A village baker& the opinions of people about his use daughter who wants to leave to study
|Pedru and his family had been the neighborhood poders for three generations now. Poders; as his father had explained to him were considered in those times a family from the higher echelon's of society, an occupation that gave the family a dignified stature in society and hence Pedru always felt a sense of pride towards his family's lineage and the prestige that came with being a poder.
The reins of the family business fell to Pedru on the passing of his father and more so after Santu; his older brother, groomed to take over, decided to forgo his right, opting instead for a job on a rig in the Gulf. His change of career left their parents immensely disappointed; the torch, however, was passed on to Pedru who was more than pleased to take over. He believed that the bakery was his family's legacy handed down over generations, and he was tremendously proud to be linked to it.
Pedru loved his bakery and the work he did. He loved beginning the day with the smell of flour, freshly baked bread and the morning chats with his fellow villagers as they purchased his bread. This time of the morning was undeniably his favorite time. He spent the first half in quiet solitude working his way through the flour, creating the dough, the bread mounds and finally the baking, a process that was ingrained into him and one he mastered over decades. Going through the process today, his mind let wander to the events of the last few weeks. An unplaced feeling of dread and anxiety had set in that he couldn't shake, but he chalked it down to the tension brewing in the house over the last few days.
Veronica, Pedru's only daughter, had expressed her wish one night over dinner to join a renowned college in Pune to pursue a career in fashion designing. Rosa; Pedru’s wife; a petite yet strong-willed woman with a baritone voice, flat out shut her down, refusing to hear any part of it.
“Vera,” she began crossly, “Girls from our family do not travel out of Goa before marriage. You can go where you wish to go with your husband once you are married, but until then, you stay in Goa.” She said in finality.
Vera, initially livid with her mother's reasoning, began her own set of tantrums that spanned three days straight, two days later doing a backflip, into a dramatic soap opera twist with tears streaming all over the house. The day after that turned out to be a silent one, with Vera resorting to Gandhiji's approach of hunger and silence, refusing to eat anything and confined herself to her room except to go to school.
One night before bed, the exasperated wife began with an account of her daughter's antics for the day. It was followed by stories from Bella, the village gossiper who narrated to Rosa about Carmine, Cecilia and Dumingo's daughter, a family from their village, whose daughter had traveled to Saudi last year and hadn’t returned yet. The gossiper animatedly recited to Rosa all the things the girl was supposedly doing there, which weren't the least bit decent. With that, Rosa tried her utmost to explain to Pedru the scrutiny an unwed girl from Goa is subjected to when she ventures on her own before marriage.
“What will people say, Pedru?” cried a devastated Rosa between her tears, “Sending a grown girl on her own like that? Can you imagine the stories people will concot about her and the things they would say? People's tongues don't take time to wag in all the wrong directions. Her reputation will be tarnished.”
Pedru put his arm around her, assuring her sympathetically, “Don't worry Rosa, give her time. She is our daughter; she will understand and make the right decision. Let us sit her down again tomorrow and explain to her, this time more calmly and rationally.”
An exhausted Rosa conceded although knowing all too well that their daughter was not one to back down.
Amidst making the last batch of bread dough, Pedru was steered back to the present when he saw Vera standing at the bakery door observing him silently.
“Mmm, I was wondering if you needed any help…” she started. Pedru smiled, gesturing her to come over with the wave of his arm.
While working together in silence, Pedru recollected all the times they had done so before. Vera's assistance in the bakery had dwindled since the beginning of school this year, with her shuttling herself between school and the dress orders she had from people. She was apparently skilled, innovative and had a flair for what she did, as he was told. Their unison today after so long felt good and natural, besides they always blended organically while working, and their bond was stronger because of it.
So Pedru decided to use it and broach the current issue gently by carefully explaining to Vera her mother's rationale and their reservations on her decision to leave. Pedru half expected her to retaliate and argue her stance, but the girl just kept mum, silently listening and contemplating.
Once the morning batch of baking was complete, Vera decided to head out. She halted at the door as if to say something, so Pedru stopped and looked towards her questioningly, willing her to continue. She sighed heavily, looked around the bakery and then squarely at him, tears welling in her eyes,
“Dada; this bakery…. It's your life, it's what you love, and it means the world to you, I know. I am also aware that my career choice is the real reason for your disappointment, and I'm sorry for that.”
She continued intuitively, “I'm sorry to let you down like this, but clothes and designing are the things I really love, and I'm good at. I want to try to make something of myself with the things that I love to do. Just the way you love this bakery and have worked to make it better than it was before.”
And with that, she quickly wiped her flowing tears and walked out before Pedru had a chance to console her.
Pedru was taken aback by Vera’s intuitiveness. It was a battle he had silently but unknowingly been battling in his head. He had felt a sense of déjà vu all week but could not place it, but with Vera’s words the floodgates in his head came crashing open. His father’s disappointment, which dwelled in the air a long time ago, was suddenly evident in the house today. It was then that he realized that his anxiety all week was due to Vera's career choice rather than her decision to move away. He knew in his heart it was foolish and forthright of him to expect her to give up her dreams to keep his alive, but he had still hoped for the sake of his family's legacy.
So Pedru deliberated long and hard all day on his dilemma and resolved that he loved his daughter too much to force her to sacrifice and strangle her dreams for his pipe dream and neither should she have to, under the fear of the speculation that people may have about her. The world today had evolved, and they would too, for their daughter’s happiness.
So, contrary to the plan made with his wife, it was an unsuspecting Rosa who ended up being the one to be convinced.
It took many days of persuasion to finally get Rosa to consent to the father-daughter duo’s decision. With that settled Pedru expected the issue to be put to rest but sadly, as it would be, Goans take a keen interest in the life of the people around them and so once word of Vera's impending travel got out, village "well-wishers" began sharing their concerns and opinions on the subject. It was of utmost importance, they felt, they share their views to avoid the family making a disastrous mistake.
So as it came to be, Pedru's morning happy time was filled with suggestions and opinions from concerned villagers that came in to buy bread. He provided hot and fresh bread, and they provided a dash of opinions in exchange. Pedru hoped today would be different, but unfortunately, luck was not on his side.
The first of the buyers was Bostu, the village café owners’ wife, coming in to collect the morning supply of bread.
“Arre Pedru, Borro mure?” asking him his well-being in Konkani. “How are you guys holding up? Must be difficult, no, I know. Don't worry; it will be fine, I'm certain. Vera will change her mind; children change their minds like this” she said, snapping her fingers together.
Without a pause, she continues, “Arre, my Nathaniel recently told me he wanted to become a painter. I was like, 'Agge Baie, my son will be painting everyone's houses now or what.' I was in such tension, you know, shee! But after two weeks, he changed his mind and said he now wants to become an engineer!” She exclaimed animatedly. “Avoi ghe! Tension only went after that.” she ended happily.
Pedru smiled, handing over her order. “Bostu, Nathaniel is ten, right?”
“Voi re, that's what I'm saying no, don't worry, Vera also will change her mind! You just see.” And with that she quickly waved and scurried off with her big bag of bread.
A little while later came Vishwas Kaka for his regular order. The conversation here again quickly drifted to Vera and her decision to move.
“Pedru Bab,” he started,” be very careful ok, nowadays, you don't know, you can't be sure only. Girls say these things to leave, and later you find out all these men have used and taken advantage of them, then what you can do” and ends with an apologetic face, however, seeing Pedru's aghast and irritated face he hastily continues. "Mmm… But Vera is a smart girl, she won't do anything wrong like that, but these men nowadays you never know, they can take advantage of beautiful, innocent girls like Vera. Just be careful is all I'm saying” he ended the topic hurriedly. Pedru just smiled, nodded and said thank you.
The rest of the day progressed more or less on the same lines, and each time he endured in pretty much the same way.
Days passed and Pedru had gotten used to all the free advice thrown his way. For Rosa though, it was still difficult to cope with, as her acceptance was merely out of resignation and defeat rather than being wholly on board. An incident one evening, however, inched her closer to an affirmation on the subject after a squabble with another concerned neighbor. The woman callously told Rosa that based on Vera's current upbringing, she was sure to come back failed, used or probably much worse. Rosa's maternal instinct kicked in; who, infuriated with the woman's audacity, defended her daughter, her capabilities, and her decision to move. She was furious and exhausted with people unnecessarily questioning her daughters’ character and the constant interference from everyone. And with that, it brought her a step closer to completely supporting her daughter's dreams.
By the end of the school year, the family had organised and prepared for Vera's forthcoming move. By this time Rosa was fully on board, she was at peace with the plans made for regular visits to see Vera and her coming home when possible as well.
On the bakery's future, it was Vera who guided Pedru to lease out its operations once he was ready to step back from its daily running and when the time was right, the same would be transferred to Vera who would then continue overseeing its operations thereby ensuring and maintaining the family's legacy.
But until such time, a pleased and carefree Pedru went about his day’s just baking bread, serving his villagers and therewith enjoying the little joys each day found in being a proud and happy neighborhood poder.