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.

Ruthless

The oceans are being plundered
as the land once plenty has been
The blue lakes are being polluted
as the ponds once plenty has been
Water fresh once now flows stale.

The attention has shifted to the planets
how the space between is shared to spy
the rays of the sun are now put to work
The heavens fresh once now looks pale.

The animals put on sanctions without a clue
the birds culled the moment one said flu
nature and its acts are a terror we are taught
How man once respected has been despised
Man’s caring nature once now is an old tale.

The native

Once you landed, you saw me looking at you

wondering from where you came looking for me

you were surprised at what I wore and was I too.

I was accommodating to make you feel at home

my home which I had tended for so long year

making it comfortable to please you as much.

But after knowing, my habits, my water hole

you drove me back into the far wilderness,

I had dreaded so long and away from home.

The inhabitants there treated me the best way

they could and made me at home, a foreigner

but I didn’t ditch them as you did to me…

Drowned

beach

You have been warned : I am beautiful to behold but deadly if you step in. Do not go further, there is danger ahead among the scattered lines below😔

The still waters beckoned me as my little footprints made their imprints upon the hot dry sand from the now setting Sun which was once at its zenith only a few hours ago. As the cool waves lapped at my feet tickling me, needless to say, they were now beckoning to get in more of my self into the blue expanse lit only by a distant horizon and a few stars making their appearance.

I could feel the embrace of the heavy stillness around my waist pushing me ever so slightly, in all directions, four directions I had been taught in school. I never had experienced so much soothing, as if somebody had applied the healing balm all over me. The timid mind had made its plunge into the deep even before, though the body ever so careful made steps with my tiny legs that had now started to complain to me that the water though helping it to hold on was also pushing the weight of my fear into the quick sands that were quickly forming. But as egged on, as I used to walk with parents, I persisted to walk ahead into the inviting spectacle.

When the plush waves pushed me playfully, I tried to balance myself with my hands trying to use them as paddles, oars or fins, oh I could see my vocabulary was slowly failing me. The shadow of fear that had appeared quite some time ago in my messy head was now standing next to me, not helping me, but standing still, waiting for me as my mother did, to take care of my ablutions.

I looked out to the beach, how far was I away from the people walking upon it, the playful children creative as they could get with the sand. I could see some navigating the now invisible thread of their playfully wielded kites and the hawkers trying their best to get in a morsel or two of the food their cans held into the mouths of the visitors. Shout I did as as I was slowly drifting away, the sea taking with it, poor me, as it retreated for the evening but all I could manage was a croak. Was it because of the salt that had gotten into me or had I become an amphibian after settling in this water for some quite some time. My skin needed to breathe, my pale self not helping, the fish scurrying desperately away from a stranger who never knew or learnt to swim like them. There was no log of wood for me to hold on, nor one to write my last wishes for the dear people whom I left back on the beach.

Had they noticed my absence, the dusk fast giving away to darkness, my head and frail hands that bobbed up once in a while, was it visible to them, to anyone who gazed at the deep sea or the arc of the horizon, I knew not. The body got heavier by the minute and whatever air in me gave way to the water now gushing in with a pinch of salt. Water, I was taught was life giving, but my small body could never handle too much of it. The ocean was now feeding me what it knew best, to intruders who had never understood how to step into it. Oh dear mother, if only I had listened to you and had not wandered off into the deep water when you were not looking. I sent you on an errand so that you could not see me running into the vast expanse of bluish water which had always enchanted me, a place of wonder where a lot of my imaginative characters dwelt.

I know the lunch with the wonderful curry you fed with your hands seems to be, my last feed of the day as I now rest myself on the floor of good old nature, bidding bye to all my worries, my unanswered questions and rest now. My tired body has sunk, buried by a thin layer of sparkling sand, a blanket against the increasing cold of the heavy rumble above me. How I, fervently wish, I might be a floating log tomorrow for my loved ones to claim along with their fond memories of me…

beach2

The innocent barter

scales

A shopkeeper in the Dharia village always seemed busy, giving groceries to his customers who used to flock to the shop till he closed his shutters by 7 pm. A group of retired people and laborers used to come and sit talking to each other on the wooden planks laid out in front of the shop and comment on the happenings of the day, or about the columns in the daily newspaper which one or two would take turns to read loudly to the benefit of those who were either lazy to read or had pitched their tents only eager to hear gossip.

Every week, on a Saturday, a small boy named Golu used to come to the shop to sell the clarified butter (ghee) his mother used to make at home from the unsold buffalo milk that had few takers in a solitary tea shop and a couple of neighbouring houses. The buffalo was the only means of livelihood to his family. Every time, he used to carry a kilogram of ghee and would barter it for a kilogram of sugar or pulses from the shop, as was the agreement with Bansal, the grocer.

As Golu would make his appearance whenever dusk was approaching, some of the elders would make inquires about his family, some about his buffalo while some used to tease by calling him as Gheelo (take Ghee). Some used to chide him for unnecessary things just to make him cry, to make merry for themselves, while the only sane guy among them, Raichand, scolded them for showing such behavior to the poor lad.

One day, as Golu came with a kilogram of Ghee, Bansal, the grocer kept it on the weighing scale, as he was busy handing over some condiments to another customer. Someone’s attention in the group fell upon the ghee packet lying on the scale. On the other balancing pan, was a weight of 1 Kilogram. The ghee packet pan was floating in the air and therefore he deduced that the packet contained less than the weight intended. As was their wont, the issue quickly grabbed the attention of the retired folks and some started making arguments in the shop saying that Golu and his family had been cheating Bansal all this time.

Now Bansal was in his elements having taken up the cue and started shouting at Golu. Such allegations coming at short notice from all quarters forced Golu to tears and he started crying loudly. Raichand who was also in the shop and who was a retired sales tax inspector consoled the child and asked the others to maintain silence while he got down to inquire as to what could have gone wrong. He was one man who never thought of implicating anyone unless the facts were laid out before him.

Once Golu’s crying had subsided to sobs with deep breaths in between, Raichand asked him, “Golu, could you let me know, how do you weigh your ghee at home in the packet before you bring it here”. Golu between sobs, pointed at Bansal and said, “I always weigh our butter pack against the sugar or the green gram packet that is given to me in barter”.

Arrogance Heights

Arrogance is a mental state and when it will take seed and cause our ruin, no one knows and therefore this story serves us to remain humble or remind ourselves when we land in such situations. The post was written when Basheer a friend and Cabbie in Bahrain was harping on this topic of how arrogance spoils an individual and complemented it with an outline of a simple story that he learnt in school, which I had never come across earlier. I hope on the occasion of Eid, this story makes an interesting read.

Once there was a tiny mouse, who used to live in holes dug by himself, some on the ground, some in the wall of a house where he frequented at night for dishes forgotten to be tightly closed or some left overs lying here and there. There was no issue of food for the mouse, but he always was in awe and fear of an alley cat who used to frequent the place where the mouse lived. The alley cat would try to pounce upon him given the opportunity or whenever they came face to face, but most of the time, he used to give the cat a slip by slipping just in time into one of the burrows dug to handle such situations. There was a tree nearby the house, and it used to be difficult when the cat after his sleeping sessions on the tree would come down in a jiffy when the mouse was just loitering around and our poor guy had to scamper with many a wounds which he would lick in private and think how his world would change..

Once it so happened, that a sage visited the house and its inhabitants on his way and blessed them and was just about to leave when the mouse approached him and told all about the miserable life that he was living because of the alley cat. Sensing what was going in the tiny mind, the Sage asked him, in what form would he like to continue in life, if the cat was giving him so much trouble. I would like to be a cat so that I wont have to dread this alley cat and any others that might come this way, pleaded the mouse. So it be it, said the Sage and walked away.

The little mouse was mighty surprised to see himself as a cat and he ran the whole day in leaps and bounds, climbed the tree and jumped to the window to startle the little boy inside and then back and so forth. He went into the house through the door and nobody saw him nor shrieked when they saw him. He was loving the freedom and came out to enjoy the world in his new form. But to his chagrin, the house dog barked at him and chased him and he had to beat a hasty retreat out of that house for ever. He too became an alley cat living in every street a day based on the street dogs pushing him away and he soon became tired of being on the run, leading the life of a fugitive who could barely rest in peace anywhere.

He chanced upon our Sage one day and asked him if he could change him to a dog and the transformation happened much to his joy. But the happiness was short lived when children and adults alike threw stones at him whenever he went his way looking for food around the houses and shops across the street. To cut a long story short, our guy changed many forms till finally he told the Sage, “let me become a tiger in the forest, so that everybody will respect me for what I am and I can live a peaceful life”. So be it, said a smiling sage and vanished.

The tiger roamed about and was happy to see that nobody came his way or troubled him. He could kill any animal that he liked for his food, be it a nimble footed deer, a lost goat or a troubled buffalo. Days went by and slowly the tiger became more of a trouble maker in the forest. He killed animals with gay abandon even when he was not hungry and hence every animal dreaded him.

The sage thought of making a visit to know how the mouse fared in his newly acquired tiger’s form now that the mouse was not even thinking of him. On the way he saw the forest in disarray as if somebody had created havoc to the eco-system with carcasses of animals lying here and there and rotting. As he walked, some of the gentle animals came to him and said how the tiger had became a menace to the inhabitants and pleaded with the Sage to rescue them from the clutches of an animal gone wild.

The sage said he would talk to the tiger on their behalf and ask him to mend his ways for good and the retinue of animals thanked him but still followed our sage at a safe distance. Sensing some movement, the tiger came out of his dwelling and saw the sage. He just blinked without giving any respect whatsoever now that he was the king of the forest. The sage put forward his proposition and advised the tiger to come to terms and behave himself for the good of all creatures. The tiger got angry telling the Sage it was no business of his and he should beat a hasty retreat before he got hungry. The sage laughed at this, and the tiger could see the animals in the distance watching all this. “How could you laugh at me, when I am ordering you to flee if you value your life. Why are all of you tired of life and in defiance”, he spoke to the Sage and said that there was no need of him visiting him again with silly advice and demanded him to leave immediately as dusk was fast approaching.

The Sun much as he wanted to enjoy the climax of the unfolding drama below, was beating a hasty retreat behind the dense foliage. On the way down, he saw the rising Moon and told him all about what had happened, so that he could tell him all about the unfinished story when they met the next day morning. The moon ever so eager, climbed fast in time to position himself at a vantage position to see what would be the outcome of the conversation between the tiger and his preceptor, the Sage. An eagle flying that way also thought of resting his wings and he landed on one of the branches below which the Sage was standing and lent his ears as did other animals in abeyance.

The Sage seemed hurt at the dialogues from the tiger and he warned the mouse turned wild cat that it would be better to be humble rather that destroying himself with arrogance. Hearing this, the tiger who had had enough sprang at the Sage who was standing at a distance of a few feet. As he took off, he knew the Sage would be a an easy prey but to his surprise the Sage easily dodged him while he was in the air and when he landed on the ground, much to his surprise, he found himself having turned into a mouse. These moments didn’t last long, as to his horror, the eagle had already descended from the branch above to pounce on an easy prey in the darkness lit only by the glow of a smiling crescent Moon…

EID Mubarak to All..

eidgreetings
Eid Greetings

The Lost Life

It had been three days since I moved in with my parents. My father had got transferred yet again to this hill station after 5 years. He would be in charge of the repairs section of the Sanshet dam constructed around 40 years ago and which now stood towering in the distance.

I had barely finished college, scraped through it you could say. Pass marks in all subjects. At least I was consistent. I was wondering if I could apply anywhere with such an academic record. I had got up in the morning today earlier than I was used to. The morning mist looked inviting. The coffee cup was still waiting for me to pick it up. The newspaper sheets were flipped till I reached the appointments page for any such job that might suit my credentials.

As I was going through the various vacancy ads, I heard someone calling. Thinking it was some one calling dad or mom, I continued only to know the person whoever it was calling was trying to elicit my attention to her.

I opened my window pane to see Meena looking eagerly waiting for me as if she wanted me to show something. Meena was my classmate in school at Sanshet school before I left this small village town after my dad’s transfer.

Her hands were empty save for a couple of glass bangles on both. There was some calf love between us during those days, I must confide, which both of us were proud to admit. Her eyes seemed to talk. They looked sad and yet there were streaks of shine happy to see me after these long years which seemed ages to me.

I got dressed casually, put on my slippers and walked out of the room through a door which could open directly to the courtyard where stood a beaming she. Her silver anklets looked the same as her pretty frock she used to wear long back. Her form was the same when I last saw her. She had not changed one bit.

Before I could ask her anything, she took my hand in hers, clasped them tightly and beckoned me to follow her. The morning dew on the grass was making things slippery for my feet as the initial walk now became brisk and it was clear she would have broken into a run over the mounds and crests of fine green grass that adorned the beautiful country side, had I complied.

Where are you taking me, I enquired of her, my eyes riveted on that beautiful face etched in memory which I used to dwell upon in my loneliness and depression bouts at college.

Meena was the foreman’s daughter and they lived in the officer’s quarters that was half a mile away. But today she was taking me elsewhere. I tried to start another conversation thread. How have you been. Did you finish college? In silence she smiled at me; the same patented smile of her which I had taken care to imprint and nurture and chisel on in memory. The years spent with her in school was a dream run never to come again but the good Lord had given me the ability to replay those beautiful moments. She didn’t reply even this time but her lovely eyes did.

Where are you leading me, Meena? I thought you were taking us to your parents. How are they? Still the silence prevailed but I could see that she had slowed her steps while still holding my hand tightly.

There appeared a desolate house and I wondered if something was wrong as she led me to it. She opened the door to the house which welcomed us in with a creaking yet haunting voice. Except for a couple of old wooden benches and a chair there was nothing in this room of this shelter.

All of a sudden she let go of my hand and went into the other room. I thought maybe to bring me some water who was not used to such long walks in the morning mist which only aggravated my asthma. I now remembered I had not taken my Asthalin Inhaler before venturing out with her.

I waited for a few minutes and still when she didn’t appear, I came out, circled the house twice looking for dear her. Calling out to her also did not elicit any response. Sure she was playing a prank as was her nature. I walked to the officer’s quarters and located her house which was the fourth in the second row of houses that had got a fresh coat of white paint.

I walked in unwelcomed, so I thought, based on old memories. Her father looked very uneasy and tired sitting in the easy chair. His eyes looking into the far distance trying to solve some puzzle in which he looked entangled. Addressing him, I offered my salutations but he looked through me as if I didn’t exist. I walked around the kitchen hoping to see her mother or her but none I could see there. I walked back into the living room that looked lifeless and my eyes fell upon the picture of her mother that was garlanded with non fading flowers and was I shocked again when I saw another garlanded frame of Meena.

I sat next to her father and tried alerting him to my presence but he either looked blind and sounded deaf or both or was it I, who was dreaming all this while. I smiled how crazy dreams could get..it was a matter of time before I woke up from it. But things remained the same and I got up as there was no point sitting in front of her crazy father or was it me who had gone crazy.

As I walked back she appeared again briskly trying to catch up with my footfalls. She held my hand as we walked in silence. I tried to play along with her act not showing what I had learnt upon the visit to her house. But the silence was killing me. Are you on a vow of silence? I asked not expecting an answer. “No”, she answered taking me by surprise. I wanted you to know what had happened after you people had left. I used to frequent the typing institute to hone my skills in it. I must have gone two years and got a good speed.

One day on my return through these same paths there was heavy rain accompanied by thunder and I had to take shelter in that house where I took you today. I couldn’t venture out that evening and got trapped there in the incessant downpour. Someone came there, a stranger. It appeared he was staying there without nobody knowing except me in my misfortune. I never saw his face in the darkness but he sensed my vulnerability and took advantage of it and as I resisted him, little did I know that he would snuff the very dear life out of me.

He fled the place and was never to be seen again in this territory of mine she said with a change of tone. Now as I looked at her she was not the diminutive Meena I had known. She was a beautiful woman yet of a pale self. Were you waiting for me these years? Yes she replied I knew you would come so that we can spend some ages together in bliss. How can we, what makes you think…. I broke off, not knowing what I should say.

Come, let us go your house, said she, sensing my thoughts…Wanting to give a glimpse of what a life i had lived I started to enlighten her. After I had left Sanseth, I had got into bad company at college. First smoking then drinking which seemed soothing at first before I got addicted with drugs whatever I could lay my hands on or whatever the peddlers could give me.

A once healthy me was a pale self now, with frequent attacks of asthma adding to the aggravation. I tried to wean away from all these considering the love of my parents and you who I knew doted on me and would wait once I came back after graduating. It was easy to kick smoking but not doping. The drugs were the demons who came to you every night and pestered you till you relented and met their demands. They pleased and praised you and left early morning with you defeated. Yesterday it looks I had a heavy dose or else how could I explain your appearance though you now appears lost to me. I couldn’t understand how such misfortune could come in our lives.

Life’s lessons are sometimes too harsh and at too short a notice. You never know what hit you and slowly we reconcile ourselves to the grim truth of reality. Isn’t life a chain of events like beads in a rosary caused by karma and a mix of choices that we make? With a throbbing head and with the shadow of Meena in tow, I walked into my quarters where could be heard a wailing from my mother with father holding her crying self over my body now lifeless, eyes looking into the distance trying to make out the purpose of dear life.

How some stream that we take channel us into paths best avoided and before the gravity of it sinks in, we get drowned before anyone could help us. There is no point thinking over it now nor staying here anymore, Meena said, as she held my hand and led me out into the sunshine…