The Mall Road Honey Trap

To bee or not to bee, I could have asked the paunches and batwings. To beer would probably be their answer

author_img Ravi Shankar Published :  10th October 2021 12:37 PM   |   Published :   |  10th October 2021 12:37 PM
An apiarist selling honey in Landour, Uttarakhand

An apiarist selling honey in Landour, Uttarakhand

I wish the hills were alive with the right kind of music. Not played by fat men in fat cars full of fat women and fat kids and thin maids, going up the tricky Mullinger climb to Landour with ‘Mere Wala Jatt’ and ‘Khad Tainu Main Dassa’ blaring on stereos, waking up the 17th century ghosts of Englishmen who died early of beer disease. Mind you, I have nothing against loud music or Englishmen, fat or thin. But Prem Dhillon or Neha Kakkar and Rohanpreet Singh sound as incongruous in Landour’s pristine cedar covered hillsides as a Scotsman playing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ in Kottayam.

I had to pick up a new pair of shades after mine got stolen from Lotte’s Bakery in Landour Bazaar, while I was having cold coffee; the place had CCTV backup only for five hours, shorter than the time their bacon and cheese quiche lasts in the fridge. When I turned into the Mall Road, safely protected by two masks and face shields, there were no signs of a pandemic. It could have been Ferozepur Fashion Week. Women were dressed in clothes better suited to a GK I kitty party thrown by a West Delhi mama than for a leisurely holiday stroll. The street was packed in synthetic parody.

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There was maxi mother wearing a Mickey Mouse backpack whose straps bit into her rather abundant flesh mercilessly, while her kid blared like one of the above-mentioned car stereos from its kangaroo pouch. There were the young boys in short quiff haircuts, togged up in two-tier chic from bargain basement cities, with their girlfriends clumsily plodding along on platform heels with unfamiliar gait, plunging necklines not perfect for the weather, charmingly self-conscious. The leitmotif was paunches. Men and women, in tight T-shirts tucked into tighter jeans. Or salwar kameez reinventions with frilly sleeves.

On the way back home, I paused at the traffic barrier to check out a tiny antique shop, which had a German Shepherd ink pot. That is when I spotted the honey guys. It was not my Charles Dickens meets Premchand moment; they were simply two poor guys dressed in off-the-pushcart village fair clothes and Hawai chappals. They had huge chunks of bee hives—the colour of caramel custard—on wooden slats upon the sidewalk.

The apiarists were from Uttar Pradesh and came every season to raid beehives in the forests of Dehradun. I bought the honey they made for me by wrapping a spongy hive in cloth and squeezing the liquid into a container. The honey was wild gold; dark and deep like Robert Frost. But I had miles to go before I could smear it on toast. So I paid them what they asked for. There was no pathos in the exchange, only the dignity of poverty. To bee or not to bee, I could have asked the paunches and batwings. To beer would probably be their answer.