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 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

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…

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…

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”.

My Savior

The Lord is my mighty Savior
for without Him there is no me.
At every rock and every brook
the Lord has made arrangements
to guarantee me a free pass.

He has trees to nourish me with fruits
He has fields to nourish me with grains
He is the shine on the sun to charge me
He is the calm on the moon to soothe me
He has taken pains to keep me at ease.

He has been my ageless and tireless friend
who has walked with me in countless forms
when I was young, wasn’t he my guardian?
when I aged, isn’t he thrilled to play my child?
He knows me much more than I know me.

If only we countless warriors abide
by the rules and laws He has laid
That is when He can rest and stand
the test of time and rebuke of others
who criticized Him for this creation.

A lot of his time is spent correcting me
me who, goes stray without a guide
He loves playing the shepherd role
He has to fight mighty battles with
my steadfast love that is His armor.

The Lord is my mighty savior
for nothing pleases Him than us
his loving creation in whom he prides
His loving grace with abundance glory
want us to practice faith and patience.

Clouded Vision

monsoon-6
Pic Credits: Indianlifestylez

The kid on the balcony was looking out at a bunch of twigs on fire
apart from that, what would enliven her otherwise sultry afternoon?
the cool wind gushed through the trees dousing out the feeble fire
people started hurrying, sun scampering, as the place turned dark.

She looked up wondering what was it that caused it, an eclipse?
her sight met dark clouds now gathering fast from all quarters
full of moisture, laden by weight, not knowing if they could continue
or should they stop awhile and lighten their load of life giving water?

In full array, they came and converged in a circle around the place
it would now rain at any moment, the girl thought, with sheer joy
She ran down the  stair rails to enjoy the first rain of the season
the monsoon had arrived with all paraphernalia, ready to deliver.

The streak of lightening greeted her as her feet touched the ground
thunderclaps resonated notifying that the act was about to start
army of clouds now started to pour their oblations upon the place
this ritual always appeared in time to drench her, so she thought…

Indian Monsoon

Wandering miles through burnt grass
in search of the elusive water source
the animals all huddled up, look for signs
that can only herald the arrival of
their perennial savior from the skies.

One fine day, a cool breeze starts to blow.
The hot air now becomes the hunted
looking for dear places to hide
for death is certain with the arrival
of the Great Indian Monsoon.

The small streams and the rivulets,
pour their volumes into rivers beds
that were once sand banks and ponds
and playing fields to kids in summer
now slushy fields with the downpour.

Life is back to normal now that nature
has bestowed its blessings upon the
region that gets its bountiful rain
for which man was ready till now
to barter with gold and riches he had.

So much is at stake, thus spake the
economists whose misty vision
revolves and evolves on the
aspects as well as the prospects
of an advancing and retreating monsoon..

Calamities

A calamity befell me when I stayed in a big city
I thought of leaving the city and reached a village
It seemed to be a safe place till an earthquake struck
I ran to a safer place where I built a house of rags
only till an angry fire consumed it when it got hungry
I shifted my base to a cold serene place near a river
and lived happily for a while till a flood took everything
and left me stranded on a rock alone with my thoughts…

Why there is amity whenever a calamity befalls us
Why there is enmity among us when things are fine
Why can’t people understand good old theme of unity…