The Nation of a billion
with cultures a zillion
with millions in bullion
emblem with multi lion
women with vermilion
currencies in trillion
army always in battalion
with many a medallion
scooters rode on a pillion
the nation of many a lion.
I wish all my Indian readers, a Happy Independence Day!
It was on May 28th, 2017 with the monsoon just about to pour its oblations over Kerala, the southern state in India, that I decided to take a scooter ride from Trivandrum ( the capital of Kerala) to Kochi ( the commercial capital of Kerala). It was a Sunday and I had purposely scheduled this ride so that there would be less traffic to negotiate.
My scooter, a Honda Activa roughly reaching an age of 10 years, was with one of my colleagues, as I had to go to the middle east in a hurry on a project 2 years ago. I seriously doubted if I could make the long ride, a distance of 200 kms from Technopark area to Kochi. I was not sure about the condition of the roads in this stretch and was worried if it would rain heavily that could slow down my progress towards home. Riding in the rain and especially after sun set would be taking too much of a risk. Adding to it, was the fact that I had not touched or rode a scooter in the last 2 years, not that it mattered much, but it also was one of the facts that went against making the solo ride.
I took the morning Vanchinad Express from Ernakulam South station, at 5:00 AM and reached Kazhakkoottam, the railway station next to Technopark @ TVM where this train had a halt. The train journey was good, as I was savoring it after a long time, and standing at times at the door taking in the mist and aroma of the early morning Kerala coast did good to the senses. A light breakfast that consisted of vada and chutney that had too much of chilies in it went well with a cup of coffee to wash it down. I wished it had been prepared by the likes of Raja and Mani from my earlier post ( King of Breakfast Times) The train was on time and reached my intended drop off point at 9:40 AM, where Siva had come to pick me up with another colleague Bony. We three were at Siva’s flat in another ten minutes and from his balcony, could see the Arabian sea all eager to ravage the coast with the help of the slight monsoon winds that were picking up.
After a meal of hot steaming dosas and chutney this time prepared by Remya, Siva’s wife, with tea and a chat of around an hour, I decided that it was high time that I started with journey back home. It was 10:30 AM. My plan was to reach before dusk while covering the 200 kms on National Highway 66, say by 6 PM and for that I had to run at an average of 30 plus kilometers.
The towns that came fast were : First stretch of 34 kms was Attingal at around 11:15 AM, a diversion due to some reason at the town centre because of which about 5 mins was lost. Not much traffic and good roads so far increased my confidence and a grip on the scooter.
I cruised into (second stretch from Attingal 38 kms) my second town Kollam (Quilon in old times Geography that we studied) without much of a traffic and good roads not yet spoilt by the summer rains. Things looked good so far. At Kollam at around 12 noon, I ventured over the first fly over that took me over to the western side, which was a mistake on my side but nevertheless slowly I came back on the right track, not much of a time was lost in this unforced error ( as in lawn tennis).
The third stretch into Kayamkulam town would take another hour as there was about 42 kms to negotiate. On the way I passed other stations like Haripad, and somewhere while I was near to Kayamkulam at around 1:15 PM, I saw a KTDC (Kerala Tourism Development Corporation) restaurant while speeding and thought this was the best time to have lunch and some rest, before I ventured towards Allepey. It was a buffet style vegetarian for me, which took around half an hour combined, to fill my plate and eat.
Post Lunch, session to Allapuzha or Alleppey that lay at a distance of 48 kilometres from Kayamkulam. I left the restaurant at around 1:45 and as I sped towards the coir industry famous Alleppey , I could see the Sea with a high tide just meters away from the highway. With the cool monsoon wind and the clouds giving me enough shade I was not getting tired still nor the air cooled engine of the scooter was getting hot.
I was cruising into Allapuzha town at the required pace when a congregation of the women’s organisation Kudumbasree had just finished and we could see hundreds of women coming out onto the streets, and with police personnel to check the traffic, things did get slowed down here. I took the highway again after meddling through the good old coastal town, and called up home at 4:00 PM to share my co-ordinates. Another 60 kms remaining and with the drive having another good one and half hours left in it. That is when the first rains of the day struck me and it was quite heavy, so I had to stop at a wayside furniture shop before the rain could cool down a bit.
After waiting for about 10 minutes, I pulled out my rainy gear and again ventured out and revved up to keep the rain clouds behind me, the roads look recently maintained in this part of Alleppey to Cherthala stretch and the ride was a dream to the outskirts of Kochi which I reached by 5:20 PM near Vytilla junction, the only busy junction during the whole day. It was another 20 minutes before, at around 5:45 pm, a long journey with an average of around 35 plus kms per hour, ended at Kakkanad and more importantly safely, and I thank the Almighty for that.
For those who have followed me recently, am republishing this post written 3 years ago, a long one for the happy weekend read.
Harish had come to the city 3 decades ago and barring a small stint at a bakery in his early formative years, he became a rickshaw puller just like thousand others across the country. Over the years, as the country progressed, there came the cycle rickshaws followed by the auto rickshaws but like many others Harish would not move up the ladder and persisted with his manual one and never thought of changing cities and pitched his tent in Calcutta where he had arrived in the 70’s.
Harish was in his late sixties and his daily schedule would be to have to his breakfast which consisted of rice gruel and a banana and then he would disappear into the big bustling city crowd and would be spotted at locations taking his passengers usually one or two with their luggage in tow. Passengers rarely remembered him, as for them, he was a means of cheap transport to be quickly forgotten as soon as they landed at their destinations. It always invoked the curiosity of people who have had the time to observe people like Harish to wonder about the source of energy to pull their passengers with just two hands to their destinations miles away on roads that sometimes sloped upwards and downwards.
Harish due to some thought ingrained in his childhood had never visited a temple or never thought about the gods in them and always wondered whether people did get the benefit of visiting them. He must have carried hundreds nay a thousand in his umpteen trips up and down to holy shrines spread across the city. It was rather a coincidence, a strange one at that, having carted or transported so many devotees, he had never visited or entered a shrine so far, though he knew the gods and goddesses by their pictures that were splashed across by the religious minded across the city walls and in the outer precincts of the temples.
Harish lived alone all these years except for this month when he got company. It was Nandhu, a boy of 8 years, whom he had rescued from the streets on a night trip. Nandhu seemed to be abandoned by his relations in the city or he appeared genuinely lost as he thought. By the look of the poor boy, he appeared to be from a very poor background and experience told Harish to keep him with him till he grew up in age to fend for himself.
It was already 7 pm and since Nandhu was down with fever in the hut for the last two days, Harish had him at the back of his mind all day when he was scouting for work in the sun and rain who played their parts to perfection all through the day. Today was a bad day and he had made barely 60 rupees. Without at least 70, he could not take Nandhu to the doctor who lived near their shanty house for medicines. Moreover he had to get some food for dinner for both of them. He had been roaming through the city but somehow luck eluded him today. It only dawned upon him now that he had skipped his lunch like so many other days in the past.
A light drizzle had started and Harish was hopeful that someone would hail him to escape it. As minutes ticked by, he knew he had to reach and get Nandhu to the doctor before 9 PM after which Sarmaji, the doctor would not see anybody. At his wits end, his legs impatient and his mind failing to control them, in despair he cried out to the Lord, whom he knew very feebly, for help and looked around desperately for that one passenger who could give him the last 30 rupees after which he could wind up work for the day. With his legs aching and stomach on a raging fire he wondered if he would ever reach home today. The small shops in the lane, where he and his cart were at standstill, were downing their shutters as the shop keepers too sensed that it was high time and with the rain not helping, they least expected any one to turn up at their shops. The sun having set an hour ago, it was quite dark except for the feeble street lights which were quite a distance apart.
It was at this point of time, a couple emerged with some baggage and asked him if he could take them to the Ram Temple which was at a mile’s distance. The couple appeared young and dressed neatly in nice clothes, Harish wondered if he could reach them to their destination in time. Moreover the road to the temple was bad and had a slight slope and it would require all his strength to pull them across it. It was that moment of time the couple asked, as if in one voice, how much he would charge them. Harish was in two minds. He did not want to scare them away as he desperately needed the 25 or 30 as he had calculated earlier and asked them for 25, which was very fair considering the time and the weather.
The couple hopped on to his carriage after a bit of bargaining and settling it at 20 rupees not withstanding Harish’s fervent pleas. After the price had been fixed it was left to Harish to show his experience to handle the cart and his passengers deftly as he pulled them slowly on to their destination. It took him a short and gasping run in the last 200 meters before he reached the temple just in time or so he thought. The couple got down and thanked him and he had to wait for the lady to count 20 coins and hand them to his outstretched hands. A lightening streak flashed, as she handed him the money, with the help of which he could see the charming couple’s faces. It seems they were newly married and had come to the temple as was the custom in those places on a Thursday. He saw them climbing up the stairs and entering the shrine.
The despair call to the Lord an hour ago had worked and Harish wondered if it really was because of the Lord’s blessings, he had gained this last trip. Since it was so late and he having made his wages for subsistence for the day, he thought of entering the temple for the first time in his life. He had a lot of doubts as he climbed each step. What if the Pujari or the temple priest would shout at him for coming in such shabby and torn clothes? Nevertheless he walked on and entered the temple. There was no one in sight and having gained courage with each step, he walked on to explore the inner precincts of the shrine. He came to different places of worship allocated to each god or a goddess at various places inside the shrine. All this time, he was looking around with fear and awe, as with time, he still could not see anyone in the temple. Holding on to the coins, he at last reached the sanctum sanctorum where he saw the main deity and his consort and immediately recognized them by their robes and faces as his passengers who had graced his rickshaw, a few minutes ago.
Tears ran down his eyes and he felt his life had met its purpose having transported the Lord and his Consort in his rickshaw to the temple. As he prostrated on the floor in front of the shining glory with folded hands, he took care lest the coins would fall away and was struck with surprise when he counted them later to be exactly 25 coins, the price that he had asked initially and that too shining gold coins…
The elixir of water is life. Life swims, lands and takes off from it. The strength of the wind is life. Life soars, floats and flies off with it. The sacred fire is life. Life dries, burns and takes birth from the ashes. The rays of the Sun is life. Life sprouts, energizes and warms with it. The song of rain is life. Life gets its sails wet and drinks every moment of it. Nature as always rations the elements to each of us laced with love. Be it water, wind, fire, the sun or the rain, all play their parts to perfection in the nature of life.
There is a time when everyone longs to fly. Some flap their hands, some jump into the air only to realize gravity that instantly grounds us. The air borne feature is a gift of the Lord to all those avians who survey us, as they fly around us and maybe wonder – what if all these two legged animals too had wings. They would never be secure then.
Coming back to the flying itch, I decided today to develop this flying story and the dream to fly. Yes in our dreams, we do fly once in a while or many a time, depending on our dreams. Most of the flying dreams end up with either us losing our wings or crashing like a plane that has lost both its engines. But yes, more than the fear of flying in airplanes, how sweet it would have to been to glide like an…
To LET GO and NOT TO POSSESS is indeed difficult, but not impossible .
We cannot really possess anything here forever, can we? Are our possessions independent or dependent upon factors such as economy, luck, culture, inheritance, fate and many more? I am sure you will agree that it is dependent on things which is not always in our control.
Yet, our society continues to judge a persons worth by what he possess. If we have to judge somebody then define him by the things he pursues and not by his possessions. Don’t you think judging and comparing is only getting us into a race and preventing us from living a full life. All these bound mankind.
Who likes to live this life here bounded? If you are anything like me, then you would have probably started focussing your mental energy in discovering a solution to this problem. If you want to…
You have been warned : Do not go further, there is danger ahead.
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 with me playfully, I tried to balance 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 in their cans 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 getting away from a stranger who never knew or learned 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 reclaim and rebury along with their fond memories of me…
आज इस शहर में अकेला हु
जबकि बहुत जान मेरे जैसे
चलते है, रोते हुए, आस पास
जब देखता हूँ उन आँखों में
सब नीरस होके मुझे देखते
उनकी निगाहो में मैं सुराग ढूंढ़ता हु |
हे खुदा कब मुझे इस जीवन से
मुक्ति मिले इस अनजान शहर से
कब मैं अपने गांव को चला जावु
अगर यह मेरी चाह कुछ ज्यादा है
दफना दो, मुझे और मेरे सपनों को
इस शहर में, जहा तुम भी अब अजनबी हो |
My first attempt in Hindi. The plight of the migrants who come to the city with a lot of dreams and a healthy soul are let down by the city so inhumanly that they crave to go back to those villages, but they are so tired and having lost their souls to the devils who linger and rule the city, now even going back seems to be a far fetched dream.
Let me know your thoughts on this.
Rough translation is as below.
Today, am feeling lonely in this alien city
when a lot of souls, like me, I see in pain
around and about me, crying as they pass
as I look deeply into their sad eyes,
they sense me, with looks monotonous
i fervently search for clues in those looks
for me to survive in this city alien to me.
Oh Lord, when will you relive me of this distress
and give me solace from life and this city
when can I think of going back to my sweet village
from whence I came, if you feel this wish of mine
is too much to fulfill, bury me, my tired self
who lost his way and his dreams in this city
where, even You have been now lost to me…