Sightings

Destiny Gallops

The seamless co-existence of life in all its beauty, pace, strata, speed and such else, needs to be experienced to be understood. Each of us has our own context. And each city has a culture that brings the context alive.

Take Mumbai for instance. The seamelessness gets a new meaning and definition. In the living. In the people. Here is an example, that happened to me. you must not miss.

And on the roads too. Take for instance, this scene. On LBS Marg at 7.30 AM. A raod where big trucks, sleek cars, jazzy SUVs and simple automobiles jostle for space.

And here is another such vehicle.


Cusioned seats. High rise. A grille work that would put Land Rover to shame. Head rests. Number plates. A driver. And a passenger. And a branding of Naseeb Santro! ( Naseeb means Destiny). And of course, Santro stands…. hmm… for Korean !

And as the vehicle moves on, it acquires the distinct disdain for other vehicles on the road. Very much like an foreign SUV ! Nobody honks. Far too less even give it a second look, as they take the trouble of veering out of the way.


It was but logical to do the same. And the reason became apparent. As the signal turned red, the horse power became clearly visible. With red feathers to adorn their forehead, the horses were indeed powering this SUV away !

Some destiny indeed.

Wings

From afar we see many couples taking a boat ride in the middle of the Kodai lake. And it seems so romantic. So to speak. We follow the crowd. And engage a boat too. For half an hour. A ‘pedal boat’ from TTDC (Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation). And we set off.

As we reach close to the middle of the lake, we realise that all the pedaling is energy draining. And that it isnt quite the ‘romantic experience’ that it seemed from the banks. We huff and puff. And pedal. To get to somewhere quiet. In the lake that is.

We are quick to realise that

a. Pedaling this contraption is not a walk in the woods.
b. ‘Quiet’ spaces are non existent in the lake. (Not that we have any dramatic things ‘to do’ in mind..Just saying. )

And whenever a boat passes by, we see similar drained out faces. And they peer into our boat. And we peer into theirs. Drawing energy from the fact that folks in the other boat are ‘suffering’ as well.

To keep the mind occupied, we strike conversation. Between us. For starters, we wonder why in Gods name, does this boat have to be in the ‘shape of a swan’ ! And that too in pink.

And look around to find ones in deep green, bright orange. et al. Yellow swans with blue beaks. Blue swans with black beaks.

And i quietly slip a prayer of thanks.

One such boat comes close. Another couple. The man is sweating. Huffing. Puffing. All at the same time.‘Tommy’ his shirt says. The lady is no different. She is on the ‘huff-puff ‘ mode too. Her T-shirt says ‘GAS’ or ‘GAP’. ( i am not sure )

They look at us. We look at them’. And the woman says, ‘look their boat has broken wings’. And i look around. To find that there are ‘wings’ to all boats. Wings of a swan. Ofcourse. Plastic. Coloured. Attachments with ‘artistic’ value.


And also find that in our boat, one wing is absent. Puffing and huffing, i wonder, how i missed seeing that we were one wing less. And seem to think that there is a distinct glee in the other couple now.

There we are. In the middle of the lake. The lovely weather above. Pedals beneath. Momentarily thinking of the wing that isnt there. On a boat that doesnt need it. The other couple pass us. They smile. And they keep staring at where the wing should have been.

And it seems to give them some topic for conversation. And some energy too. For their winged boat gathers new found speed. At least, i think so.

We are one wing less. We arent getting anywhere’ i say. And we stop.

We have a good laugh. We stop pedaling. We give our thigh muscles some rest. And soak in the lake and the weather. Boats with and without wings pass by. And we seem to think they are all giving us a ‘what a pity’ look.

While we just sit there with giggle and glee !

We decide to look for them. That couple. Who somehow lead us to a good time. We want to thank them.

I cant find them. They must have flown. They had wings, you see.

The Morning Meeting


Adjacent to where we live here in Mumbai, theres this new apartment complex that’s on its way up. And there is so much life to watch in a construction activity. ( just try watching one)

Different characters adorn the landscape. There are the engineering types. With helmets et al, who stand in a corner and bark. There are the supervisory types who speak both to the workmen and the engineers.

There are the workmen themselves and their wives. Carrying the load up those floors or heaving cement or doing whatever they are paid to do. And activity sees the towers climb up. All the time.

But, there is one group activity that takes place in the morning. And that is the ‘morning meeting’. (I see from the balcony far away from them, and i cant hear a thing of what they say. But looking through the camera’s lens i make my own dialogue. To their gestures and moves).

They sit, usually, in a single file. On those iron rods. And they always seem to be an engaged lot. Often there are the supervisors who seem to be doing all the talking. As the rest of them sip their tea. Or whatever.

Occasionally there are others who point to the building that’s coming up and say something. And then, you can see the supervisors talk for half an hour.

Around them bricks, steel, cement and such else.

Very often, I read my newspapers. with one eye on them and their meetings. Often times, their meetings are far more interesting than the news. For news doesn’t get beyond Swine Flu or dacoity or rape or recession. Or of Buchanan writing a book and every quaint dust particle in the neighbourhood fluttering a protest.

And so, i watch these meetings. One day a neighbour peeps out of his balcony. And sees me seeing them. He smiles at me. ‘Meetings eh !

I nod. And smile.

And then looks into his watch and says, ‘in half an hour, i will be at office. And there will be a meeting there and action replay. And i will be part of the drama’

I want to add..’Perhaps new Scene. Old plot. Same drama ! But he is in a hurry. He is gone. And i tell myself, poor man, he has to play his part. Soon.

And then i hear the missus shout, ‘aren’t you getting late for work‘ . And i look into my watch. And hurry for breakfast.

She spots the hurry. With hands on hips, she asks, ‘so you have a meeting today’. I think of the supervisors below. And let go of a sheepish smile.

Old plot, you see !

Rain Day Lessons

And so its been pouring its heart out. There are puddles on the road, wherever puddles are possible. And wherever not possible, puddles are created. For the road stands ‘washed away’ in bits and pieces.

The rain batters your windshield and your car’s wipers are working overtime. As you constantly hear your tyre finding a fresh pothole. You realise, that its been a wet night.

And then, out of nowhere, you see a thin slender post standing. In the middle of the road. You take this road daily. And you know this post is new. And as you near it, you realise that its a prop. A prop of a old rags and clothes, on an iron rod. Stuck into the road.


Jutting out of the road, almost like a natural formation. Something like a erupting jet stream from a broken underground pipe. ( ‘natural’ for a city dweller ) !!

For a brief moment you wonder who must have put this up. And why should they have done it. The rain continues to fall.

The car behind honks.

You move on. And in some distance a group of men, standing by the side of the road gesticulate. The rains pour on them as well. You realise that there is quite some water on the road. Not only that, there is a steady current, in the water that’s running under your wheels. Although, this is still the same road.

You realise that the men by the side of the road are attempting to guide you. They stand there. Showing you exactly where the potholes are. And you navigate. Looking at where they are pointing their hands. And in a few quick minutes you cross the stretch.

The rain continues to beat your windshield. With the same force with which it beats their back. You watch them through the rivulets of water that are sputtering off your side mirror.

The men have moved on to guide the car behind. Far beyond, the slender post with rags, is still standing.

And you wonder, how often you gladly suffer, so that someone else has it slightly easier. You hear the rain drops fall on the roof. Silence envelopes your mind.

And your soul as well.

Whizz Theory !

There. I stand close to the door of the train. There is one another gent standing right at the door. A polite request to have some more space to click a few snaps has just been met with a stern silence and a sterner look.
‘What audacity to ask. I came here, first’. The look seems to suggest.

The sun beats down the other side of the train. I keep this door open. And I stay here.

And watch. As everything whizzes by. Everybody whizzes by. Women walking to work. Men lazing around. And the other way. White fences of the Indian railways. An old man standing by a puddle.


Ducks going about whatever they do in water. Still lakes. Lakes that were. Stiller mountains. Far away songs. A revving engine. Old men beneath coconut trees. Children in the green fields. Barren lands. All of them whizz by.

An ‘Abandoned’ railway shed. Fences. Platforms. Station masters. Pictures of Laloo Prasad and a few others. Some green and red flag holding gent. All of them whizz by.



Everything whizzes by. In super speed. I keep clicking.

I wonder at the speed at which life whizzes by. And then, it strikes me. Actually, everything else stays. Its actually the train that i am in, whizzing by ! All else stays put. And just because i am on something that whizzes by, i think of all else as whizzing by !

‘Can this be some grand theory ?’ I wonder. ‘At least a corollary or whatever they call it?’ As i keep clicking. ‘Whizz theory’ I tell myself.. Or may be ‘the theory of the moving train!’

From somewhere, the missus turns up. She has just had her tea. She sights the camera in hand. “you are at it. Already?’

All other thoughts including the whizz theory whizz away! ‘hmm’ I say.

‘Whats on your mind’ she says.

And i think of the Whizz theory. I look at the watch. Its not even 7.00 am. Its way too early to start the day on that note. And tell her….

‘ Actually, i think hmm… actually, you know, i wonder why would the railways want to differentiate by more than 50 % between taking a bath and…’ as i click this picture.

She sees the writing on the wall! Face palms. And gets started. About me. My mind. About water. About conservation. About men. And habits.

I wonder where the conversation would have gone if i had started out with my whizz theory. I know for sure it would have gone somewhere.

I wonder..I wonder what i would do without her.

Footboarding

clicked at Madurai. Aug ’08

This is about a form of travel. Called ‘Footboard’ !

It principally involves having one leg…no. Perhaps one half of one toe on the footboard of a bus, and clutch any part of the bus with an intensity that would do a lizard in a earthquake ridden building, proud. Just hold on.

And gather all the strength from wherever. And of course, you are not alone. There are many others that are going shoulder to shoulder, toe-to-toe with you. Actually, that should be ‘any-body-part’ to ‘any-body-part’ with you !

And of course, there are accidents. Life and limb are lost.

And Tamil movies have eulogised this sequence as one where ‘love blossoms’ ! As the heroine exchanges love struck glances from inside the bus, and the hero stays suspended in air. The movies of course, don’t show the suspension-in-thin-air as a harbinger of what awaits the hero after the marriage. Of course !

You have had many classmates in college doing this routine. Every single day, commuting to college and back. Looking for the most crowded of the buses. To demonstrate how much they can stay suspended!

They ridicule you. For you would never do it. Telling you that you dont have enough courage. You know deep within, that they perhaps are true.

clicked in a village in TN. June ’09

And you meet some of them. Many years later, long after they married. To women that didn’t travel with them in those crowded buses. They are a balded. Have children. They earn a good living. And speak of ‘those’ days with affection riddled nostalgia !

And say. ‘We were plain lucky to survive.’ And one of them casually lets go. “As a matter of fact i couldnt do much with the meagre money my dad made. Life had to be lived. Heroism was the cloak to sport’.

You wince.

He smiles. And goes on. ‘See it made chaps like you envy us !’

You smile a weak smile. And think of your the parent lottery you won when you were born. To the folks that you were born to.

And you see change all around.

And you look at the buses now. And find that some sport a fresh tilt to them. Even now. And now you know, that the tilt has many reasons. Wooing was one. Just one. ”Living'” was the big one that you didn’t think of. Back then.

Living. Sometimes, at the expense of life.

Drives. Part – II

Read Part – I here

Its morning. Meenakshi temple at Madurai. We stand outside in the queue. There is a puja on, inside. And we are in the queue. And i watch this man, with a giant ‘fan’ made of peacock feathers.

With one sweeping movement of his old frail hands holding the giant fan, he directs some still air onto sweat drenched devotees.

Young. Old. Rich. Poor. Everybody. For a brief, a very brief moment, are comforted with that muscle powered gust. And i watch. As i have been watching him ever since i was a small kid.

His frail frame gives away the fact that he has kept at ‘fanning’ for a long time. And he keeps at it. Even when nobody was watching. Even when nobody specifically asked for it. His body is frailer. The man himself has become older. The fan, though, with peacock feathers et al is the same.

What must drive the likes of this old man? I don’t know. He doesn’t give a clue.


Its another morning. Madurai. And i walk by this sugarcane juice machine. Its too early for the familiar sugarcane juice vendor. But he will be in. Soon.

To stow in the sugarcane, and give that wheel a strong twist, arching every sinew and causing his biceps to bulge. And of course, some there would be some fresh juice for thirsty throats ! My brother has been a regular here. For 20 plus years.

Ever since the price of sugarcane juice was Re. 1/-. In 20 odd years, the price of sugarcane juice has moved by all of 6 rupees. And the chap is still at it. At the same roadside. Sugarcane. With the same Wheel. And all.

He gives you a good glass full. His glasses are clean. He does not overcharge. He adds that dash of ginger and cuts open those giant ice cubes. To be just right for the juice that you are drinking. Every single time, with a perfection of a 6 sigma factory ! For 20 plus years. Modern day corporate world will dub him strange names.

Thats immaterial. For he is a happy man.

What is material to this post is this : What drives this man? I don’t know. The wheel doesn’t give a clue.

And then these last lines on the memorial rush back to the mind. ‘his love of justice and his kindly heart endeared him to all classes of the community. and thus he bore without abuse, the grand old name of Gentleman’.

There is an elegance in a pioneers work. And theres another elegance in the lives of ordinary men and women. Who go about living this ‘one life’.

And i think. Of that giant peacock fan. And that wheel. And wonder. About life. People. Men. And their drives.

Drives – 1


Its evening. And on the banks of the lake, in Kodai, i spot this memorial structure. In the name of Sir Vere Henry Levince Baronet.

‘ I haven’t heard of that name before’. I think. And so, whats written at the base of the memorial perks my eyes. And i peer through the evening dusk. And read. ( and reproduce from the photograph with minor punctuation changes)

“In memory of Sir Vere Henry Levince Baronet of Knockdrin Castle, Westeath, Ireland and formerly of the Madras Civil Service, born 26th Nov 1819, died at Madras 22nd March 1885

After a long service in the districts of Tinnevely and Madura where he won the sincere respect and affection of the people, he settled in 1867 at Kodaikanal and lived at Panmbar house until within a few weeks of his death.

To him are due nearly all the improvements which this settlement possesses

A true friend to the poor, no one however humble appealed to him in vain, while his upright character, his love of justice and his kindly heart endeared him to all classes of the community European and native. And thus he bore without abuse, the grand old name of Gentleman.”

I shake my head in disbelief and think that he must have been some man. I wonder, how it must have been in the early part of the 18th century. To travel all the way from Ireland. Set up base here. Work in Madurai and Tirunelveli. And the, trek all the way up into the Kodai hills and live there for many years

( It took us all of metalled roads, a Japanese engine, Italian tyres and Indian ingenuity and two hours to reach this place. I shudder to think of the 1845 effort !!)

The disbelief stays. What must have driven the likes of Sir Vere Henry Levince Baronet ? I don’t know.

His memorial inscriptions are carved in stone. And don’t bother answering that question.


Inconvenience Regrated !

Did you know Kodak retired Kodachrome. Their iconic film.

Do you remember the time….When a clicking a snap was a big thing. When you had to go buy a film ( after ensuring it was original & make a choice between the 24 snaps or 36 snaps variety). And load it without exposing it to light.

And click with great care. Remove with care. Go to a store to have it printed. For some Rs.6/- for one snap ! Seems to have been in the stone age. If i were to apply that costing to the randomness of my clicks with the digital camera, well, i could have bought myself something….!

But technology helps me indulge. Digital technology emboldens. To click as many snaps as i want. Like looking at signboards and spotting mistakes. As though, i cried a meaningful English lullaby, all by myself when i was born !

And as i look at each of the snaps below, i thank God for spellchecker. And get reminded of good friends like Ganesh. Who call me up all the way from Bangalore when i make ‘errors’ ! ( like writing ‘he was quiet impressed’ ) !

So here are a few that i spotted in Kodaikanal. People have their quirks. And this is one of mine, to look at signboards !

Please bear with me & take a look !





So there. That’s that.

No more on signboards. ( For sometime, ok). I promise. Regular writing will resume soon.
Ok. Inconvenience is….Here’s one more to state that more convincingly. One that i spotted on JVLR, Mumbai. Yesterday !

3 boys and many potholes


7.40 AM. Mumbai

Three boys. All seemingly of different age groups stare at me through the windshield. In between their animated chatter. Two of them in football costume.

The goods van in which they travel hits a pot hole. And another. In a short while my tyres hit the same potholes. I wince. And then let out a yelp as the spine feels the shock offered by the pothole.

I look ahead at the boys. They don’t seem to bother. With all of steel flooring of a good vehicle for a seat, and a metal ledge as a support to hang legs…well.. can be pretty painful. Especially, given the size and strategic battlefield like location of these potholes.

I look at the boys ahead. They seem to be discussing something of importance. I cant fathom what. More importantly, i cant fathom how such potholes dont evoke a flicker of the eyelid!

They smile. They chatter. The one boy that sits on the ledge holds a string that hangs from the roof. Occasionally. Almost by reflex. That’s the only sign that the goods carrier didn’t have superior shock absorbers.

And as each pothole approaches, my heart skips a beat. Most for them. Part for me. The goods carrier hits the pothole. They don’t flinch. And when it comes to my turn, it hurts.

Is it age? Is it youthful exuberance? Is it the joy of company? Is it passion ? Is it football ? Is it joy? Is it holiday season?. Hypotheses galore !

I wonder how it would be to preserve this spirit for a lifetime. To face life’s potholes. And they go their way. In some time i stop. But seems that i have taken them along with me. That moment. The car. The joy of living in the moment.

I don’t know if they made it as ‘winners’ or ‘losers’ in their football game. But they sure did make my day.