With this thought in mind, Dhaya left his home. He didn’t immediately start anything in the neighbourhood. He went to Koyambedu and did all and sundry manual work. This was just enough for him to have one meal a day which he had in a nearby aaya’s kadai. He stayed with a colleague named Balu. Balu was a happy go lucky man, ever cheery, very generous and a man of simple living. He took a liking to Dhaya right from the day they met each other. Balu was a moota thooki in the nearby shop. He could see that Dhaya preferred keeping to himself. Any small talks would be met with monosyllable reply. It wasn’t as if he meant to be rude. Just that he was to the point. Both of them stayed in a small koorai house just off the highway towards Maangadu. Everyday they woke up early at 3 and went to the market to unload their shop’s worth of materials. One day while they were returning home, Balu told Dhaya – ‘I don’t know what you are upto. You don’t seem made for this type of job. But still let me tell you this. You want to achieve something? Then speak up and be heard. Not in the way of making a noise about you. But just speak. Make friends. Make people feel comfortable. Make them want you. That is the key’. This probably was the longest conversation (one way or two ways) they have had in the last 3 months. And Dhaya true to his style just nodded and grunted a ‘Hmm’.
But he registered this. Immediately there was a change in the approach of Dhaya. He used to sing gaily while lifting loads. When not with any loads, he used to engage the shop keepers and the vendors in conversation. He tried to pick their brain. As to what made them successful. How they intended to grow. Where they purchased. What they did when they went back home. Any thing and everything under the sun he spoke with others. After 1 year, with Rs.5000 for a savings he came back to Jambu Nagar and found an acco for himself. It was with that famous non entity of the area – Kumar. He was a geriatric with flowing hair always rambling about the doomsday and how things are turning for the bad. No one wanted to be with him or near him. But it didn’t matter much for Dhaya. One, he was getting a literally free acco. And two, all he had to do to win Kumar’s confidence was to time a string of ‘Hmm’s. One every minute to let Kumar know that he was listening. Otherwise he was free to do whatever he wanted, uninterrupted. He first linked up with all the vegetable vendors in his area and agreed to bring cheap input vegetables for a small commission using his contacts in Koyambedu. People trusted him because they had seen him grow in this locality. And his was an offer they couldn’t refuse. Try whatever they did, they just couldn’t procure the vegetables cheaper than what Dhaya provided them. This was fetching him roughly 100 bucks a day. He used to buy food for 30 bucks, give a half to Kumar and eat the rest. Then he would go to the nearby park and indulge himself in star gazing there. One day at the park, he met his old English teacher. She was the only one amongst his acquaintances who was the same to him now, as she was before. She was asking him how things are going on and all the usual trivial stuffs. Just then a whiff of fresh air blew, bringing to Dhaya the smell of vaer kadalai from the other street. Then it struck him. And he was raring to try this out.
So very soon, he retrofitted all the scrap in his locality to make a thallu vandi – a push cart. With the help of his friends in Koyambedu, he got a cheap source of groundnuts. He got himself a stove and started roasting peanuts. Most of the peanuts, he consumed. That is, till the business picked up. And the key to his business picking up was his own school. The location of his school was a business man’s dream. It was smack in the middle of a busy street, a stone throw away from the bus stop. He stationed himself midway between the bus stop and the school playground and waited. 3 hours a day was the maximum he gave himself for this pass time. If it yielded money, he treated it as a bonus. Along similar lines, his dosa shop started. Primarily for personal consumption. After all, with a stove in hand he couldn’t resist it. Since he knew this place (Jambu Nagar) like the back of his hand, he was well aware that lots of bachelors stayed there. All that he had to do was to locate himself suitably and wait for the kill. His night time shop was also from his thallu vandi only. He didn’t have enough money to rent out a room or building. But then his USP was that by virtue of his education, he could fairly indulge anybody in any sort of conversation – trivial, political, philosophical..anything. And in many languages too. Slowly crowd started gathering. If not to eat, at least to speak.
Was this a sign that redemption was somewhere close by?