27 January 2008

Visit to Puttaparthy, the journey

Day is Friday, the 25th of Jan '08. Everybody is in haste, packing bags, preparing the breakfast, getting ready... today we are leaving for Puttaparthi, visit to our very own Sai baba's birth place, hoping to get a glimpse of him, a "Darshan". So, all set, we get into the auto (oh my! the dreadful auto), to reach the boarding station, Yashwanthpur. Aunties and uncles are yet to come when we reach there, so we grasp the opportunity and light a cigarette. They arrive after the butt had been severely crushed below one of our shoes. We board with a happy feeling, the elders with a happy feeling about getting a "Darshan", younger ones are always happy as long as their demands are fulfilled, and for me, as I already told, I'm in the picnic-mode, so can't be less happier. :)
The boggies are almost empty, a few people here and there. We occupy one of the compartments, aunties starts their own chit-chats, uncles have their own agenda to discuss, and I'm too happy to spend more of my picnic-days travelling, occationally clicking pictures from the window, of whatever I felt interesting.

One of the interesting things

The train had hardly covered a distance of 2 hours, a shrill voice out-sounds the constant sound of the locomotive and intrudes my imagination, my imagination of the place, my imagination of seeing Sai Baba in real person, my imagination of another part of my picnic-days. Shortly after this alien sound intruded, I became aware of the fact that this sound wasn't alone, there was a harmonium accompanying it. Now the source of the sound appeared, a boy of 13 to 14 years of age, wearing a blue chequered shirt and black half-pants, a harmonium slung across his neck. Think of any of Amitabh's movie of 70s and 80s and think of Amitabh's childhood character, whose mother dies of a disease, or whose father is killed by the goons, or who has no parents but still has his younger siblings to look after. Think of that character, and you can get the idea how how this boy must be. Otherwise see this picture.

The singer

Now he starts singing, my uncle wants him to sing the popular hindi songs, and this boy has no option but to oblige, he starts belting the hindi numbers in a bit awkward accent to make my uncles happy, accompanying him in this quest is his harmonium, equally shrill, but much more melodious. May be he had learnt these hindi songs with a great pain, may be he didn't have the access to the basic ameneties for listening the songs and grasp each and every bit of the lyrics, so he was singing at his own pace, and I was finding the lyrical error at my own pace though I didn't let anybody know that I was observing him(I find lyrical-error very quickly, because I have a fairly good lyrics memorizing mechanism, this is one of the very few good properties my brain possesses). Had he been in some singing contest like Indian Idol, Javed Akhtar would have thrown his chappal at him. Pity he doesn't own a tape-recorder or a radio, I thought. I'm sure he doesn't own one. But my uncle was no less than Annu Malik in criticizing and passing the comments. Yet I'm sure it didn't make any difference to him, for two reasons. One, he hardly knew hindi and that too my uncle's hindi..., forget it. Two, may be he's used to it, so I didn't see any change in his expression as per the comments. Now my uncles started enjoying his songs so they sing along one or two of the songs. I thought what if this fellow had been in some reality singing competition, even though he wouldn't have won(would lose due to lack of votes), I'm sure he would have learnt a lot of singing technics. So after few more anti-flawless songs, he bids them goodbye grabbing everything that my uncles gave him, comes to our compartment, where I'm seated near window, I put my hand in my right pocket (that's where I keep all my change, left pocket will always have my celfon in it :) ) pull out a 5 rupee coin, and place my hand just above his, ready to release it(the coin), but all of a sudden his hand placed just below mine, comes up, and cuts short the 5 rupee coin's journey, snatching it from my hand. He leaves compartment and us, and gets down in one of the stations, I felt one of our fellow travellers boarding down. I sympathized his agony, that's the only thing I could do. Thought his life too is not different than the '70s '80s Amitabh's childhood character. But the future? Will he be a Bijay Dinanath Chauhan? Will he become a Don? God knows...
Our journey resumes normally, as all the normal journey should, but I've this strange thinking, what will become of him? what? what?
Finally at 1.30 PM, we arrive at Sri Satya Prasanthi Nagara(did I get the name correct?), we get down from the train, get into a bus which we hire for 100 bucks. I had neither seen a conductor of his age, or his rage, nor had I seen a passenger like that, must be of around 40 to 50 years of age, with yellowish/reddish teeth, the remains of just finished paan all over her teeth and corners of her lips. Everytime the bus stopped to pick or drop the passenger(s), they quarrelled, vehemently, may be they bombarded each other with some "your mothers and your sisters" kind of speeches, and they quarrelled until another drop/pick-up point was reached. So it's was a horrible experience of Puttaparthy at the first encounter, but I's sure of things becoming more calm and soothing after we get down, after all this is Sai baba's place. During the ride, one I had feeling of grabbing that boy and throwing him out of the bus window. Oh my my, did I tell you why they were quarrelling? They were quarrelling because the lady with paan had got into bus with two big plastic bags, and the boy wanted a fare for those plastic bags too, paan lady wasn't complying, so the boy was trying to get rid of her in every stop, was trying to get her down, by sometimes pulling her, sometimes her plastic bags. And everytime, she fired him with dangerous words, I didn't understand the language, but the expression in her face clearly showed what it was....
At last reached, Puttaparthy, got down the bus, felt very tired and hungry, but was happy that finally we reached the destination, and I didn't think of the singer met back in train, didn't think of the quarrelling duo of the bus, only thing I thought that time was.... ah ! the food and a bed to rest...

24 January 2008

a visit, reunion, a performer, the traffic et all

My uncle and his family's long awaited visit to our place has finally turned into reality. And it has made a kinda reunion here, at least for me. From the day they(my uncle and his family) landed here I've deserted my previous house and shifted at my cousin's place. So it's kinda picnic for me, and of course, I came across, a lot of new experiences which I'll hereby narrate :) ...
First thing I came across is it takes 95 bucks to reach Majestic railway station from my place. And came to know that the traffic is not the only nuisance in the city; there are "autowallahs". The more I try to befriend them, more they try to cheat me.... Reached railway station half-dead, criss-crossing the traffic with myriad vehicles and the fare-meter read 93, but I dint get my change back from this so called auto-driver after I handed him bill of 100, and wen asked about the return, he simply said "No Change". Felt like hitting one "sucker-punch" in his face. After baptizing him with choicest of swear words, I entered inside the station.(Swear words were in my mother-tongue so I'm sure he must have thought them as substitution for a thank you and must have wondered how long, multi-syllable a thank you in my mother-tongue is! As he rode away smiling, I thought whether he really thought a "Thank you" can be that long, or was it because of the extra 7 bucks he earned....???? well... god knows)
Met uncles inside and came back with them in a hired cab, destination; cousin's place. When we had finished with our dinner, the day had grown old enough to take us to bed.
The next day; now the actual adventure starts, navigating the bangalore traffic in a two wheeler. No no, it's not me who does the navigation, it's my traffic-dexterous friend, Ashu, who gives me a pillion ride, and I get ample time for the observation.
It exactly takes 30 mins to reach office from home, whatever route we take, it's always the same, 30 mins. And these 30 minutes.. ummm... makes me feel like I'm a performer, though nobody watches us performing and it's not something like I'm live on some TV, but still the way we overtake and by-pass the plethora of human-carrying machines on a black labyrinth of bangalore's road-way, it really surges the adrenaline to rush across every single cell of my body. The way bus-drivers drive, sometimes I feel like they are the highest road-tax payers, and as if they own the road. And I cannot stop comparing the autos(autowallahs included) with the monkeys, yes you read it correct, monkeys. Their indifference, the way they trouble a person who is late for work by asking double the actual charge, the way they drive, everything reminds me of monkeys. Sometimes I find them sadistic, especially when it rains. When it does(rains) most of them wont ask where one wants to go, they will stop the auto near you, but wont ask you where you want to go, instead, they'll simply stop it there and wait, wait for you to ask them... and when you do, they wont say "double" or some exorbitant amount of money, they'll simply say "no", a firm no. I wonder what kinda pleasure they get, seeing others suffer....!!!
oh I drifted away from the main topic.... the performer... so I was saying I feel like a performer when I get a pillion ride... many two wheeler riders WILL laugh at me and my haughtiness but this is just my way of interpreting things, one of the beautiful things that this city has to offer. The skills my rider, Ashu has, I sure feel like I'm in safe hands(legs included, otherwise who'll change gears... :) ) The way he manipulates the tiny spaces between two four-wheelers, the shortest and less congested path from point A to point B, you ask it and he knows it all, and I like that, really like that. I'm sure most of you have seen a tight-rope walker walking across on the rope. When he does that he's very careful, every moment, every second. A small mistake can cost him worth lot more than the pain.... so, alert all the time... my friend here too, is as alert as a tight-rope walker, and add the skill of smooth-riding in bangalore's traffic, wow!!! One hell of a rider. And we perform at bangalore traffic during the mornings and evenings, weekdays. Death defying manoeuvres between the four-wheelers, whizzing past a slower vehicle, navigating the shorter but tiny "gully's", managing the 4-way intersections and passing through them, you name it and we do it all.
My days are still being spent at cousin's place, I still perform in the bangalore traffic everyday, sans Saturdays and Sundays. Come ride along with me and be a performer... cheers...