Divine barter

Unni lived with his grandmother for as long as he could remember. His parents had left for their heavenly abode, that is what his grandmother said, to be with Krishna. They would remain his guests for as much as they liked. So it was left to Unni to help his grandmother with the daily chores and long walk to get items in barter from the weekly market. The market was a good 10 miles away and their house was the only one in the area they lived. Nestled within coconut palms and a lot of cashew, jackfruit and mango trees was Unni’s house with a palm leaf thatch roof.

He had to visit the market every fortnight for vegetables and other grocery items. Since they did not have any other means of income, he had to barter the coconuts, tapioca and the fruits for getting other items from the market. So every fortnight, be it a sunny or a rainy day, Unni would have a gunny bag over his shoulder full of such produce and tread his way to the market and by late evening he would carry a bag of rice and other stuff back that he received in barter. Some of the times due to inclement weather, he would stay put at the market and reach the next day only.

One day his grandmother told him now that he was a big boy, he should visit the Krishna temple every fortnight near the market and get Krishna’s blessings and sweet offering. He took the advice and geared up to go on the first day of the month.. On his first visit, he travelled a bit early so that he would be in time for the worship and get the prasadam. The footwear was not helping him much since the old pair was worn out. He reached the temple in time put his sandals outside, entered and prayed for a long time but by the time he went to receive the prasadam it had finished since there was a huge rush of devotees that day being the first day of the new month. Sadly he came out wondering what he would give his grandmother. How would she believe that he did visit the temple? To his dismay, he could not locate his sandals among the scattered footwear of the devotees. There was really a good assortment of footwear, some new, some old, some costly, some cheap but not his. He made a few more inspections and still he could not locate his footwear.

A boy sitting next to the temple gate was watching all this and when Unni once looked up to him, he said, “why, you should take one of the many here and get going. It happens sometimes, and that is the only solution that I have if you are asking me”, he said with a mischievous smile. “No no, that is not fair, how can I take one that does not belong to me?”, said Unni in all innocence and started walking to the market bare feet. He reached the market with his produce for barter and many others like him came to him for exchanging his items for theirs. After the initial hustle had subsided, one old man came to him and asked for a bunch of bananas. He looked very poor, almost on the verge of fainting. But he had nothing to offer but a small portion of prasadam from the temple wrapped in a banana leaf. “Would this suffice for that small bunch of bananas that you have?” It was at this point Unni noticed that the poor man was wearing the sandals he had lost at the temple gate.

He took the prasadam in barter for the bunch of bananas that he had among the other fruits in his bag. When the old man found Unni looking at his footwear a few times, the old man asked whether he had visited the temple to which Unni nodded in confirmation. I am wondering if they are yours since I lost my footwear in the temple today, said the old man. So I looked for the oldest worn out sandals that I could wear since my feet are full of corns, I came across this old pair and took it. It has many holes in it, but it was so good for my feet after wearing them. Since you are not wearing any footwear, maybe you can keep it if it is yours? Unni said no to the offer and kept his silence. The old man thanked him profusely and went his way wearing his footwear.

Unni had to sit till evening before he could barter away all his items and that is when he decided to stay at the market and go home the next day morning, as he could sense a thunderstorm brewing. The next day morning, carrying his sack he was thinking of walking back the long way home when he met another old woman at the market asking if he had some food. He gave her the remaining prasadam of the previous day, took her blessings and continued his walking. He saw some one was following him. There were two horse carriages handled by able bodied men. The carriages stopped and the rich man and his wife in one of them asked if Unni wanted to come along with them, but he refused the offer saying his house was just a mile away and continued walking. The carriage went ahead but he could always see them as they travelled very slowly in front of him. Again when he caught up with them, he told the same and continued walking. The horse carriages disappeared into the distance when he was minutes away from his home. He felt so famished in mind and body when he reached home as there was nothing to offer to his grandmother. He told her of his trip and how he lost his sandals and could not deliver the prasadam though he had got it from the poor man.

The grandmother embraced her child and said she got to know all about it. “You are such a lucky child that Krishna took note of you on your first visit to the temple”. There is a pot full of prasadam for us and a pair of special footwear for you, said his grandmother pointing to them. How could she have received it. Unni thought. Let me narrate my part of the story, she said.

“A rich man had had an ailment that was refusing to go away inspite of all the medications he took from many physicians. Then he consulted an astrologer who asked him to visit the Krishna temple and sit in prayer for 21 days. On the eighteenth day he should fast for the next three days by taking water only. On the twenty first day, he should dress like a poor man with worn out clothes, after prayer, take prasadam and wear the most worn out footwear from the temple and walk to the market and break his fast from the most poor looking trader by bartering the left over prasadam for a bunch of bananas. After eating the bananas, he should continue walking like a poor man wearing the same footwear back home to get respite from his ailment”.

She then led out Unni out of the house. There, at a distance the horse carriages were standing. The rich man standing next to his wife walked over to Unni and embraced him and said with tears in his eyes, “for years I have enjoyed being rich thinking that all the riches I have earned is through my hard work and never parted or helped anybody. Then I suffered from this ailment, and took good advice. I was taught a lesson and I have made amends. In you I saw a role model that I can follow for the rest of my life”. Unni could recognise the old women he had met early in the day at the market in the rich man’s wife and smiled at her. She came near and blessed Unni. “I wanted to meet such a divine boy that I heard from my husband, you have been instrumental in curing him and you are no less than a god to us. Since my husband came to me without the prasadam, I though of partaking the divine offering if you still were in possession of it today morning and like charity personified you gifted the portion that was intended for your grandmother. I then suggested my husband to visit your house after going to the temple to make up for your loss”. “As a gift, I got you this footwear for the one I took”, said the rich man. “Please accept this horse carriage also for transporting your goods. I have many others in my stable like these. I have learnt the fact that for every goodness you barter, multifold goodness would come to you”. Saying so, he and his wife saluted them once more and took leave.

Goddess

goddess

Goddess, whenever I  look to you
I know you have known me
all my trials and tribulations
you wore them as a garland
to keep my worries at bay.

My offerings are to please you
but so trivial as they really are
when compared to the lovely gifts
countless that has been bestowed
these years on me by your good self.

In all my walks and moments
haven’t you walked with me
watching my every step that I took
correcting as a loving mother should
you were at my every beck and call.

I am greatly thankful to you
for having kept me company
I only wish you would hold my hands
lead me to places where I go after this
As I tread my steps now weary with age…

 

Happy Navratri and let Her blessings be upon you.

Jagjit Singh.. A Salute

It was in 1990, a student of mine, Alpa Vasant, who handed a cassette of him titled Live at Royal Albert Hall, that introduced me to the saga of Ghazals. Even though I had heard Pankaj Udhas before him, Jagjit Singh’s voice and music stuck to me as an aroma of a musical fountain. It is true I had heard his music in films though never knew about him at that time.

After the introduction, I slowly had my collection of his audio cassettes which I still have and play on my JVC player. The best part, as all would agree, was his voice and music..never had a ghazal singer giving so much importance to background music. It never went high and always played to soothe your nerves that were stressed out at work and in the traffic back home.

In Films, with music director Kuldip Singh.. he was unbeatable and always had a following of his own, though he may not have rendered more than 50 songs during the eighties and the nineties.

Though we have lost Jagjit Singh 10 years back on 10th October, but thanks to technology, Jagjit Singhji’s immortal voice and delightful music is secure till the end of times..

Album – Mirage
Release Date – 1 February 1996
English translation courtesy of Reality views.in site of the Ghazal song Apni Marzi Se Kahan Apni Safar from the album Mirage by Jagjit Singh is in Red Color.
Lyrics –
Apni marzi se kaha apni Safar ke hum hai
Our journey our path is not planned as per our wish desires
Apni marzi se kaha apni Safar ke hum hai
Our journey our path is not planned as per our wish desires
Rukh hawao ka jidhar ka hai udhar ke hum hai
We travel go in whichever direction wind goes
Apni marzi se kaha apni Safar ke hum hai
Our journey our path is not planned as per our wish desires
Pehle har cheez thi apni magar ab lagta hai
In past it felt that everything was ours, mine but now it feels that
Pehle har cheez thi apni magar ab lagta hai
In past it felt that everything was ours, mine but now it feels that
Apne hi ghar mein Kisi dusre ghar ke hum hai
In our own home we feel that we does not belong to this home we are staying in the house of someone else
Apne hi ghar mein Kisi dusre ghar ke hum hai
In our own home we feel that we does not belong to this home we are staying in the house of someone else
Rukh hawao ka jidhar ka hai udhar ke hum hai
We travel go in whichever direction wind blows
We travel go in the direction in which majority travels
Apni marzi se kaha apni Safar ke hum hai
Our journey our path is not planned as per our wish desires
Waqt ke saath mitti ka Safar sadiyo se
Sand, time are together traveling with each other from centuries unknown times
Waqt ke saath mitti ka Safar sadiyo se
Sand, time are together traveling with each other from centuries unknown time
Waqt ke saath mitti ka Safar sadiyo se
Sand, time are together traveling with each other from centuries unknown times
Kisko maalum kaha ke hai kidhar ke hum hai
Who knows from where we come which place we belong
Kisko maalum kaha ke hai kidhar ke hum hai
Who knows from where we come which place we belong
Chalte rehte hai ke chalna hai musafir ka nasib
We keep walking, traveling, traveling is the travelers, wanderer’s fa
Sochte rehte hai kis raah guzar ke hum hai
We keep on thinking from which road or turn we came we belong
Sochte rehte hai kis raah guzar ke hum hai
We keep on thinking from which road or turn we came we belong
Rukh hawao ka jidhar ka hai udhar ke hum hai
We travel go in whichever direction wind blows
We travel go in the direction in which majority travels
Apni marzi se kaha apni Safar ke hum hai
Our journey our path is not planned as per our wish desires
Apni marzi se kaha apni Safar ke hum hai
Our journey our path is not planned as per our wish..

The enchanting Lake

It was a bright summer day and I thought of going boating in the lake that was nearby the construction site that I was working at. I reached the boat landing pier and there was only one canoe with an old guy looking out for his next passenger. There were supposed to be a couple of diesel powered boats, but they had been taken already  by someone else.

Aren’t the diesel boats available today? I inquired. The grim face replied, yes there are. One of them is and already rented. The other driver had a rough fight with a passenger yesterday over the  money he paid, and has been taken away by the police.

Boat station

That means I am to put up with your rickety canoe. Is it capable of holding the both of us. Hope it won’t capsize in the middle of the lake? How much do you charge?

Have faith and patience sir, I ask for only 2 dollars for 2 hours came the reply. How much is charged by the diesel boats. They take 7 dollars for one hour. With a few customary greetings we took off at crawling speed in the manual  boat. I asked him to paddle close to the rocks that jutted out of the lake, which he gladly did.

The cruise along the bush filled hills was well worth and I was happy I took off today to come to this place.

The lake was much bigger than I thought of. I was lost in the scenery that was unwinding before my eyes.

The sun was getting a bit too hot and our ride was slowly getting into its second hour. We had cruised a good mile away from the station. Shouldn’t we return, I asked impatiently. The boatman now rowed into an inlet opening amidst the bushes and anchored the boat and asked me to venture out into the cool placid shaded waters. There was the constant murmur of the brook, the birds crying as they flew over our heads.

This place is only a treat for my passengers, the diesel ones don’t come here. Maybe I will gift a dollar extra for this place. Thanks but no, am happy with my 2 dollars, a wry smile appeared on his face.

When we reached the station, I picked my pockets to pay him. I had only 2 dollars on me to pay him. I forgot I had stepped into the grocery earlier to buy a pack of cigarettes and some fruit juice before walking to the lake. Then I wondered what would have happened had I taken the diesel boat…

Author’s Note: This was a story inspired by some beautiful pics taken by my WordPress friend Stephanie on her visit to Mockingee Lake, Nova Scotia, Canada and who was so kind to allow me to share them in this picture filled story. Hope I have done justice to the wonderful pictures. Please visit her post and blog to enjoy the full original collection below. https://wp.me/p72EU1-bCZ

The thirsty traveler

Once a rich man who always took pride in his possessions that he had accumulated and his rising status in society looked disturbed. He could not get quality sleep, could not enjoy much as of old and therefore decided  to do a solo ride to a far off place to meet a Guru who he thought would help him attain some peace of mind. The Guru’s Ashram was hundreds of miles far away from the city and was at a place which was unknown territory to him. Almost an hour to the destination guided the support voice from the vehicle. He happily drove ahead for some more time.  The vehicle navigation stopped momentarily as he  came across a place where the path ahead twisted into opposite directions. On the left was a muddy patch that looked like leading into the desert. The other was a better path leading into a shade of trees at a distance. There he saw a  traveler on foot with torn clothes and a dirty  bag in hand. He stopped his vehicle and inquired of  him on which   path he should take ahead.

“I am walking with only one destination in mind said the smiling mendicant. But you may take the left one”. He offered some water to the rich man which he refused saying he had enough of it with him. “It is a wonderful vehicle that you have got here. Hope it will take it to your intended destination. I can accompany you if you like me as a guide“, to which our man replied “There is no need for your guidance. This has inbuilt navigation. I can manage myself alone“.

The rich man thought of the man as a crazy old man and continued on the path on the right  which was well laid out and was happy he had not taken the foolish advice. After having gone some time, the road suddenly disappeared beneath the desert sands and the trees he had been seeing in the near distance had also vanished. His vehicle navigation was of no use in the desert terrain. Huge dunes of sand greeted him. He travelled over them each time narrowly missing being stuck in the loose sand. He stopped his vehicle as it had got heated. He drank from his rations of water and offered some to the vehicle.

It was hours since he had met the mendicant and cursed himself for not having taken him on board. After travelling again for some time, he came to the same place where he had met the mendicant. There was no trace of him. This time he took the left one and within an hour he reached an oasis which was lined up with the same trees that he had seen before. He reached the Ashram having hundreds of seekers sitting in attention to what the guru was saying.

“Always remember that there is no rich and poor among us. We are all seekers traveling through the limited time gifted to us. Seekers of joy, seekers of wealth, status or power. But there is a cost to such seeking. You lose your glow as you make compromises, do not listen to your inner guiding voice, do not heed good advice given externally and thus lose your way in the desert of life. If you had sought your creator all along and lost yourselves in his glory and attained bliss, there would be no need to drive yourself here to take the advice of this foolish man. The Lord is busy yet he has time for each one of us. When we are about to dwell on the wrong path, he sends us good advice in many forms. It could be your parent,  your sibling, a friend or a stranger. Take a pause in your stride and listen to such good advice”.

Saying so, the guru looked at the lone standing rich traveller who was looking at him to guide him to some seat to sit. When their eyes met, the rich traveller could recognise the smiling mendicant in the Guru…

The King of Breakfast times

Paddy Fields
Paddy fields in Andhra Pradesh

Waiting for the next train
Traveler at Mantralayam Road Station

Raja came from a small village situated near Mantralayam road. His father used to be a snack vendor at the railway station and had always liked Raja to follow him in his footsteps. Every day, the family used to be busy making the breakfast idlis and vadas and the chutney and sambhar that used to go as one pack. Initially in the late 70’s, Raghu, Raja’s father had decided to venture into this field after he could no longer work at the paddy fields. Raja’s mother Savitha and his aunt Seetha helped with the kitchen work to make the dough overnight and prepare steaming idlis by 7:00 AM, just in time for the express trains that would halt at Mantralayam. This used to be a daily affair till Raja decided he would exhibit his sales skills at the nearby and more prominent Raichur railway station.

dscn0021

Raja had been to school for around 9 years , but somehow, the trains and the people in them amused him so much so, that he left school in tow with Mani to whom school was just a place to gossip with his mates in the morning and plan their evenings. Evenings was all about playing cricket in the fields next to the railway tracks, in the parched river bed of the Tungabhadra river. Little did he know, that after a few years, he would be playing on the Krishna river bed too.

train

When he was 17, Raja along with Mani decided to board the passenger train daily to Raichur, so that they could be there in time for the express trains halting for breakfast. His wares includes 2 baskets full of idlis, vadas and the traditional sambhar and chutney, all packed neatly. The quality check was done by the railway ticket checkers on the up train, who used to verily depend on these food packets for their breakfast. Sometimes they paid, sometimes they didnt. Raja never complained, as he was always guaranteed a free trip to Raichur. There were some like the aged ticket checker Ramanna, who used to get down at mantralayam to see that these boys actually boarded the train on time.

idlivadai

Both Raja and Mani had picked up other languages to help them get into business with the travelers who traveled from various states and spoke different language. With a broken hindi and a bit of english, especially the translation of costs made it easier to sell their wares. Nobody wanted to be caught stuck at understanding prices in the early morning, especially when one was hungry. Raja knew it by the bottom of his stomach.

Every morning, his baskets were like manna for people travelling in trains that reached the station. Every now and then, people used to compliment him and Mani for the well made idlis and vadai. But majority of the travelers just paid them and did not make it a point to comment. Also, since most of the travelers were like the annual flock of geese flying to native homes, they used to forget all about him and the taste never lingered that long, though his fame spread to the nearby stations. People from as far as Guntakal and Wadi used to come and enquire about how he made such tasty vadai.

But for the people who travelled by the daily passenger which used to halt at Raichur at 8:00, his tiffin was a blessing for those who missed it at their homes in their rush to catch the train and especially when the express trains were late, so that they were the first arrivals.

The duo donned different colors during the day, as by noon, they used to sell lunch packets on the platforms trying to sell through the windows of trains with halts during those times. In the evening, it was again a plate of vadai and cool drinks to give respite to travelers already showing fainting signs due to the scorching sun.

For years during the 80’s the tiffin trade thrived in and around Raichur with Raja and Mani sustaining people during breakfast times with quality food. They used to be called the king and pearl of breakfast times. In fact there were a lot of requests for them to carry coffee and tea to make it a complete breakfast offer. But then they had a few friends in the beverage business who were always on call, so they kept themselves busy with what they were good at.

With the Indian railways legalising and passing the catering business to contractors, the likes of breakfast vendors including the famed Raja of Raichur and the Manis either got into the system or were out of the catering system on indian trains by the late 90’s.

Notes: Below is a video which covers the station, the Tungabhadra River crossing and the green paddy fields.

telegraph
Pic courtesy: The Telegraph

Travelling in Trains – Mumbai Edition.

Commuters in an open train door at Churchgate ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Making a journey in a Mumbai Local train is an experience in itself. If you have been to this city and haven’t boarded a electric train on any of the three  or four routes that ply through the metropolis, it means you have missed half the fun or half the nightmare, depending on the experience….

The daily commuter first walks, then jogs and finally does the steeple chase run to complete the last lap towards the station. The steeple chase is chosen only when he sees the train pulling into the station. During such occasions, everyone like others, just run across the tracks, then on to the station platform. Maybe the local commuter can qualify himself for long jumps and high jumps. The long jumps do come in handy especially during the rainy season.

The Boarding Phenomena

It is all about people management and the looks that you exhibit while boarding which does the trick. Every one has to be aware of the fact that nobody on board likes to welcome yet another addition to the already woe full compartment with all its characters. One has to look humble but strong enough to show others that he is fit enough to survive the journey.

The Travel

Some prefer foot board travel rather than standing inside the rush, as the wind keeps you fresh if not your groomed hair. But then travelling on the foot board has its pros and cons

Pros

Don’t have to use the deodorant in excess
Don’t have to ruffle your hair every minute, if that is your style.
Don’t have to pick up fights with fellow commuters
Less chances that your pockets will be picked.
Helps your biceps and shoulders if you are hanging on the footboard.
Less chance of the shine on your shoes being messed by someone stamping on them.
Do not get infected by freely floating bacteria and viruses inside.
Do not have to worry about bench bugs ( appropriately bed bugs)
Do not have to worry about escape, if a fire or a fight starts…whichever is earlier.

Cons

Corns on your hands by holding tightly on the handle or the door frame.
You might reach a destination that you never intended to.
You have to get down at every station and make way for others
Chances are that you may not get a chance to board again.
A fellow passenger dragging you with him, once he slips.
Getting rid of loose papers from your shirt pocket.
Cannot use the comb, or you will reach your tomb.

The Landing Experience

Getting down from a train is not a big task as compared to the boarding one. But still people have to be wary about how they are positioned while getting down. If you are too near the door, chances are that you will be pushed out before you have time to complain or explain. If you think you can handle the situation being at the end of the lot trying to get down, that is a big mistake. You will, to your surprise discover a crowd of people barging their way in and you might have to abort your landing. Trains like planes, especially the local trains do not wait for their passengers to alight or board. They have their own fixed seconds in which everything happens.

“Time and Train do not wait for anyone”.

Let us look at the passengers who alight. 25 percent wade their way across the railway footbridges to the west. 15 percent drift to the east end of the station. Another 20 percent start running for their lives to catch trains on other platforms. 10 percent just stand and stare not knowing what to do next. 5 percent just loiter around the newspaper stalls or canteen stalls. 5 percent jump back into the train – the same footboard travellers. Rest of the break up is as shown below

People who were forced to get down and could not get back
People who had to alight here because they could not get down at the last station.
People aborting their journey because they lost their purses midway, lost the wristwatch, lost the will to go to work, or because they got a call on their cell phone from their dear ones to come back.
People who decide as to how to escape ticket checkers.
People who got on the down train by mistake when they wanted to take the up train.
People who were travelling the whole day because boarding a train was cheaper than boarding a hotel.

I hope you are prepared in case you are contemplating a ride in these trains during rush hour…

A Kadali Tale

On the occasion of Onam I wish all my dear readers a very happy, healthy and prosperous year ahead! They say after a sumptuous feast on Onam, children should listen to a story or more…

Hope you enjoy this Kadali Tale from my archives.

kadali

Reghu chanced upon a small cottage while on the run away from the nearby Chartusra city and in his travails, hungry and famished and with a bag laden with stolen valuables, the robber makes his arrival known to the inmates by coughing and gasping at their door. Vedha, the small time jeweller traded in his jewellery which was made at the cottage with Bhanu, his helping hand welcomed the tired robber not knowing his exact credentials. On inquiring as to why he looked so tired and out of breath, he said he was a trader from Chartusra and had been followed by robbers while coming this way to Patali, the port city, the same place where Vedha used to sell his home made jewellery.

Reghu was welcomed as a guest and was told, he could stay for a few days before he could gain enough strength to go to Patali. One day Reghu’s eyes fell upon the golden bunch of 4 Kadali kept in front of the Lord and worshiped by Sree, Vedha’s wife, Reghu was thinking of adding it to his collection. The old caretaker and help, Bhanu to whom Sree was just like a daughter took good care of them all. Bhanu was not happy about Reghu but Vedha dismissed his fears and allowed Reghu to stay. With stolen silver and gold coins he impressed upon the jeweller to make a replica of the Kadali saying it would fetch him a good price at Patali. The jeweller obliged and took a week before finishing one, an exact replica of the one which he had made earlier on Sree’s request.

Once the work was completed and Reghu getting impatient and tired of the stay with the lovely couple, one day kills them and flees but not before taking the work in progress jewels and the two Kadali bunch. After walking for two days and night he came across a plain land with not much human habitation near a placid river. As dusk was approaching he thought of burying the 2 golden priceless Kadali. He chose one huge old jack-fruit tree to bury one near it. As he was in the process, a fearful spirit came down the tree and asked him what he was doing. Reghu told her that he was hiding this Kadali which he had in his hand and said he would return in a week to claim it. She agreed and asked him about the other banana jewel he had in his bag. Reghu on second thought thought of burying the other one too there, but she told him to hide the second one, a hundred yards away as she could not stand the sight of the divine jewel. Do claim this one in a week otherwise you will forfeit it and I will not allow anyone who comes in possession of it, any peace, was her parting words.

Reghu walked a hundred yards and came upon a mango tree near the river bank and as instructed started burying the Lord’s Kadali there. A benevolent spirit came down the tree and asked what he was doing…. He said that he was burying the Jewel in his possession and showed it to her. So be it, she said with a smile, I will guard this till it reaches the rightful owner and help him in any test that he is put to, she murmured to herself..and went back to the tree.

The river was in full flow and had submerged most of the land when he came back after selling the stolen jewels and the coins with a few workers to set up a home. To his surprise he found the landscape had changed thanks to the flood. The marked trees had got uprooted and he knew not where his twin treasure lay buried. He was seen digging most of the time but never told his servants as to what he was looking for. They deserted him soon after his money got over. He was now a man gone mad…

Years had passed by with the jewels remaining hidden where they lay for a few generations. The land had changed much and it was a small village now. Jinu was a landless worker who got a tract of land on lease from the greedy village officer to plant banana plantains. Half of the produce he would need to give to the officer as per the deal struck between them. As expected and to Jinu’s happiness, the first crop turned out well. One day while digging a canal to water the plants in the land, he came upon one of the golden plantains. He took it to Jayaram the local jeweler who had a good look at it and gave a small token to Jinu assuring him the rest of the money, but as a law abiding citizen, he had to talk to the village officer first about its antiquity before he could sell it as the laws had changed. He showed it to the village officer the same day who kept it with himself though he told Jayaram and Jinu that he would be handing it to the higher officials in the government and had no plans to keep anything to himself. The next day he told Jinu he had other plans and asked him to stop using the land for his planned second crop.

Jinu was out of work and was finding it difficult to sustain himself after whatever money he had on him ran out. He could see that the tract of land was fully dug up by the village officer in the hope that he would get some more of such golden Kadali, but his search for more treasure turned futile. Meanwhile Jinu again approached the village officer after a couple of weeks to use the tract of land for plantation, but he was driven out.

The village officer’s wife was fascinated by the golden fruit so much that she took it daily out of the strong box to marvel at it. The fascination increased so much that the officer had to hide it in another room and lock it. Meanwhile Jinu thought of planting a few banana plantains around his small home near the river bank where he was forced to retire. At least it will keep him from hunger once his efforts bore fruit. He prayed to Krishna at his home that the first fruit from his land will be gifted to him. As he dug another canal he came upon another golden plantain which was the exact replica of the first one he had got, but this time he made good his promise and bestowed the golden marvel to Krishna. Whenever he prayed, the golden jewel would change to real bananas and he would take one as prasadam(offering from the Lord).

One day he chanced upon Tulsi standing nearby who happened to watch him at his plantation work. He inquired of her and came to know that she was jeweler Jayaram’s daughter. One day she asked if she could assist him at his work in the plantation. He replied on one condition that she should accept her fair share of the produce once it materialized to which she gladly agreed.

The officer came to know that Jinu had a small plantation around his house. Somehow be didn’t like it but also couldn’t do much about it. Jayaram paid a visit to Jinu and saw the bunch of 4 bananas with a golden hue kept near Krishna’s idol. Oh! how marvelous a sight and so golden, said he after tasting the one from the bunch offered to him by Jinu. Can I have one more..Why not sir…take two, one for Tulsi too, smiling at her, who was standing at the door. The much pleased Jayaram had never had such a tasty fruit and he expressed the same while having it. Sir, my Krishna’s prasadam is always like his love. The more you love Him, more sweet will be your offering to Him and so, his prasadam in return. Being a devotee himself, Jayaram was no doubt thrilled by Jinu’s company. He and his daughter became frequent visitors. One day Jinu revealed to Jayaram, his wish to marry Tulsi. But Jayaram first decided to put Jinu to the test before he could approve his request.

Krishna

Jayaram asked Jinu. This bunch of mini kadali that you offer to Krishna daily…can you show me the plantain which yields such sweet bananas to you. Jayaram was sure no plantain could yield a bunch daily, in fact not more than one in its lifetime and with Jinu having not more than a dozen odd plantains, there seemed to be a mystery about them which he wanted to unravel.

Jinu was in a fix as to what he should say when an old woman came that way and asked for some ripe banana as food to be given. Jinu said I can give you some rice and vegetable but I doubt I can give you a banana at this time as it was well last noon and his kadali prasadam could yield real banana only before noon based on his experience.

The old woman laughed a bit loudly, much to Jinu’s and Jayaram’s consternation. You call yourself a planter? There, yonder. I can see a bunch of fine kadali. Jinu rushed to his garden and much to his surprise there was one ripe kadali bunch awaiting them. He took it down and gave to the woman. No, I don’t want all of this, maybe you can give the better share of this to your guest here, smilingly pointing at Jayaram. Saying so, the woman took leave.

Jayaram was a bit disturbed and left with a perplexed mind. The next day he sent Tulsi to bring a bunch of fresh Kadali. Tulsi came in the morning as was her wont, to Jinu’s house, prayed to Krishna, took two of the prasadam kadali and there were only two left for the day. Father has sent me for a bunch if you could provide it. Jinu at a loss went to the same tree and there, lo another bunch of ripe bananas was waiting to be taken down.

This went on for a few days. Jayaram came on the fourth day himself and examined the tree. There was none. He was going to win he thought when another woman appeared asking for something to eat. Jinu asked what he could give her. Don’t bother I will go inside and take what I need. She went inside and was not to be seen for sometime. Both went in to see her feasting on a bunch of freshly plucked kadali. Jayaram was at a loss of words and failed to understand what was going on. He asked Jinu from where this bunch came when Tulsi appeared in the doorway saying I plucked it in the morning before you two had even got up and kept it here.

The woman had her fill and after blessing Jinu and Tulsi and laughing at Jayaram went her way. It was a matter of a few weeks time before Tulsi and Jinu got married on an auspicious day.

The village officer couldn’t sleep on many a night as he could hear someone pounding on the closed door. The noise from the room where he kept the golden Kadali, the disturbance from the roof as if someone heavy was trampling upon the tiles…the fearful shadow behind the curtains, the poor sight of his wife already at her wits end when she could not see the golden fruit anymore, now out of sight behind the closed door of the cursed room. It was just a matter of time before the officer too went mad after he saw the room ransacked, one day, by some robber and the golden Kadali missing…

The Siege

Kishan, a young storekeeper had a pet goat and aspired to join the infantry division of the noble Malhar Rao just like his father. Rani who was the daughter of another soldier and lived a couple of houses away at the quarters of the fort township was jealous that all of Kishan’s time was spent on petting the goat or getting his daily feed. The story unfolds somewhere in the early 18th century atop Panhala fort sitting at a height of 2000 plus feet providing a cushion of comfort to the thousand or more occupants. Hope you enjoy it…

Gopi, one of the door keepers of the fort’s main gate had taken a liking to the lively Rani and Sunanda who were inmates on the fort like him. He was pressing his elders for his marriage but all such engagement proposals would have to wait since the whole town on top of the fort was in siege for the last 3 months. The Shah of Bijapur who had laid the siege could ill afford to wait further as his forces were also homesick. Infact Panhala was a stronghold of Bijapur for quite some time but they had lost control of it recently. Moreover his supplies from his city 150 miles away had been cut now and then by the chief Sreeraj, a tribal chief in the plains and who was loyal to the Malhar noble.

Shah was expecting Malhar to come down to accept his terms but there was no sign of him relenting. His small town nestled in the fort had around 1000 people including the soldiers who should have been famished by now so that they either rose up in revolt against their noble or must have resigned themselves to hunger and death. He couldn’t force his troops up as the fort gates were unbreakable just as the fort was impregnable with steep slopes on all sides. The bowmen at the turrets would make them easy targets if they ventured too close to the gates through the narrow winding way upward.

Rani was being well looked after. After all her marriage to a suitable boy on the hill was on the cards. She was happy to see that Gopi was trying to gain their friendship. She liked Gopi to be her friend and took pride in that bond. After all he was the gatekeeper of the entire fort.

Malhar Rao decided to send a letter of friendship to Shah asking him to lift the siege and promised him ten thousands gold coins and some fertile land so that he could still keep the fort and allow himself a safe passage to his other territories. He was not sure if the enemy would accept it but it was a honest try. The rains had subsided and the Sun was making his presence felt on the town. This was one fort of the seven he would not dream to hand over as it was here he and his retinue could remain immune to any attack.

Sunanda’s father Jagan would be the messenger of the friendship letter and it would be relayed to one of Shah’s soldier who was standing 100 steps below the fort gate. At dawn the gate would open a little to let Jagan out as per the plan laid out.

Sunanda had Kishan’s goat in tow when she accompanied her father till the gate. Rani came to know about the messenger at the last minute and came dashing to the gate like an unstoppable. The gate had been opened and the messenger Jagan had just stepped out. The goat already nervous with so many persons unknown to him panicked when he saw Rani dashing towards him. He strained at the rope that held him to Sunanda’s hand and dashed out of the small gate down the steps and out of the fort. On the fifth step or so he knocked Jagan down so that the message flew out of his hand and went flying out into the rocks in no man territory to be read by none. The goat still continued going down the steps towards the enemy with Rani and Sunanda going after him. It was with big effort on their part to get hold of him and pull him back. Maybe he gave in as his eyes had picked a lot of men further down.

The sight amused the enemy soldiers who reported it to their chief and hearing the commotion, The Shah also came out of his tent to see the scene unwinding in front of his eyes. There was a plump goat chased by two girls who looked healthy enough. The girls came mid- way took hold of the goat in their hands and managed to run back before his soldiers could react. He nodded to the commander not to chase the retreating girls.

He called the commander to his tent and they had a discussion. “There is no point waiting here chief. Did you see the fat goat and those two girls. Did the three look famished? On the contrary they are much healthier than our soldiers. I think Malhar Rao has enough food stocks on him to last many a month. It is we who are starving due to lack of supplies. The moment he senses we are too weak to resist he will run us down with whatever soldiers he has up there. Do you think it was a freak incident? They are teasing us and had the audacity to send a goat and the two girls down. Who knows, we maybe the goats he is waiting to sacrifice at the right opportunity?

The flurry of activity at the gate was known to Malhar Rao. He was upset at the turn of events. He was angry at Gopi and called him and demanded an explanation. At the same time he sent summons to the fallen Jagan, Rani and Sunanda. The noble was still finding it difficult to understand the chain of events after the gate was opened. He wanted to know everything from everyone who played in his message being thrown to the winds. Just as they were explaining it to their noble came another message from the turrets which also Malhar Rao couldn’t believe.

The army of Shah was withdrawing back to the plains which also meant the siege had been lifted. I don’t know what you all have done there a couple of hours back and I don’t care since you all have saved the people here and a lot of gold which I was planning to give them. We will now have a fortnight of rejoicing.

I don’t have to tell you that during the joyful festival, Kishan was getting married to Rani and Gopi to Sunanda atop the fort of Panhala.

Author Note: This is a pure work of imagination and should not be confused with eminent people and places having similar names who lived and flourished in the said period.