Monday, August 31, 2009

The Salesgirl

Salma aunty was fond of cats. Her house overflowed with them. She had nice name for them and loved them more than her children. One day about 5 in the evening,she came home after visiting her ailing mother and called out all the names. She expected all the younger cats to turn up but chinnu didn’t. She asked her daughter to open the front door while she started a frantic search. The search revealed a badly mauled chinnu in the garden. Salma aunty was broken.

Just then, a salesgirl walked in to the compound and asked Salma aunty to take a look at her wares. Salma aunty was least interested.

But the sales girl went on, “Only two more packets left. Take one, please”
Salma Aunty wanted to get rid of her and so she bought one and called out to her daughter inside, “Safia, Just pay this girl, will you?”.

And she hurried to get a shovel and give dear Chinnu a decent burial. After burying the cat and crying a bit, Salma aunty walked into the house. She started to search for her purse which had some money that she had to keep safe. But she could not find it. She started searching in the car porch, the rooms inside, even in the yard. But it was nowhere to be seen. It was dusk by then. Suddenly, she thought of the salesgirl.

It must be the girl, she muttered under her breath.
She ran outside and looked up and down the street. There was none to be seen. She ran to the next street and there she found the girl getting out of a gate. She pounced on her.
“You girl. How could you steal my purse when I helped you by one of your good for nothing washing powder”
The girl looked surprised,. But salma aunty was holding her by the elbow now. The noise brought out some neighbours. Soon everyone agreed that it must be the girl.
Someone commented, “Oh these people. They come to steal posing as salespeople”

Soon, the police was called over. The girl was crying. Her bag and person was searched. “She must have passed it to the accomplice”, shouted a guy.
“Who’s with you?”, asked the policeman.
“Another salesman who leads our team. He is waiting outside the colony where all the girls might have assembled by now”.
“Call him,” commanded the policeman.
She tearfully called the fellow who was there in ten minutes. He was a young chap and looked terrified seeing the crowd and police.
They asked him to show his credentials which he did.

Meanwhile, Safia, Salma aunty’s daughter came out of the house running holding her mother’s purse. It seemed it was under the clothes in the bag. Salma aunty had emptied the bag onto the bed to keep away the clothes and the purse which was on top was now under the pile.

The crowd lost interest by now. It dispersed quickly. The police went away in a gruff. The boy and the girl went their way. And Salma aunty was speechless. She felt bad. Her close friends were the only ones who stayed on.

“I do my daily namaaz correctly. But what is the use when I make such a big mistake. Why did I do it.?” She went on mumbling. It was really a bad day for everyone involved.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Karate kid

It was 8 pm. I had some doubts about a subject and wanted to discuss with friend living three streets away. So, I started to walk down to her house. There was absolutely no one on the road. I could see two guys on the road ahead, under the lamp post. As I walked on, they started moving towards me. I could see a glint of something in one guy’s hand. I tried to walk clear of them and almost stepped into the drainage canal b the road.

“Don’t move”, said one of them.
Both were around twenty, skinny and looked bedraggled.

“Don’t Shout”, said the other. His voice trembled showing fear.

“Bachao, Help”, I yelled out.” Bachao”

Immediately, the second guy started running. Left alone the guy with the knife was not sure.

I struck a karate pose and yelled again. ( Iam a Bruce Lee fan but one who doesn’t know Karate)

I advanced, he retreated and turned and ran.

I followed him about twenty steps when I realized my foolishness.
What if he throws the blade. I ran in the opposite direction straight to home.
Dad had just returned from the duty. He was removing his boots. He half heard what I said and started off with one boot and chappal on.

There was no sign of the guys.

But the episode got me the name of Karate Kid in the neighbourhood.

Wedding Season

Around Onam, the wedding season is on in earnest in Kerala. You get invitations by the hordes. There are more than two weddings on some n those days that have auspicious muhurats. Families split and attend weddings on such days.

On one such day, our family arrived for the wedding a bit late. We had to catch a train in the afternoon the same day. So, we were in a rush. We met some of our distant relatives at the wedding but none of the more familiar faces. We could not see the wedding as we got the last row seats. The distant relative said she was an invitee of the girl’s and we said we were of the boy’s. She wanted to know the relation. My dad said that the boy’s maternal aunt had married into his family. She was trying to get it right when we left her and went in for the first panthi or serving of feast. Dad’s plan was to meet the bride and groom after it hoping that the rush on stage would have lessened by then.

By the time we were washing our hands after the meal, my dad’s mobile rang. Dad spoke to my cousin on the other end. She wanted to know where we were and Dad asked her the same question.
“At Kousthubham Hall. At the wedding. Here everyone wants to know where you are”.
‘We will be there in a minute”, said Dad
He asked us to hurry. We were asking him what happened.
I’ll tell you. Let’s get out of here first

Finally when we were in the car and drove out of the Pushpanjali Hall, he said, “We attended the wrong wedding. Didn’t you guys look at the invite”

“We thought you did, mom piped up”

At Kousthubham, all the relatives were pulling us to the feast and we could not have one morsel more. Finally we gave in for a glass of payasam.

To this day, whenever we meet the relative we saw at the other wedding, she wants to get our relation to the groom right.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lonely Planet

It was late May. The plains and plateaus of central India were literally melting hot. Dust storms locally called “loo” swirled up the powdery crust of baked earth and thrust it into the nostrils and eyes. But braving this harsh climate, we were berserk enough to drive all the way from Thrissur in Central Kerala to the steel city, Bhilai in Chattisgarh, then part of Madhya Pradesh in a good old Ambassador of 1962 make. Father had recently bought it from a cousin who had bought it from a doctor and the possession had made father a proud car owner, a breed that was not so common then. So he promptly started on this wild adventure of driving over 2000 Kilometres with a mechanic , a cousin who had a passion to drive, my mother and myself, a tomboyish 12 year old.
Our routemap went through Palakkad in Kerala , Coimbatore in Tamil nadu, Bangalore in Karnataka, Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh , Nagpur in Maharashtra and Bhilai in Chattisgarh touching all southern states of India.
We started after breakfast,waved off by uncles, aunts and cousins. Some could still not believe that we were taking this journey at this time of the year. The driving craze cousin was newly married and his wife was already expecting and she was really sad that she could not accompany us! They took a long time to say ‘goodbye’ to each other.
We filled up and moved on. Nothing untoward happened in the first leg of the journey. We halted for the night at Bangalore. The city was really quiet for its size and it was really a garden city, not the IT city we know today. The Yelehanka Air force Station brought back memories for father. He had missed selection to Airforce because he faltered badly in the shooting test when he saw a spider in the crosswire. He is still scared silly of spiders. Our aim being to reach Hyderabad the next night, we could visit only the Lal Bagh. We bypassed Mysore and drove into Andhra. Now the real test started for man and the machine.
Unending stretches of barren landscape stretched right upto the horizon. Some times we overtook a solitary truck with a turbaned Sikh or an ebony tamilian as driver. Always, they waved and we waved back, each relieved that they were not the only souls on this lonely planet. Once a while we saw clusters of houses, some of bricks and tiles, more with thatched roof. A sight of a single man on cycle with water or firewood gave a clear indication of nearby hamlets. Often one saw paths suddenly disappearing into nowhere. We had to stop now more often as the water in the radiator quickly reached boiling hot conditions. And on a lonely stretch, we had our first flat. As the mechanic, father and cousin got to work of changing the flat, my mother and I stayed put in the car. There were no trees nearby to give any sort of shade. Also, we ran out of water. The car and the people were all thirsty. The barren landscape showed no visible signs of human habitation or more importantly water. Meanwhile none was able to loosen the bolts of the flat tyre. My cousin had a slight fever. The climate was taking its toll. Along came a National Permit Truck and they pulled up right ahead of us. Without us asking for help they asked the three men to move over. The burly Sardarji and his aide swiftly changed the flat tyre. They also gave us their last chagal of water. We were so overcome with surprise and gratitude that we couldn’t thank them before they disappeared as quickly as they had arrived.
The whole episode left a nagging rain of regret in our hearts. Because, though we waved at the truck crew many times, our conversation had always lingered around the shabbiness and immoral and shadowy character these people are said to have. We were ashamed of ourselves and soon as if to make secret amends everyone had something good to say about the truck drivers in general and our saviour in specific. Like how they traversed long distances to reach goods for people in far flung areas and how they helped fellow travellers on road and how their duty sent them far from home and hearth.
This incident was the only ‘happening’ for us in the whole journey and it made me wise to look the other side of any person before evaluating him or her. Appearances and general views may be deceptive.

Life (1988)

All through childhood
We were in a playing mood

In the youth
Full of Spirits

But as Youth was gone
There was a lot to be done

And as old age came
To take its place
There was no more grace

The sins and untruths of Life
Played before the weary eyes
And suddenly, we were as poor as church mice

At the end of the Yellowing meadows
Nobody was there except for one’s shadow
The painful countdown
Came to an end by Sundown

Death came at last And they called me Late


Their eyes met
Nothing was spelt
Yet, something was said
Their minds were read

They had parted
They felt it was forced
Something brought them again close
A bond which was not to be loose

The cold wind whistled by
Thought of days gone by
Leaves fluttered past
Remembering their meeting last

They thought they understood each other
But there was a mistake
Now they understood
That their bond was not fake

The Sun shined from the clouds
On the once again happy couple