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…

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..

A lake and the Sea

The far end of Vembanad LakeCruising pictures from the LakeCouple of hours in the morning boatIt was cold when we started at 8 amThe boat makes its way out into the lakeThe Sun setting at Marari beach, Mararikulam, close to AlleppeyThe day winding up at this sideThe surf making beachTalking while wetting your feetIs the sea or the beach largerThe SunSandSeaMan’s imprints are temporary. Nature’s is permanentThe might of the silent sea. If only we can learn from it.The metallic colors of the shining Sea.It was a 2 day trip from our travel base at Kumarakom.

Story of a Ruin

Hindu temple, Ubud, Bali
Pura Temple, Bali

On the banks of a winding river
covered by shade giving trees
stood an old temple now a ruin
one day, was I mighty surprised
to see myself walking towards it?

The glaze from the noon fiery sun
as it struck many majestic pillars
at first blinded me; I could see
a deity of a goddess unattended.

Offering my salutations to her
I looked around to spot anyone
who would come this desolate way
but alas, no one seemed to exist
except me, in these lost quarters.

I walked the once trodden steps
when having heard a sharp noise
I turned around, to my wonder
the old sanctum door now shut
who shut that door, I wondered.

Around the farther side were
trees plenty next to a cool pond
with flowers growing amidst it
my eyes spied in the shade of trees
a monkey, a squirrel eyeing in awe.

The breeze and the fruits in bounty
took me to a dream of bygone days
I dreamt of that place back in time
how festivities rocked the still ground
where people flocked lost in joy.

The temple fair with pristine glory
attracted one and all, near and afar
a visitor in me now in different attire
there I saw a beautiful girl standing
at the steps of the majestic temple.

Was she beautiful, was she radiant
was something about her charm
observing all who were lost in fun
who she was, so bright as the sun
my mind at sea, churned thoughts.

I climbed the lovely temple steps
devotees praying to the goddess
somehow the glow on the deity
could very relate to that on the girl
one in divine, one in human form.

Casual inquiries it was made known
she was the child of the temple priest
a devotee who cared for nothing
engrossed in the service of his folk
worship a mother who was his child.

I circled with the crowd at every turn
her radiant smile, the mighty holy
doubts cleared with the compassion
she bestowed on us with her love
a mother pleased at her children.

At a loss, keep the discovery to myself
do I make it known, had I the courage
should I approach her I wondered
would she listen, as others her age
a woman, she of a countless age.

One day, she was playing with kids
getting close towards the little ones
when she sensed my approach,
the all knowing smile asking
was I attracted to her these days.

With courage, I went near divine her
while the kids not at close quarters
asking her, was it true, I had sensed
she the divine in human form said
keep it to you, which I did this time.

Days were spent meeting and asking
had she powers she could exercise
could she keep the village blessed
she would wait for them to pass a test
then, would decide to be a part of it.

Months passed by, days of joy to me,
one day, the priest’s daughter fell sick
ailments added to her father’s plight
one said of a physician with the king
might help her to tide over her state.

A journey to the palace was too far
to ask for a cure might invite wrath
a lad I was, to carry the message
private to the medic, to respond to
a person glowing, despite her pain.

I went to the court and with difficulty
manage to get his consent, for the call
but he asked a fee, which I doubted
any one, of the village could afford
but they could have tried and helped.

With sad tidings, I got the message
no one cared to help the priest
who did selfless service for them
helped bring blessings from Her
just as She had blessed him with Her.

Chiefs and landlords refused to help
in kind or in money, left him sad
the priest died, broke, just as he was
was this test you told of, she smiled
she was to pass, with me by her side.

Rain clouded to the delight of all
but my plight, no one could gauge
I lost her that night, hands in mine
radiant as ever, loving eyes upon me
in torrents, it poured from the sky.

The river nearby rose in anger
submerged all with its people
waves climbed the forsaken temple
they also washed away our lost selves
I must be glad to part with my body.

It all came back, I was driven here
a place where I loved a girl of glory
a divine Odyssey it got me here
left to reminisce the story of a ruin
would She come again for me…

If you liked reading this, hope you enjoy the sequel that continues as a story in Yajnavalkya

The Mayor and his Clean City

When  Apsomji got up at 5 in the morning partly because of the alarm bell ringing and also because of the commotion caused by his few followers who had already entered his visiting room, he knew it was going to be a good day.

Sometimes he was wary of  these followers who had been acting as his disciples, advisers and red tape, all put together. Their clamoring was so much that he had always thought of sacking them all or at least put sack cloth over their loud mouths. There was no privacy in the sense, as he could sense it from the bed room. Here he was only getting up and they were walking into the dining room now as enforcement sleuths would walk in uninvited and treat themselves to food leftovers in the refrigerator and on the table.

Still, Apsomji thought, they were needed to give him company and vet on his ideas that steamed from his head. Today was going to be a good day, as he stretched his arms, went through his yogic motions followed by the rush to the bathroom to complete his ablutions. When the warm water was falling from the geyser, he was wondering what pep talk should he be doing in front of the European delegation who were in town to gauge and most probably reward his city for its cleanliness and care of labor and destitute people.

Apsomji as Mayor for the last 2 years, had been made aware of this comprehensive clean city trust that was set up some place in Luxembourg.  Apsomji was a poor reader and whatever information he got was from his sycophant gathering of the above mentioned followers. This award specially set up for cities in developing nations, they had told him was to be awarded if certain conditions were met. On top of the list was – There were to be well-managed slaughter houses, proper waste management,  clean drinking water and no overflowing drains, no sight of child labor, no barking strays and polluting vehicles and of course presence of a few parks and gardens to counter the greenhouse effect. Apsomji was a little confused as to how a green park could counter a green house, but he left it to his intelligent team to figure out.

The past few weeks had been hectic for his supporters and people in high offices who helped him to design the itinerary and chart out the survey course through select places in the city, which would keep off-limits, the dark areas away from the sight of the trust members who had flown in 3 days back. If only he could trust them to deliver the coveted award to his city. Apsomji  and the corporation members made sure that the award committee visited few looms (hand-loom enterprises)  where  no child labor existed, a few eateries where everyone who worked was above 18 or made to look like that. A visit to a park that was renovated this year and what was previously a deserted junk yard was also on the list. Slaughter houses were cleaned up and the animals lined up and cleaned up one day in advance. Drains were covered with hard sheets and very feeble concrete slabs that would break if a vehicle went over it. All these were laid out just in time before the motorcade of the visiting luminaries went that way. All strays were rounded up or those who could not be, were chased away in such a ferocious manner that the corporators knew they dare not enter the city limits again.

Clean drinking water taps were setup, 100 in all, at various points, around 30 across the course that the award committee were to travel and visit on feet. 70 sweepers were employed on a 5 day shift and most of them were child labor. The terms and conditions read – They were to sweep the streets early in the morning and never to be seen again in the daylight. Brooms were given to them but no collecting buckets for the filth they were supposed to sweep. These should be collected as heaps, so that in the morning run, the sewage vans would collect them. Since 2 weeks, around 100 traffic policemen were given the additional responsibility of noting and chasing down vehicles with polluting exhaust.  Those who belonged to the polluting lot however belonged to the city corporation buses and these were asked to keep off the roads on the day of survey.  It was rumored that a  traffic inspector who went running after one such vehicle had his white uniform turned to black and was in the hospital wheezing it out.

The waste dumping yards, all three of them which the city had, had got a carpet of sand  over the now rotting junk. This sand would help control the stink emanating from it, as per his genius corporators. Another set of volunteers of the CLEAN CITY CAMPAIGN promoted by the corporation had rounded up the rag pickers most of them children, beggars, the old and the infirm who were seen on the streets and packed them off to a home in the suburbs for a week till this thing would get over. After his bath and breakfast, Apsomji with his followers neatly dressed went over to the corporation office ground next to which a dais had been erected to seat the award committee members and the corporators. He made sure that the newly put up dais could hold the weight of at least 20 people sitting and 20 people standing and another possible 20 rushing on to it in the last-minute by doing a dry run.

Everything looked perfect. The dignitaries, 5 of them, were to start of from their hotel on their run up passing several points in the city as per the scheduled path that the corporation had charted out for them. They were thinking of using an open jeep for the purpose but the clouded skies that looked imminent to drop tons of water forced them to use covered cabs. After all, they could always get down with umbrellas to inspect anything if they wanted to. As they had their breakfast in the hotel, there came the rain that was helped by the monsoon winds which was holding out for so long. Now with no holds barred, the pouring rain stood its ground for a full 40 minutes to register a 4 cm rainfall.

With the high tide now against the Mayor and his corporators, the drains got flooded up in no time and as the touring party left the hotel in cabs, they were witnesses to the flooded conditions of the city roads in rainy times. Out came their notepads and drainage was given a very low score. When they visited the slaughter-house, it was pouring water over the tin sheets on to the meat and the animals huddled up. The stench was unbearable, as the drains had vomited out the filth back on to the well cemented floor. They left in a hurry in a nauseating state.

The water in the roads, in the parks and the waste dumping grounds had cleared up everything that was supposed to be hidden. A cow which had a fall in one of the covered gutters just managed to climb in front of the approaching motorcade to visually treat the guests with the black coat of paint it had acquired on its legs from the drain. The city was churned up with waste with all the money invested to make it clean going down the drain. There were still a few street boys here and there with  gunny sacks on their shoulder trying to pick things that could have some salvage value from the flooded streets. Sadly, the dignitaries could not get down anywhere as most places had rising water till knee height. When they reached high and dry ground at one place, one of them got down and opened one tap to inspect. The sound of air gushing at first made him jump and then muddied water came out, all to his disgust. Grimaced with suffering at the plight of the city dwellers, the visitors rounded off the survey, half way, and made their way to the corporation grounds.

The corporation ground was in no way different from the streets. They barely managed to get themselves on the dais without water entering their shoes. The bright sunshine after the downpour did little to lift the curtain of gloom that had descended over the hosts and the audience. The results were expected to be as bad as they could get and the poor Mayor and his team had to leave the stage in disgrace. Nevertheless, they had high hopes for next year to make amends. One thing, they collectively agreed, while getting down the steps into the pool of water was – Never to invite anyone during the rainy days…

Lost in a forest

survivetheforest

Yet another from the Lost Series.. Reading Time Max.10 mins Words:1530

It was quite some time you had been thinking of driving through a forest and your dreams turned a reality last month when your visa came home along with your passport through a friendly travel agency where Mike or Mac made it possible for you? The travel flight to to the  airport at Tiguasa was itself a 7 hour saga with a 3 hour overlay at Kanwabe airport where there was this one flight every alternate day to Tiguasa you had taken. This place was situated in the expanse of the 500 hectare forest reserve that had been carved out of the 2000 plus hectare woods of Sagwarosa where all sorts of wild life abounded.

The gamekeeper office had given strict instructions for everyone to follow. The visitors should slice themselves in the 8 passenger traveler bus that would take you through the heart of the game as they called it. The first trip would start off at 9 am and end at 4 pm and was properly charted for the inmates of the bus to see most of the wild life that abounded in Tiguasa. Not much of the great cats were here save the occasional leopard and a few old lions somewhere hidden away from these day trips made in the bus.

Coming back to the itinerary for the day. It had begun well with a decent breakfast with a lot of vegetables coupled with Brown bread and a serving of hot coffee mixed with coco lending it a chocolate taste. The bus or van as it appeared was rumbling away as the 6 passengers ascended it. It already has a seated driver (who it seems is a new guy substituting for someone else who seemed sick today) who would flash a beaming smile at every occupant including you as they got seated. The cushions in the seats were a bit old and torn of at a few places especially at the edges making you think of what did happen while the tourists eyed some creature that came their way.

The bus took off on a winding and dusty track such that the dust from it would come into the bus at times. The air conditioner of the bus was built in legendary times since it did little to cool the inside and appeared to be more of an oven rather than a cooler. At the back of the bus where there is enough room can be seen lying a bunch of bananas.

It is at this time you pass a cursory glance at your fellow occupants. There were it appeared by the magnetism of the mannerisms two couples and an elderly gentleman. Sensing your glance, the elderly gently put out of his hand to introduce himself. The name is Stein and when your hands shook his, it nearly shook your complete self. Others also joined in..John and his wife Rita. Lin with his pretty wife Long who appeared in her early twenties.

You are sitting in the left rail with Stein in the front row whereas the 2 couples are chatting on the right wing of the green bus. The driver is humming a song in his language looking back every now and then for appreciation but then all occupants eyes are busy scanning for any forest native who might grace that way. First sighting was of a fox who was disturbed from his sleep by the mechanical Fargo bus and meandered his way to a better sleeping place or to wash his face you would never know.

Then came a flash of parakeets with long tails and a fast of yellow on natural green. They created quite a commotion as they flew over the starboard side only to disappear into the distance.

On the right side after a ride of 15 gruelling mins, there appeared a large natural pool that looked more of a waterhole with an assortment of animals quenching their thirst and preparing themselves for the day ahead. A small gathering of deer, a resident hippo and a few buffaloes could be seen. You fish out your digital camera as you saw others do the same and start shooting pictures of the silent hurdled group. The deer are on alert ready to bound at the first sign of danger, the hippo has a tired look at the bus as if he has seen this for quite some time. The buffaloes seem to be in two minds whether to move on, or share some space with the hippo. After a few minutes of anchor, the bus moved on to another place this time where the bushes and shrubs gave way to a bunch of trees with hanging branches. The trees look properly watered as the green leaves on them make you think so.

What was that? there now, you could hear some chilling cries of some animals, and before you can connect the sound to their owners, there appear a few elephants on a rampage, it seems one was trying to get away from others. He finds way through the narrow road and the thickets and almost overturns the bus. The other bunch is playfully behind him but they are a bit slow as they see the bunch in the bus including you and drop their investigating trunks in the now fully stopped bus. Where are the passengers and the driver? They have somehow gone and ran for their lives, as you were wonder struck with the trunks of the playful mammoths. You had some sense in you to get out of the seat and drag those banana plantains to the near reach of the trunks of those medium sized elephants. They grabbed it out of the open windows just as you were transferring it to them. In a jiffy, they disappeared after they had gobbled up the food, leaving you to yourself.

Taking the bottle of water in the small bag, you get down and start jogging on the look out for your fellow passengers who are nowhere in sight. The jogging person in you makes a bunch of monkeys come down from their lodgings and try to harass you or that is what you thought allowing your legs to make a dash out of that scene, to a much thicker part of the woods. The next bus should be on the way in another half an hour, but you are reluctant to go anywhere near those monkeys who now have stay put on the road.

There are quite a collection of trees here as they give you cool shade and it would be better to climb a branch or two to be on the safe side. As you grace up a tree holding on to the tighter twigs that support you as you ascent, some sticky substance on the branch make you lose grip and cause you to fall headlong as the twigs give way and you land with a thud on the soft sand below.

You don’t know how long you were in that state, and by the time you are back to your senses, it is dusk, you get up with a nasty headache and take some time to find your bearings. It was a wonder that you were safe on the ground all these hours, maybe the forest goddess was taking care of you all this while. The bag has fallen some place and you search for it with final success among the fallen leaves. Grabbing a gulp or two from the water bottle, your senses are alerted to some noise coming this way and you try to scamper up another tree but it seems your left leg has a tearing pain and is unable to help you much in the process. After making a couple of attempts, you try to flee to somewhere near the road, that is some meters away. There on the road, you try to stay and before you can think you see two hyenas at around 50 yards walking towards you.

That is it, you think, this is the end of me, I was supposed to be killed here and you resign yourselves to the fate in front of you. But the winds of luck change in your favor instantly as the same rampaging group of elephants come your way from the right in their usual frolicking manner and when they see you, they are delighted and stay put amusing you with their trunks resting on your shoulders, some on your stretched palms wondering what else you have got for them.

A few more minutes, a motor car grunting across the road comes to a halt, and a couple of rangers get down to salvage you as the elephants gladly make way for them, and you are so happy to see some human faces now. Upon enquiries, you were glad to know that the co-passengers and the driver had met the ranger’s vehicle minutes after they had dashed out of the bus. Now that the day trip had come to a close with the Sun bidding bye, the memory of Tiguasa however getting etched for life where you had almost got lost in a forest.

The Lost Sailor

 

albatross

The high winds struck the stricken boat
with only a lone survivor that was me
the torn sails that resembled some flag
the ropes holding on to it now in tatters.

Fresh water was as scarce to get now
like water in the expanse of a desert
my heart came close to my mouth
whenever the boat somersaulted.

No life was in sight anywhere near
save a lone white bird in the distance
was that a friendly albatross circling
checking upon me and giving me hope?

I look up on my rations, my  treasures
how valued  more than pieces of gold
no sight of land or rocks or any ships
how long Lord will I endure this state?

My plight echoed by the crying bird
it kept me company circling for long
my eyes riveted on that hovering giant
how long I know not as I rested below.

Left to my tidbits of biscuit and water
I was to wait till good providence came
patience now a virtue, as was meditation
was I glad to see a ship coming this way?

As  they finally hauled my good self up
a bird that had kept up with a lost sailor
had now vanished in the misty evening
wonder who it was, that gave me hope?