s going on.’
    Within seconds she returned saying Ramesh was not there. ‘But you have some files to see about, sir.  Here they are.’  The secretary grabbed some files and thrust in in his hands and with his eyes on the files, he turned to Vidya, ‘I am busy, little girl.’
    ‘And stop trying to belittle me by calling me, little girl.’
     ‘I am too busy to waste time on you.’
    ‘You are too busy, Mr. Boss? This is an urgent matter.’
    ‘I don’t have the report and I can’t act without a report.’
    ‘Then write the report and act on it. You have that power. And we want this place cleaned up by tomorrow.’
   ‘Tomorrow? We need the report, young lady.’
   ‘Well. You get the report and act on it. Work overnight.’’
    Mr. Boss wanted to escape. The secretary thought by handing him files, indicating urgent work, would have saved him. That was not working. Vidya and her five vendors were adamant. He could see the vendors were dummies and would listen to him. Not Vidya. Mr. Boss didn’t like the confrontation one bit and needed to get Vidya out of this office. 
    The two were facing each other in a few seconds of silence.
   And then Vidya, ‘If rain comes later, that place will be in flood. Flood, Mr. Boss. Flood.  You want that, Mr. Boss?’
    She looked at Mr. Boss and then turned to look at her colleagues who were not there. They had all sneaked out. ’I am saying to you fix the roof. If it rains, that market will flood and we’ll lose all our goods.  Money down the drain. ‘She paused for a second. ‘Mr. Boss, you collect money as taxes. Why don’t you air-condition the market?
    Mr. Boss was not listening. He said to his secretary, ‘Call the police. Tell them walk with handcuffs. We have an issue in the office.’
     Vidya heard and decided she did not want to be handcuffed and marched through Windsor Town.
   ‘We want this place fix. Tomorrow, Mr. Boss’ As she walked out of the office, she said,’ Mr. Boss, keep the handcuffs for yourself. I gone.’
     He looked at her stunned.
     When she returned to the market, her fellow vendors looked at her in awe and expectation. There was water on the floor but there was no spreading pool.
    ‘Hopefully, we might get the problem fix by tomorrow.’
    ‘Mr. Boss say so?’
    ‘No. I tell him but he smiled’.
    ‘Ohhh,’ someone uttered. ‘Ohhh.’
   Vidya said, ‘Give him a chance. Let’s see what he’ll do.’
     ‘That is all?’
    ‘He call the police for me but I left before they come.’
     It drizzled all night and the next morning but the water added only a little more discomfort. Customers came out and so the vendors were eager to sell their goods.  And while they stood on the wet ground, they hoped a few tradesmen would repair the growing leak. 
    So matters were left there. Vidya was sure Mr. Boss did not want another confrontation and so would repair the leaks and tidy the market almost immediately
         At home Vidya and Kalyan played back bits and pieces of the story.
       ‘Vid, just you be careful.’
      ‘I am. I am just going after fixing the market.’
     ‘Mr. Boss is a big man. He could stop you for getting a job for good.’
     Vidya thought for a second. ’Yes. You right. Damn right.’ Kalyan looked on and as if to say ‘What! I am right.’ Vidya meant something slightly different. She smiled. ‘You know what? Everybody is afraid of losing his job. Not a market vendor. He does buy and sell and nobody could stop that. He doesn’t depend on anybody for a salary. He does make his own salary. And people think they stupid. But they are their own boss.’
    ‘But they can’t read and write…’
    ‘I will change that. Me, Vidya.’
   ‘Well. It making sense. But….’
     ‘No, but….’ Mr. Boss could push around all the clerks in his office because they depend on him. Not me. I making up my mind now. All the businessmen in Chauhaan and Windsor Town work for they own salary. Nobody could push them around. Nobody.’
    Kalyan was hearing the serious side of his sister. ‘So what? You’ll clash with Mr. Boss again?’
   ‘No. Put him in his damn place and he can’t touch me. I don’t work in his office. This crap must stop.’
     ‘But he didn’t cause the rain to fall.’
    ‘But his job is to clean up the place. Good enough for people to sell.’
    ‘You right. But nobody so far ever fight Mr. Boss. Nobody’.
    ‘That is the problem. Well. Not me. I not taking any stupidness. He must stop talking down to market people. We are people too. And he calling me Little Girl. Imagine that?’
    ‘Vid, be careful.  You dealing with Mr. Boss, you know. And he have connection in high places. He in the party.’
     She sucked her teeth loudly and said nothing more.
   On Saturday no one repaired the leaking roof and water pencil-thick fell in rows and flooded the market again. It did not dampen the spirits of the vendors who must sell their goods or lose their capital. Late that evening, they left for their home in sunshiny weather somewhat pleased. They hoped the roof would be repaired.
     Late that night, much to their anger, the water in greater streams flooded the market and goods even in the bags were soaked. The water was dirty and no vendor would sell his green vegetables in that condition. No one was pleased.
     On Sunday, Vidya stayed at home and so no news was communicated to her until her brother returned from market.
    ‘Home already? Is only twelve.’
    ‘Market in a mess.’
    ‘In a mess? Thought they would repair it today? Or they still making plans? ‘
    Kalyan explained in detail the present state of the market and many vendors lost a large portion of their goods.
    Finally, he said, ‘Some left for home and some stay back to dry their aloo and tomato and fig and thing. Otherwise, everything going to rotten.’
     Vidya said nothing more, took up her cellphone and went to her bedroom. When she emerged half an hour later, she sucked her teeth loudly. 
     ‘What happen?’ Kalyan said. 
    ‘Damn Ramesh wouldn’t answer his phone.’
    ‘You call him?’
   ‘Yes. I got his cell number from the office.’
    Late that evening, Vidya left home in Kalyan’s van. She and three vendors loaded all the rotting and unsaleable vegetables in three vans and dumped them in front of Mr. Boss’ office.  And she sensed that overnight, the decaying vegetables would cause a stench and this would please her. Hopefully, that act would force Mr. Boss into action. 
      On Monday morning, the whole of Windsor Town knew what took place.
    Mr. Boss and his entire staff could not get into their office unless the dumped vegetables were removed and the place totally sanitized. As a result, the building was closed for the day.
    When Vidya tried to contact Mr. Boss’s office, no one answered his number.
    Vidya was a little uneasy that morning when the police car pulled up at her home. 
    ‘We need to ask you a few questions.’
    ‘Sure. Go ahead.’
   Minutes later the police left saying, ‘That’s all. It’s just a formality.’
   ‘Thank you.’
    When they left, she said to herself I want to march in the streets of Windsor Town. Fix the roof and that is the end of the story. Mr. Boss think I will go a little further. No. No. Fix the roof and stop talking down to farmers. We are people too, man. We are people. We feed the whole damn island.
    The happenings of the weekend left all vendors uncertain of whether the market would open for business or not. As a result, no vendor bought any new goods. They did come to Windsor Town to see what progress was being made.
    Much to their surprise, Ramesh, in company of two policemen, visited the market. Immediately he arrived, he asked for Vidya. When Kalyan called her at home, she said, ‘I not coming. Tell him he doesn’t have to see me. Just fix the market.’
    ‘Can I talk to her on the phone.’
    Kalyan said, ‘She said fix the market.’
    Ramesh spoke to Vidya on the phone. ‘Mr. Boss say as a personal favour, he’ll fix the market by today. Even if workers have to work overnight.’
     Personal favour? She smiled.  ‘And tell him the farmers need compensation for their loss of earnings.’
    ‘Yes, Miss Vidya. I’ll look into it.’
    ‘Otherwise, we’ll march tomorrow.’
    Ramesh again spoke to Mr. Boss. ‘Mr. Boss say as a personal favour, he himself will oversee the work.’
    ‘That’s nice. Thank you.’
    ‘And if you’ll have tea with him tomorrow at four o’ clock?’
   Vidya smiled.  ‘Tell him not tomorrow. Some other time. Me and five vendors coming. ‘
    Ramesh text and got an answer. ‘Sure,’ he said. ‘Sure.’
    ‘And tell, Mr. Boss, I am not leaving the market. I want a large permanent stall. And tell him too, when I come to tea, I want him to draw up plan to have an air-conditioned market’.
    ‘What, Miss Vidya! Air-conditioned market? You mad?’
    ‘Yes. I am mad. And mad people like air-condition market. I want the best for farmers. So we’ll have minimum perishables.’
    ‘I don’t know about that na. That is between you and he.’
    ‘And he could have you draw up plans for that. An a/c market. Right here in Windsor Town.’. 
    ‘A/c market in Windsor Town? When nobody else have a a/c market?’
    ‘No a/c market. No vote and we marching in Windsor Town .’
   ‘Girl, you mad yes.’
    “Mad or sane, I here to stay. Is the lagoon in charge.’ 
     As Vidya walked away, Ramesh  looked on disbelief. ‘Is time for a change. I want a transfer from here. I done.’

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