The Sexist

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The air was so thick with the smell of frying, that a layer of oil seemed to settle on my skin as I walked thru one of the by lanes in the underbelly of Mumbai. Sunlight bounced off the metal vessels stacked in towers outside every tiny shop more due to space constraints rather than to attract customers. I remembered my friend who recently migrated to Mumbai telling me that he had never seen a cat and a dog co-exist in such close proximity to each other anywhere else except in Mumbai. Even they knew the city’s unstated survival rules: adjust in as much space as you get. We entered one shop and the shopkeeper sized us up from top to bottom calculating how much time he would invest in us from his fast slipping busy day. I touched the vessels on display outside, they were warm with the sunlight and a metallic odour emanated from them and clung to the tips of my fingers. We cut a deal with the shopkeeper and bought a total of 34 kilos of aluminium ware. Two large vats for cooking 40-50 kilos of sabzi at once. We asked for the whereabouts of shops selling plastics. The shopkeeper said we could walk to another market ten minutes away and find what we are looking for. Then he looked at me and added, “Ladies ke saath 15-20 minute lag jayega.” It will take you 15-20 minutes if you take her too.

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