From the Pen-APN
A few months back when I was talking with that man, he seemed to be a dexterous entrepreneur. He used to sell ‘Arisa’ cake in a tin box laden on the carrier of a bicycle by the road-side of Bhanjanagar Market. He described me a lot about many Odia delicacies. And then he offered me a piece of his Arisha Cake (a type of Odia traditional cake made from jaggery) and at the same time, he extolled the speciality of the cake from the viewpoint of Odia culture. He had a pleasing smile and appealing communication skills. That day I was very much impressed both by the taste of his ‘Arisa’ Cake and his way of presenting the cultural value of the said dish.
That day I had bought 6 pieces of the said cake and I went home to relish it with my family.
Today I met the same man in the same place in the same fashion but this time the genuine smile was eclipsed by some inner pain. The man seemed to be defeated by some unknown troubles. I could not find the previous enthusiasm in his voice. He told, “Sir I struggled in this market for one year but I failed.” I was surprised because the taste of his ‘Arisa’ cake was unique and it obviously puzzled me why the classic product could not take off. Reading the expression of my concerned face he went on explaining, “Sir, people now call themselves modern and junk food with ‘China Salt’ (Monosodium Glutamate) is more appealing to their taste buds. And now in the name of culture, my business can no more stand. People have made junk food a fashion although it is unhealthy”
I realized the truth. At the same time, I could see how the youth of the town were swarming to a nearby fast food centre at the other side of the road and hanging around the heated pan on the oven that was frying earthworm-like noodles with lightning fast hand movements of a sweating cook. And I was the lone customer of that Arisa cake maker standing with him and trying to figure out the pains of a struggler, with his traditional know-how and values, who is fighting hard to overcome the blinding ads, a glamorous restaurant set up and the endemic junk food culture.
I paid him Rs 70/- and carried my parcel of 7 pieces of cakes with no words to speak as I had no consolation to offer. And I left the cake seller alone in the busy road imagining and feeling sad about how my culture meets a dead end under the pressures of an invading culture like Chinese noodles, soup and other junk food.