Naan Quest

It's Monday and we still have leftover IP butter chicken. Unfortunately we ran out of naan. I figured I'd go pick some up after work.

My people have been making naan for centuries and it's really difficult to buy a counterfeit at 5x the price. Rather than pay $5/pseudo-naan, I went to an authentic Pakistani grocery store that my parents sometimes frequent when they're visiting. Extra bonus is that they have a little cafe area where you can savor snacks and chai (y'all know how much I love chai!).

So here I am stuck in stupid LA traffic. Every song on the radio overplayed, my muscles and nerves dancing between gas and brake pedals, GPS shouting directions. And I was getting really excited about chai. There's something so comforting about a steaming hot cup of chai. I could almost taste it. I can think of no better way to end my 8th straight day working.

I arrive, park and excitedly make my way to the shop. An elderly gentleman stops me and says "they're closed on Mondays." I could feel disappointment rising over me quickly. I muttered "I just wanted naan" under my breath.

The man looked at me. He wasn't a very tall man. He wore a white topi on his head to match his white hair. His beard was white and medium length. He wore a traditional kameez and shalwar. He pointed me in the direction of a Pakistani restaurant the next plaza over. I quickly redirected myself towards the restaurant.

Then I heard "you wanted frozen naan?"

I turned around. "Yes."

"Okay come here," he said. He pulled a wad of keys bigger than a baseball out of his pocket. He fumbled around and unlocked the grocery.

He pointed to the naan. I grabbed 5 packets and went to the check-out counter.

"Who are you?" I asked. "Is this your store?"

"No. I work next door."

There were no price tags on the naan nor was there a price tag on the display. This lovely babaji tried to call the owners to see how much it would cost but got a voicemail. We guesstimated the best price and I handed him some cash.

"Next time you come, if you are owed money, you can collect it. And if you owe money, you can pay the difference. Thank you, beta."

What a sweet man for opening up the shop for me and letting me buy on blind trust! We are losing this very human connection in our everyday encounters. You can self check-out at a grocery store and you can self check-in to your flight. Pretty soon computers and robots will do so much more. We have lost ourselves to regulations and policies. We have technology and social media, and people are lonelier than ever. Bless this lovely gentleman for sharing an "old-school human experience" with me today.

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