APPLE-KNOCKER

Apple-knocker is an expression that doesn’t find a commonplace in the popular lexicon. Oxford Dictionary defines appleknocker as “an unsophisticated person” and Merriam Webster states it simply as “rustic.” The phrase apparently came from fruit harvesters using long sticks to dislodge the hanging crop.

City folks commonly refer to villagers (country folks) as apple-knockers. Though the phrase sounds one shade funny and one shade demeaning, it’s a nice euphemistic addition to the intellectuals’ vocabulary. Well, you may not find an equivalent expression of this English phrase in other languages! But, then that’s the beauty of salad bowl languages!

It’s easy to overlook and undermine an apple-knocker. After all, we do not expect any finesse in their mannerisms! On the other hand, their presence at times makes one feel embarrassed. They sure fit into the place where they hail from. But in sophisticated gatherings and posh localities or in places where people of polished mannerisms operate, they are considered to be out-of-place.

But had it not been for such rustics around us, much of the luxury that we enjoy today might not have been within easy reach. Think of the farmer who sweats in the summer heat to sow and till. Had the sweaty stinky farmer not laboured hard in his field, many would not have food on their table.

While the blue-collar workers are often the most neglected lot in any society, their contribution to keep a household or an organization running is indisputable. The door needs drilling – call the carpenter; the tap needs fixing – call the plumber; the streets need cleaning – hire a sweeper and the list goes on. These are the apple-knockers around us and many-a-times we may be guest to their volley of abusive expletives and stiff-neckedness. However without them around, life would be a lot more cumbersome than our present challenges and commitments already make it.

So yes, as we add this phrase to our vocabularies, let’s exercise caution while treating the apple-knockers around us with the minimum dignity they deserve.

WHAT’S A HOME? – II

It was a breezy winter morning as Meghana stepped out of her house. She was fighting hard to keep her tears from finding their way down her cheeks. She hailed the first cab that she came across and got into it.

“Where do you want to go, Ma’am?”, asked the cab driver.

So frustrated was Meghana with her predicament that she replied absentmindedly, “Anywhere…to a peaceful place…a place of dignity and love…without mountains of responsibilities.”

The cab driver kept staring at her with a questionable look.

Gathering her thoughts and emotions, she told the driver of her destination and gave him the necessary directions.

It was 10 o’ clock in the morning – two hours since she had sent Manu and Kabir on their day’s schedules. She had deliberately given the cab driver, the address of a beach an hour’s drive away. As the driver made his way through the morning traffic, a flurry of questions fleeted within her.

What is robbing the charm of my marriage?

Am I not beautiful enough?

Am I not taking enough care of all of Manu’s interests?

Is my thought process outdated?

Or am I simply expecting too much?

Is it because I am just a homemaker, that Manu doesn’t think it necessary to respect me?

Do I not toil from dawn to nightfall to make sure that Manu’s and Kabir’s needs as well as their wants are satisfied? Isn’t that enough reason to get me the love and respect I deserve?

Or…or…is there someone else in Manu’s life?

Meghana’s head reeled at the thought. No…she didn’t want to permit such thoughts to enter her mind. She had developed a splitting headache by then. Her Google Map showed Blue Moon Cafeteria just five minutes away.

She asked the cab driver to stop by the cafeteria, paid him and sent him off. The cafeteria was almost empty, except for a young boy – probably in his late teens, engrossed in a novel in one corner.

She chose a seat near the huge glass window facing the street.

“What could I serve you, Ma’am?”, a middle-aged lady in the cafeteria uniform asked her politely with a welcoming smile placing the menu before her.

In no mood to return her smile, Meghana scanned through the menu and asked for a sandwich and a cup of coffee.

“I’ll be back in ten minutes, Ma’am”, said the waitress.

Not wanting to pick up her train of thoughts, Meghana looked out of the cafeteria window hoping to find something interesting…something that would take her away from her fears and worries. She saw an old woman leaning on a pair of crutches walk past, a small boy hopping and jumping happily holding an old man’s hands, a vendor trying his best to sell some articles of daily use at a cheaper price to passers by, a young couple walking hand in hand with the gleam of newly found love largely writ on their faces.

“Here’s your order, Ma’am”, came the chirpy voice of the waitress, startling Meghana.

“Oh!…Thanks”, muttered Meghana without a smile.

The waitress went away. As she uncovered the tray, Meghana noticed that there were food stuffs other than the ones she had ordered. Apart from the sandwich and coffee, there was a chocolate muffin, a cream roll and some star-shaped wafers. Underneath was a neatly folded cloth napkin with the words – “Shine as a light amidst the darkness”, stitched onto it.

Meghana waved at the waitress and summoned her to come.

“Yes Ma’am, how may I help you?”, said the waitress, whose name Meghana noticed was pinned onto her uniform.

“Er…I think there has been some mistake in serving the order. I had only ordered for a sandwich and a cup of coffee. But, there are some additional items in my tray”, said Meghana.

“Could I sit with you for a minute?”, said Shikha, the waitress.

Not prepared for such a question, Meghana forced a nod.

“My sweet Ma’am”, began Shikha, “you are beautiful. Has anyone told you this?” A faint smile formed on the corner of Meghana’s lips for the first time that morning. Her mind raced to the day when she had met Manu for the first time and he had said, “Meghana, you are beautiful – a marvellous creation of the Creator.” Oh! How she had blushed that day! She was about to break into a shy laughter when her surroundings brought her to the present. And gloom filled her face.

“What does that have to do with my order?”, Meghana retorted with irritation clearly evident in her voice.

“From the time you walked in, I noticed sadness in your eyes. I do not know the reason nor would I make you uncomfortable by asking you. But I want to share a slice of my life with you. Before that, just to clarify, these additional items are complimentaries that we at Blue Moon Cafeteria offer to our first three customers each day. And, you are our second customer for today”, said Shikha with a wide smile.

“Now coming to my story, I own this cafeteria”, said Shikha.

Taken aback by this piece of information, Meghana seemed to be visibly unsettled thinking that she ought to have treated Shikha better.

“No, nothing to worry about, my dear. I love to serve my customers along with my employees. So, I dress like them and behave like one of them. You can be at ease. This cafeteria was gifted to me by my father when it about to be shut down once and for all. Decreasing footfall of customers and dwindling coffers drove my father to such ill-health from which he could never recover. He bequeathed this cafeteria in my name”, said Shikha.  

Meghana pretended to be listening to her with interest…

Continue reading the next part HERE