It is still dark in the city as the sun was yet to wake up at the horizon from his deep slumber late last evening. It seemed he was tired of peeking through the clouds brought about by a cyclone that had ravaged many a southern state and was still streaking to conquer uncharted territories on the Indian west coast trying to make a landfall before it died down. The Ockhi cyclone had made a surprise appearance at the southern tip of India and churned the Indian ocean and the Arabian sea much to the horror of coastal towns and villages and had played with the lives of the fisherman community who had travelled the high seas during the last few days. Though it ran shy of the indian coast so far, the wind the churning waves and the rain had in its grip the towns of Kanyakumari, Nagercoil, the Kerala coast and had ravaged Lakshadweep islands, the damage of which is still to be known.
The newspaper boy had already started his work near one of the many bus stops in the city, trying to sort out the many news papers and magazines that he need to carry across to homes to those news hungry and elderly people who would wait for him for happy tidings as he would swirl the newspaper at them from a safe distance. He still had a good aim to reach somewhere near their outstretched hands, as if it was a offering from the gods at dawn.
But today, the winds and the slight rain had made his job difficult. Navigating his cycle through the pools of water on the streets from the overnight rains, he had to go and find out a dry stretch on the steps of each house where he could safely deliver the paper full of news that should not be drenched while his eager readers this day decided to stay within the safe confines of their home instead of looking out to welcome him.
Running late, he saw the morning sun after so many days in his distribution work. The sun with a mighty effort had finally gathered himself and had started his journey across the still cloudy skies. As he looked down, the only movement he could detect was a tiny boy braving the cold windy weather going to each home with a sheaf of papers…
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 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.
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…
The weekly friday market has come to life again
what was a once a desolated place till yesterday
people have converged in their hundreds today
having got a lot of wares ready to sell and barter.
From far and near many have come with hopes
to satisfy their buying instincts and daily needs
the market has become busy with noise and dust
one wonders when they will stop to walk and rest.
As a fleet of vehicles move in and out with people
on the lookout for perfect buyers and sellers alike
children crowd around the small shops with toys
egging their hesitant parents to buy one or two.
Ladies eyeing the glass bangle shops with glee
the bangle seller adorning his giggling buyers
garment shops are witnessing too much rush
all flock to these to try out their clothed dreams.
The fruit vendors are armed with their farm loads
of sweet melons and tumbling plums of all colors
vegetable vendors lend the greenery to the site
the spice shops tend to water your eyes and senses.
The earthen ware and pots getting baked in the sun
the carpets and the woven shawls swaying to the wind
the umbrellas and jute bags reminding you of the rain
the dry nuts and the dates beckoning you to have a bite.
In short you have got everything asked for and wished
it is time to take rest and enjoy freshly ground coffee
as evening sets, you leave, heavily laden with your goods
some you wished you never bought as an after thought.
The hawkers are busy tying their unsold merchandise
counting their profits and lost opportunities with time
it is time to wind up and say goodbye to the market
which will stand desolate once again till next friday…