The Maluman – thus I call him in my head – trudges up the lane. His panniers are balanced across a bent back. Green sarong, dirty white shirt, stalking through the neighborhood of balconies and rich mens’ conversation. Sometime curtains are closed as he passes with his panniers of fish. The laboring man is a subtle insult to many, a reminder that there exists a world outside their curtain of delights and carefully erected rings of society. People don’t walk here, they ride: cars, for preference. And nobody wears sarongs anymore.
Malu-O! he cries, breaking through the silence. He doesn’t have a degree in Marketing. What he has is a loud voice and a tireless back.
I put the paper down and watch him.
When my children were young, they used to cry back. Malu-maluu! they would sing, mimicking the Maluman’s cry. I have to point out that there were old malumen, there were young malumen, and it never made a difference to us: they were all the Maluman. And the wives would converge on the fellow, buying fish and more often than not, gossiping over the price while he cut, chopped and bagged the purchases right there on the street.
Not now, though. Not these people. My children’s children grow up in a world where fish are born in cans at the food city. Nobody cries Malu, Malu anymore: they’re too busy with their iPods and iWhatnots in their ears. We used to play cricket in the fields. They play….whatever it is they play with their friends on Facebook. Occasionally they go out to parties, taking great care never to let the sunlight touch them – they hop from shade directly into cars and Pajero’s and come back roaring drunk after midnight. Theirs is an indoor world.
My children, too, are now rich, and therefore they must not step out to buy malu like one of the Common People. Instead they too, with great care, take the car out to a nearby Food City. Before they had the car they used to walk, and it took them only five minutes. Now it takes them two minutes and a hundred rupees of petrol.
And only I am left, sitting here in the evening sun like a drying husk, getting older by the day.
My way of life is ending.
Malu-O? cries the Maluman, a questioning note creeping into his voice.
There is no answer to his question. Go away, man: go away. They are too busy, too rich, too big for the likes of you.
Art by Emaad Fayaz, who goes by the name of Dr Carrot on Deviantart. Emaad is part of a graphical collective called PRUVE that specializes in original art in the style of comic books and manga. Story by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne.