Two Green Bottles

July 31, 2010


Whenever I recall, I think of these two persons at a time.

There was no break in their routine. Every single day they would sit on a bench. This bench was made of a squat boulder wall, which also served as a siding of a bridge. Both used to wear black oily jackets. In summer and rainy season, both would be sitting under umbrellas and in winter under mufflers.  That is all that was similar about them.

There is this myth that Saint Dnyaneshwar made a wall walk. The wall carried Dnyaneshwar, his brothers and sister to Saint Changdev who had arrived riding on a tiger. The townspeople used to say that these two will one day definitely make that wall walk.

Ajit used to wear a tall black Turki cap with tail, and Krishna a brown one. It was very difficult to make out the exact colors of their caps; just like their weathered jackets could not be called black.

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Ajit’s cap, his short pajamas and his chaste Urdu were the only indications of his antecedents. Otherwise, he was just Ajit for everybody, even we kids. The cine-star Ajit was not famous then. Everybody rightly wondered whether this was his real name or his nickname. Ajit was always adored by us kids. He had a handheld Bhonga or horn in the beginning and that he used to advertise the new release of movies. There was but one theater in the town and Ajit was its spokesperson. The way he advertised made a third-rate movie a super hit; and third grade movies only made it to the town. First grade movies used to be shown at district place, for which people used to hire taxis and would make it a two-day outing at the cost of relatives in district place. The heroes then were Mahipal, Ranjan, Kamran, villains Tiwari or K N Sing and heroines I can’t remember. I remember only the heroes and villains because that was the core stuff of Ajit’s advertisement. No sooner than we used to hear ‘Suniye, Suniye, Suniye…’ through Ajit’s horn, we used to dump whatever we had in our hands and run to join him. Not that we grasped everything of his flawless Urdu and Shairy, but he always made us float into the dreams along with him with his description of the mythology, the history, the jungles or the fight sequences. If the movie was (supposed to be) a super hit there would be a poster board carrier cart following him. Much later, he started distributing printed hand bills and sold the movie song booklets while advertising. The first color pamphlet he distributed was that of Dev Anand/ Guru Datt’s CID. This I had treasured for many years, keeping it hidden from elders.

We used to follow him throughout his kilometer long tour in our area. He used to enjoy our company and cheers but would be commercially least interested in us, because none of us would ever be allowed or actually make it to the theatre to watch a movie. Elders then watched movies covering their faces. He would distribute leaflets to elderly people, and personally ask them to watch the movie he was advertising without fail.

Once he was through with his routine, he would then sit with Krishna on the wall.

He had grown up sons, but he was not satisfied with what they had planned for the  future. 

The loud speakers arrived and Ajit had to advertise while riding in a Rikshaw. But one could see that he had lost interest in this changed way of working. May be he liked children, missed his fan-following and people contact more than the easy rickshaw ride.

He faded away from the advertising scene unannounced. Before that, succumbing to my pressure, he had taken me one day to movie operator’s cabin and handed me a number of cut pieces of films before he disappeared for good.

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Krishna used to sell Chivda. He had a cubical Chivda container with glass walls, the one and only such container in town and as such a matter of attention. He never went on selling sprees, but always used to sit at one place – the wall. People knew they could find him there and he knew people would come to him. I remember him for his meticulous onion, corriander and lime shredding, methodically preparing the paper cones and his concentration while assembling and delivering the final product.

The taste of his Chivda was awesome. We were not allowed to buy from him in retail and  many children used to loiter around his Chivda cube estimating how much he must have sold today. None the less, he would not leave until his cube was totally sold out. His pastime was smoking Bidi or making Chivda cones from waste newspapers, if there were no customers.

If I made a lot of noise about Krishna’s Chivda and how deprived and unhealthy I was without it, I would be allowed to buy it from his house directly when it was being prepared, if it did not reek of Bidi, but never from the street. As such, the rule was that if you wanted Chivda today, you should have made a fuss about it yesterday. It required a day’s planning.

Krishna had a home cum his industrial kitchen very near to our house. I clearly remember my first visit to his house. There was a big Lord Krishna’s calendar on one of the walls. I was quite wonderstruck at his specially handcrafted wood stove, an elaborate chimney, the enormous sizes of his frying pans and most importantly an Amla tree full of fruits that had coyly entered into his one room house. It was playfully touching and talking to me. Instead of buying Chivda, I had bought Amlas from him since the tree was too persuasive (and Grandma had said that this was stupid buy, because we had a fruiting and giant Amla tree in our own court-yard).

In his house, I would always be greeted by Krishna’s wife. Grandma knew her very well and had a soft corner towards her. Krishna had no children of his own. The Amla tree was so fascinating that I started visiting Krishna’s house quite often. However, this raised a doubt whether I went there for free issue Chivda or Amlas and was promptly stopped from visiting Krishna’s house. But Krishna’s wife had grown fond of me and started visiting our place if I did not. Flustered, Grandma allowed me to go there when I felt like. The difficulties she was facing in running the household were quite visible in her tattered clothes, the flimsy house devoid of any normal household goods and everything else. But the affection and friendliness she showed towards me was simply divine. I do not recollect what we talked, but we used to chat for long time. Grandma then started calling her as a guest in most of the gatherings or feasts our family had. When Grandma guessed that she was ashamed of her clothes, she started presenting her a Sari and clothes for Krishna at every such occasion on one pretext or other. Further all our old newspapers and magazines started finding their way to Krishna’s place.

Years later I learned that Krishna had a love marriage and his wife had eloped with him to get married. She never looked like an eloping person. She was very religious, frail, soft and child-like. Krishna’s in-laws were a wealthy family and Krishna was quite old compared to his wife. I always wonder from where she got this courage to run away and decide to spend life with this small time business person.

Because of his smoking, Krishna developed tuberculosis and died early. His wife went somewhere shortly after that.

Ajit stopped his errands sometime after Krishna expired

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What Krishna and Ajit shared on that wall is a mystery for me. Did they mutely discuss Work? Destiny? Family? Day to-day difficulties in living life? Movies? Their religions were different and there was no similarity in their vocations. I do not remember to have seen Ajit eating Chivda or sharing Bidi with Krishna. It was not the only resting place Ajit could have availed; there were so many others. Krishna could also have used another place. Why did they choose to share the wall?

May be they had deliberately and wisely chosen the place and made sure that they will always be remembered sitting on that wall – like the rhyming two green bottles that fell at a time.

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4 Responses to “Two Green Bottles”

  1. Ranjeet Elkunchwar Says:

    Nice post. Again, very vivid and lucid depictions of the years long gone. I really like the way you were as a kid; making excuses to get something you wanted. I wonder if I can remember any of my own idiosyncrasies! Which is what makes the following my pick … If I made a lot of noise about Krishna’s Chivda and how deprived and unhealthy I was without it.

    I would have been tempted to call it “Kutta”. But I guess it isn’t the wall you were talking about, it is the place where the bottles clanged, and rhymed 🙂


  2. I agree with Ranjeet; very nice portrait of the persons involved and the socio-economic conditions prevalent then. The days you often talk of in your anecdotes seem so simple yet mesmerising! More reason for pursuing and developing a time machine 🙂 I feel that these characters too were typical and unique of the times. Also, perfect title to the post!

  3. Vidya Murali Says:

    Great detailing and chatacter study


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