There are some instances where you do things worth showing off and there are things that are even better and you just keep it to yourself. It’s been a while since I started this blog and I just realised that I had nothing under my ‘Penned thoughts’ section. After deeply thinking about what to write as the first post for this section (for about 5 seconds), I thought of writing this incident.
Date: Winter of 2011
Time: Early morning at around 7-ish
Location: Co-Operative Foods, Canning Town, London
It’s been year number four in London and after working my ass off for the last three years as a part timer thanks to my studies, I’ve finally started working full time. Climbing the hierarchy of a firm isn’t simple but out of nowhere I was now the acting dept. manager for my shop. Long story short, it meant that I had to get the lazy me, out of my bed by 4:30 am while others snuggle their partners tight in the context of chillness (I had my humble heater as a replacement for that but that’s another story). My position demanded me to be up so early as the keys of my store were in my hoodie pocket and if I’m late, my colleagues would be standing outside in the cold with their numb hands inside their pockets.
On one of those cold mornings, it was just past a few minutes since I opened the doors for public. There were just five employees at that time, a Jamaican based friend of mine who was in the bakery making the morning batch of bread, two others who deal with cleaning and are busy upstairs, Chechi, one of those few motherly figures I had in London who was a Keralite in her mid 50s at the billing counter and of course me, running around the shop floor with my morning routine. The rest of the morning staffs would only be reporting past 8. As I was checking my stocks around the shop, I spotted this fine dressed man standing next to the bakery packed cakes section, a bit too longer than would anyone would usually do. The training given to me knocked my senses and thinking it could be someone who might need help in choosing the right product, I approached him. When I did actually get to his front, I realised that he wasn’t clueless on what to buy but slowly nibbling on one of the cakes.
Let me quickly brief you on the type of job I was in and the kind of people I dealt with on a daily basis. Managing a hyper market in East London isn’t as easy as one might imagine. Apart from being in an area where gang wars, murders and gun crimes are frequent at an alarming rate, thanks to poverty, robbery isn’t uncommon either. As a matter of fact, we deal with such crooks almost everyday. Though legally we aren’t meant to use force to stop them or get hold of them and CCTV cameras monitoring our every move, we wouldn’t just let someone walk away. There has been numerous instances where I’ve run behind and caught such criminals, engaged in hand to hand combats, narrowly escaped a couple of knife slashes and even once, smooth talked some sense into a gun yielding swindler. While all these happens when I’m all by myself, things are so different when I have my colleagues by my side. In the side of town where 999 calls aren’t going to get cops immediately to deal with the crooks we’ve managed to capture, we’ve graciously escorted such folks to our storage rooms (away from the CCTV cameras) to do out bit by ‘serving some justice’. On the other hand there has been situations where I’ve caught kids and women stealing some food, in which cases my colleagues and I have pooled in some cash and bought them food. Ironically, these are the incidents I remember as I simply smirk whenever my mom tells my dad how soft they’ve raised their son. No matter how the story ends, the thing is that robbery is very rampant and not only does it put us at a lot of risks, it also puts that day’s job at stake thanks to the precious time wasted on such idiots.
Back to the story, sighing on finding another such crook, I made eye contact with him with an expression that yelled ‘dude, what the fuck are you even doing?’. On spotting me, all he could muster saying was the words ‘Sorry’ before leaning towards me and losing his balance. As I helped his almost unconscious body to rest against a pillar, the reason for him to try eating a cake struck me. The Biological Science degree that I thought would have no use in my life came out to help as I dashed into the bakery. I spotted the baker making some delicious almond stuffed croissants. A shelf next to him had the caster sugar which is generally used to sprinkle over doughnuts and pies. I got hold of that packet and emptied a considerable amount into an empty bottle which I then filled with water. Back on the shop floor, the man was having his eyes semi open and looked completely wasted. I helped him sit down on a chair and gave him the sugar water solution. I left him to sit down there for a while as I went along with my routine only to check on him once every 2 minutes.
After almost fifteen minutes he walked up to me, visibly better and sporting a smile. There wasn’t a formal introduction and his first words were ‘You saved my life mate’. I knew that it was just the words ‘thank you’ being blown out of proportion but all I could do was smile along with a sigh of relief. He started explaining how he skipped his breakfast and how it would’ve messed him up, thanks to his Diabetes. He dug into his back pocket from where he took out a wallet. As he was thanking me profusely, he took out about six to seven £20 notes, which was something more than what I’d have earned for that day, and handed it over to me. I backed off as if I saw him hold a gun against me with my hands up in position. I thanked him for the offer but refused it, telling him to just take care of himself. He dragged me to the counter while picking up a huge box of Ferrero Rocher from a shelf and without heeding to my pleads, he paid for it and handed it over. My hands declined to hold it but he made sure my grip wasn’t weak. He gently hugged me and said ‘Thank you’ for one last time before walking out of our shop.
Left with a box of chocolates for breakfast, I opened and offered it to Chechi who was on the verge of breaking down from whatever she saw. As she was opening the chocolate from it’s golden wrapper, speaking in an English that had a strong flavour of Malayalam, she said something along the lines of ‘Only if my daughter wasn’t married, I’d have gotten her married to you’. I laughingly replied ‘If she’s as amazing as you are, I wouldn’t mind it even now’.