I was playing with this picture and look what hue setting can do to a digital photograph:

Just try to increase the hue setting by +/- 5 at a time and see what results you get. Happy editing!!

Sandals

April 15, 2011


All the family members agreed amongst themselves that I needed Chappals. The valedictory function for primary school was looming at large.

My entire childhood until then was spent running in thorns, nails, mud, water, grass, stones, creatures and insects. Nobody around me- my relatives or friends – really cared for the look of my body parts called feet.  When alone, or when the classes were boring, our favorite pastime used to be picking out from feet those foreign objects or the scales that looked like a second rhino skin. Winters used to be horrible. Although I was forced to dip the feet in lukewarm Sol (Amsul/Goa butter), the next day the feet would be full of scale again and full of blood oozing out of the cracks. But I did not care. Footwear was an expensive luxury. Not that I did not try at Grandpa’s pump shoes, but they must have been a size twelve, difficult to even carry for single step.

Along with the fourth standard exam we had appeared for a surprise scholarship exam. Grandpa Anna and Granny Tai were a touch too confident that I would bag the scholarship. They had also hatched a plan to buy a rubber slipper for me, which was a novelty and fashion those days, so that I look presentable at the function. I had overheard their open door conference, wherein the tempo was being built around the possible prize I might secure.

On a sunny Sunday, I set out with Anna, holding his walking stick, in search of suitable footwear. We stopped innumerable times. Whoever met us came to know that I was going to have new footwear. Most of them pleaded to Anna that it was really not necessary. My heart bits skipped during every such discussion, because it revolved around the result of scholarship exams. I inquired as to why we could not postpone the purchase until the results were out. But he wanted me to look good at any cost. We scavenged through a number of road side leather shops. Nobody had a tailor made kids’ footwear. All the artisans promised that if we order, they can deliver a made-to-order one. But the price was prohibitive. Finally we arrived at a lane of Sindhi shops that had come up recently where the rubber slippers were hanging from the ropes everywhere.  Thankfully, these slippers also were above size seven, one and a half times oversized. We ended up buying potatoes and came back home with a sack on my shoulders hung over Anna’s walking stick.

Next day, Anna took me to my Parent’s town where a fare was on. Anna requested my father to urgently find footwear for me…. Repeat of the same story. I accompany my father, he tells everybody why I needed footwear, I skip beats, we do not find anything and finally return home with a sack of onions on my shoulder.

My mother viewed the proceedings for a day and then requested my father to let go the purchase, since I was getting nervous. My father then said that I should not worry about the cost and announced that he had already placed an order for a chappal with a vendor and I should go and give measurements. So, I went.

Looking at me, the vendor said,

“Chappal is no good. I shall sew a belt at the back so that the chappals do not slip when you walk”

I shrugged and said, “Uncle, you are free to do whatever you think is fine for me.”

He looked quizzically at me, took measurement on a paper and said,

“Lighten up, this is your first chappal, right? I am going to use the best quality leather. What color do you want your chappals? Sandals?”

I did not lighten up, but said, “Red should be fine.”

“Men’s sandals do not look good in red. I don’t have red leather.”

“But I need red.”

“As you please.” He closed the topic.

He had not committed a date for delivery. I was on vacation, had no other business; therefore I visited this leather shop every day. When there was no progress for a few days, first my father and then Grandfather accompanied me to the shop. As if by magic, the next day, he showed me the rough cut. But that was all. Anna had to visit a few more times and tell the sandal-smith the urgency involved before the final trial piece was ready. It was around size Seven, one and a half times oversized.  When I complained, the vendor said,

“That is not for you to decide. Your father has ordered this size, so that you can wear it for a year more… And there is this belt at the back. What difference it makes?”

It was red, but inked red on black. Funny red! But it was my choice and I could not protest. For added value, it had horse shoe on its heel and another steel piece at the toe.

“This will stretch its life further.” He said.

I tried it. Neither I could walk straight, nor could I walk in one plane. The Sandals were biting the feet at several places and the leather was extremely stiff. They were terribly noisy because of the horse shoes. The heavy duty horse shoe nails had pierced the sole right through and were worse than thorns. In all, my feet, gait and walk appeared funnier with the sandals than they actually were.

“You want them or no?”

“Definitely not,” I said and ran home.

But in the evening, my father paid the dues, collected them and brought home the packet while returning from duty. He promptly informed Anna that his responsibility was over.

“Try it,” he said, “And what is this stupid color you have selected? We will have to paint them black ones the function is over.”

“I have tried and they are fine,” I had to say, bowing to him and to the fate.

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The function was in Hindi school. This was the first time I was visiting this building. The auditorium was quite oppressive with all the students filled to the brim. I was glad that the function was on a working day and none of my family members could attend it. I was escorted by Anna’s friend.

“What is that you are holding on to your chest?” He asked.

“My sandals,” I said.

“Sandals? Let me have a look.”

I had to wear those and parade in front of him.

“What a fine craftsmanship and antique design…Not from our town, definitely…. How I have longed for such footwear.”

He introduced me to his son Kanti, who was in the same boat as I was. He was from Hindi school, same fourth standard as I was. We established an instant rapport when we both insisted to his father that we sit at the very back. Here was a huge gathering from all schools, ours the Marathi, the Urdu and the Hindi; also the co-ed schools and the girls’ school.

The results were announced. As expected, I did not receive any mention in the list. The scholarship went to a girl student from Girl’s school. Further she got a prize for bagging 100/100 in maths. In the end, we were called to receive a bouquet for we had topped the Marathi the Hindi school respectively. We went, collected the bouquets and were happy that something came our way.

The function over, we started walking back and then I remembered about my sandals. I had deposited them with Kanti’s father while I went to collect the bouquet. He did not remember any such a thing.

We went back and waited until every boy and girl left the premises and then took a thorough look at every nook and corner. Kanti’s father then went to the organizers and told them about my sandals. They said they will spread the news, it was a small town and nobody can hide a new sandal. Kanti’s father asked us to go home and said he would wait a little longer to see if somebody was honest and returned the sandals.

On our way back, I and Kanti were worriedly discussing the Girl who had scored more than us. We were sure that she will be in our class in the intermediate school, since there was only one school in town. We decided then and there that we will not allow her to top once she is in our school. Still, if she tops, then?….well, we had no answer.

Although they were obscene and therefore distinguishable, the thief did hide those Sandals well. They could not be traced. Although I prayed inwardly that the Sandals may never be found, I, Kanti and his father kept a strict vigil on each and every walking and parked footwear in the town for a year or so, but to no avail.

Anna was quite flustered when he knew about the lost sandals, not so much about my performance, but he took it well in the end, when Tai said that they were utterly unlucky for me and it was good riddance.

Anna did not force me to wear footwear afterwards. Later on, I myself requested for it when I was ready for high school. There was no problem having thick skin over delicate skin or some thorns embedded for spice; actually it was better than constantly worrying about the price of the Sandals.

Delivery Boy

March 15, 2011


We had many relatives and they had many relatives.

There were a couple of traditions.

First, all the children would complete the elementary, primary and middle schooling at our place no matter what their relation was with my grandfather Anna. Those desirous of high schooling would go to the district place Yavatmal, with another grandfather. If the pupil survived this phase, first two college years (Inter as the exam was called then) would be completed at Nagpur at yet another grandfather. If you wanted still more, you would be shipped to Varanasi. My grandfather himself as also his brothers were all from Benares School. So was in the next generation. This tradition ended with my generation, around 1950’s since there were a few high schools and colleges opening at various towns, one started by my own grandfather. Girls in the family usually did not survive beyond Yavatmal phase and declared eligible for marriage. I see such a bonding between my uncles and aunts because of this tradition. Such closeness is seldom seen in the other families. When they meet, they quickly go back to the memories of their school days, just stop thinking about the present tense or what is happening around them this very moment. What a camaraderie!

The second tradition was that all the pregnancies and deliveries, at least the first few of all the newly weds, would take place under supervision of my grandmother Tai, in our house. We had a special delivery room reserved for this purpose, may be because Tai herself had nine living children and her husband had fourteen brothers and sisters all together. Like it was common in other households too, sometimes the delivery room had two beds – one for the earlier generation and one for the next, mother and daughter or daughter in law and mother in law at the same time.

No wonder Tai was bent upon training me as a Delivery Boy. As if the school exams were not sufficient, this additional training and responsibility was simply too much when entrusted to me. Not that I could complain, because nobody could complain when Tai requested with a sweet in her hand and a sweet in her phonetics.

The aunt in question was to deliver in June-July. For that matter, most of the marriages and deliveries those days took place in this June-July season for the obvious reasons that I would understand later in my life. This aunt was dear to me. Instead of arriving a month in advance of the D-Day, she wrote a letter to my grandpa that she would arrive a good three months before.

“Why so early?” was my immediate question to Tai. “While she went with her husband, did I not tell you that she would not stay there? Why did you send her in the first place?”

“This is not in your hands, dear. Only Gods decide when she will deliver.”

“I had told you not to send her. Did I not cry that time? And did you not? You would not listen. Now, when I have settled with myself that she is not ‘from this house’, here she comes again in seven eight months to stay for six months? You people are insane.”

“Guard your voice and language.  There is nobody in this house except you and me. I do not even talk to anybody for days on. What difference it makes to you if she stays for a few months or years? You have your room to yourself and keep quiet.”

“But I am learning to ride a bicycle. She always laughs at my mistakes. She always sends me to marketplace again and again.”

“Now, not us, but YOU are insane… I shall tell her not to tease or trouble you. Go pick her up from the bus stand.”

My guess was correct. As soon as she arrived, she put her bags in my room and threw me out with all of my belongings. This was her room before she went with her husband. So what?

I tried not to come back from school in time that day. But with the onset of the darkness, my courage failed and I had to return. What I saw was normal. Both Tai and her daughter were crying together. They had started crying in the morning as I remembered, and the scene was still not over.

“Food.” I yelled.

“Under the steel basket, in the kitchen.” Aunt replied. She was taking charge of our house?

But what a snack! The same I had missed for seven-eight months. Aunty’s favourite too, but never cooked by Tai after aunty went to her husband. At least one plus mark for her arrival.

Come evening the next day, my friend Nana arrived to teach me the bicycle. This was everyday routine these days. Many of my friends had learnt to ride bicycles on their own. However, Tai had not liked the idea in the first place, although I had advocated a several advantages to her. She had agreed on a few conditions only when I had told her how I felt inferior in comparison to other friends. These were agreed as follows:

– Thou shall not learn or ride it unless I supervise you.

– Thou shall not fall down or get injured.

– Thou shall learn under an accomplished teacher.

– Thou shall not ask for a new bicycle as soon as you learn to ride.

I agreed to everything, because none had bicycles those days and they were available on rent any way. Tai would sit out and curse her destiny the whole hour when I was practicing. She now handed this responsibility to Aunty. Aunty had no pastime anyway and was whiling her time away in gossip with Tai or her or Tai’s friends. Nana had instructed me not to look at her and concentrate on learning. He would be holding the cycle carrier while I treaded on Half Pedal. One day, however, Aunty started calling me loudly to stop, while I was riding. I did but fell down, injured my knee and got angry as to why she stopped me. She beckoned me to her and handed out a one paisa coin. When I enquired why, she said that I had successfully passed bicycle rider’s test. Nana came then from a distance laughing and said that I was riding on my own the whole evening and he was just pretending to help me as he was told by Aunty. The paisa was my prize for the graduation. “I was carrying it with me all these days. You took a long time. But that is fair, because even I do not know how to ride a bicycle” Indicating her fat stomach, she said, “Now I am relieved. You can rush to the hospital on bicycle if there is an emergency.”

The emergency arrived like other emergencies in early rainy season, riding on a dark night, when it was raining and lightening cats and dogs. In the beginning, Tai asked me to go and call neighboring women. Nobody came – not even opened their doors for me. This done, she started with the usual stuff that I am a grown up, responsible person and it is time to show my true character. I knew when she uttered such words. I told her to just speak out my sentence. Aunty had started to whimper by now. Simultaneously, she was trying to laugh in between and her eyes were as if pleading with me. I had no escape.

My umbrella was not functional, as usual. Tai readied the lantern. When she saw the state of the umbrella, she quickly brought a folded blanket for me to done, covering my head and back. ‘Ask for Kamal. Ask for Kamal there, the nurse. Tell her the utensil has broken.’

I started my long journey to the hospital. I was cursing all the Aunts who came to trouble their nephews, all the husbands who married wives, all the husbands who dumped their wives at their in-laws, the rain god, the mud god, my family for not providing me chappals or sandals, the people who thrust unnecessary responsibilities on kids like me, the neighboring lady who always came to us in the morning and never went unless she had downed cups of Tai’s tea, the lady who always said that my Aunty was her daughter, not Tai’s, their husbands who were hiding in their houses when I, a little, helpless, poor and what not kid was trotting to the godforsaken hospital.

Thanks to the anger and my loud cursing, I reached the hospital quickly than I had expected. It was totally deserted. I wondered if anybody except ghosts occupies that building at all. But there on the floor, was a man sleeping soundly under his rug. I had to create a lot of noise and throw stones that were hard to find in the mud before the watchman in the verandah finally woke up.

I asked for Kamal, he said ‘She is in Nurses’ Quarters, not here’ and quickly covered his face again. This time I increased the size of stones and he had to oblige, but not before telling me that I am the devil incarnate’s son. So be it.

We went to Kamal’s quarter. The watchman knocked the door only once when she came out running as if she had telepathically understood what the scene was.  She inquired what was the ‘mother’s name’ while packing her case, to which I blurted out my mother’s, then Tai’s. She laughed and said she knows who the ‘mother’ was any way since she knew the dates by heart. She requested the watchman to go with us. He promptly refused.

So it was me, the lantern and Kamal walking, back to house in that idiotic rain and thunder. She was saying something soothing and assuring that I did not understand. It was an alien language. But it felt good. She said she knew me, had seen me in the house when she had come to check up Aunty earlier on. Then she said that I shall have to work throughout the night and help her. I said I am already sleepy.

But I had to help.

Warm water cold water towels towels jug scissors this that grace of god light a lamp sit outside old clothes coal at least call somebody else ginger turmeric difficult difficult telegram tomorrow write the correct time but where is sweater ok now muffler sweets medicines dispose rubbish and chord god is great nice kid tea now…..

It went on and on with background music from Aunty. I did not know when I slept of exhaustion, but it was daybreak. Tai woke me up quite late in the morning.

“What?”

“Get up Dada, you have a little brother now,” Said Tai.

“I hate him and Aunty and You.”

‘That’s fine, but why not have a look first?”

I opened my eyes. Tai had held a bundle very close to my face. Must have been sleeping, this thing, because it had it’s eyes permanently closed and like old men.

“This is the ugliest of my brothers.” I said, “And why so red-faced?” Aunty laughed heartily in the distance.

By afternoon, cables were sent to relatives. Neighbors started arriving to greet. People praised Aunty for her grit, patience, courage and so many things that were and were not required in delivering the baby.

I inquired if I can have a few days off from school. Tai refused. In the days to come, the house was full of relatives. Aunty’s husband had come, so had Grandpa. They kept coming, there were a lot of helping hands and most of them conveniently forgot that I was also a member of the house. I was convinced that Kamal was the one who was the real hero and not Aunty and we two smiled at each other when somebody praised Aunty in our presence.

The after-months were not bad because then the ‘bundle’ started to look like a human incarnate, started recognizing me, and because Tai cooked a different sweet almost every day.

Aunty departed at last with her husband. Like others, he also did not recognize anybody else’s efforts in delivering the baby. Further he asked what we were to present to the new kid on the block. I handed over to him my only saving, the one paisa coin that Aunty had given to me on my graduation. ‘That is all?’ he asked cynically.

Aunty presented a nice Saree to Kamal and offered a hug for me while promising to come back at the earliest opportunity. I kept distance. Who would welcome the annual, mandatory responsibility?

Kamal  and I went  along well until she was in our town. Why we would not? Because we quickly understood that rainy seasons and this delivery business was not the exceptional but a regular feature. I had lost interest from the very first, once I knew the labour involved in it, but Kamal and Tai used to be enthusiastic every year for the new arrival as if it was their first.

Pama And Her Grandparents

January 3, 2011


Pama was very very bubbly and just would not sit at one place neither stop giggling all the time. She used to live a few farms away from our house, used to come to our place for any or no reason and fill the house with her raindrops-like laughter. You could hear her approaching from a kilometer away. She was interested in everything and no subject was taboo for her. As such, our whole house used to welcome her wholeheartedly and our friendship was always on even terms although she was quite older than me and always clad in full nine yard Sarees whereas I had no idea about why clothes are worn.

If you went to her house, the scene used to be a contrast. Everybody used to keep mum most of the times or speak only in hushed tones. Giggle and laughter was out of question. Her grandfather was in late seventies and a bit off-center. He used to beg for charcoals from us. Ones he had one, he used to find a wall or any flat surface and start writing that ‘My wife is not faithful. I am bonded in my house. Please Help Me.’ Whenever you went to their house the first question somebody would ask was ‘Who gave him the charcoal today?’ My friends and I were sane and nobody helped him with writing material. But he would find somebody, a passerby to lend him something to write. As days passed he went out of control, used to slip out of the house and find public places to write his graffiti. He learnt to draw pictures with his messages. But he was alright with us kids, always smiled happily at anybody, watched us play and ate food in any house that came in his way, that is, until Pama’s father sent somebody and he was dragged home.

Her grandmother, why, the entire house, would therefore always be on edge. My grandma Tai had told me that her grandfather did not like moving to our town, that is why he had chosen this method of harassing the relatives. But there must have been something else too, otherwise why Pama was a pampered girl in our house?

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It was a summer morning.

I was loitering around rooms when I heard Pama’s pretty noises.

‘Are you through with your morning chores?’

‘Not yet,’ I said.

She caught me by shoulders. Giggling, she told my grandma that she is taking me to the well for a good bath. I tried to escape, but was not successful. Laughing, we went to the well. She undressed me totally, said, ‘Oh, big man now’ and started to lift the water by pail.

‘You too,’ I said and she hurled a handful of water. I shivered. The water was quite cold but pleasing.

No sooner than she lifted a pail, she was emptying it on me, saying in loud laughter wash this now, wash that. In between, when she was busy lifting, I was smudging my body with mud. After a few buckets she noticed this, stood there with fists on her waist and gave me a stare of mock anger. I chuckled and she said that the bath is over, emptying the last bucket.

Once we were in the house, she dried me and said ‘You know something, we have fresh guavas on my tree. Let us go get them’

She took permission from Tai and off we went.

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Their house was quiet as usual. Her parents were not visible. I climbed up their guava tree and picked one. Her grandmother gave us a studied look, told her not to share the fruit and finish the Guava quickly.

‘It is vacation time, Grandma.’ She said, but obeyed her.

‘Have your bath now,’ Grandma said, ‘You have to go search your grandfather. He has disappeared again.’

‘You have not taken bath yet?’ I was amused. ‘Now my turn, to pail water. shall we go to the well?’

‘Shut up brute.’ She said, collected her clothes from the house and came out with untied hair. Her Grandma followed, against Pama’s tantrums made her tie a bun, and went back in. Their bamboo lattice bath was slightly away from the house. It had a big earthen water storage pot.

She gave me the clothes, asked me to stand guard and went in. Only minutes passed when she called me, asked me to come inside and pass a bucket of water from the pot. She had lathered her entire body and was standing there, in expectation, with closed eyes. I emptied a few buckets onto her and both laughed nervously but uncontrollably.

The noise was too much I think, because her grandmother came running from the house straight to the bath room, pushed me out and asked Pama to lock the door from inside. Then she took a good look at me and suddenly held my arm, grabbed a batten lying nearby and started beating me, shouting hoarsely ‘Stupid fellow, Stupid fellow’. Pama was crying loudly in the bath but did not come out. My pleas to stop beating went unheard.

Then something unexpected happened. Pama’s Grandfather appeared on the scene. As soon as he saw what was taking place, he came straight to his wife, took the batten from her hand and freed me. Then he lifted the batten like a sword and uttered just two words, ‘Should I?’

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I came back home dazed. I did not know what wrong I had committed. Tai asked me what was the matter, but I did not divulge. Pama was not allowed to wander around much after that day, particularly to our house. Pama’s parents did not know about this incidence as she told me.

Since our’s was a small town, I could not avoid visiting Pama’s home. I used to insist that I would go only if somebody elderly accompanied me. Her parents greeted me normally. But her grandma would always look at me with this chili gaze, even when I had elderly escorts and I would return exactly the same. Later, I would actually practice that stare before visiting their house. We exchanged no words.

Pama’s Grandfather was extra courteous to me that day onwards and I was only too happy to collect and lend him charcoals and colored chalk.

Both of these Grandparents died unceremoniously a few months after. No one grieved about their loss. Pity Pama’s giggles died permanently and she was not the same ever after.

Lizards are for ever

December 5, 2010


The mosquito nets arrived much later.

Before that, one had to get accustomed to the domestic lizards bungee jumping without cord straight in to your bed during wee hour of night, straight from the 30 feet high tiled roof. They would lie flat on the blanket or on their (and/or your) stomach with amused eyes as if nothing special had happened. While you watched with bated breath if it was dead or faking death, slowly they would start crawling to where your face was. If you were smart, you had already covered your face with the blanket. If you were not, you would shake the blanket like a Shakespearean actor throwing his robe. If you were aunts, you would bring the house down with your petrified cries. If you were grandma, you would just shoo the lizard off.

These were really annoying creatures with impeccable ability to surprise you consistently, real horror movie stuff. If you were in a mood to use study table, one of them would suddenly materialize to inspect if you were really serious about your studies- more often, there would be two of them chasing each other for your fun. If you were happy that they had gone to sleep; they would start crawling on your bare feet and continue upward journey; making you wonder what was their destination. And that cold, pin-ny, soapy feel…best not experienced.

If I was serious about my home work, I would sit away from all the walls, in the middle of the hall, not under the wooden trusses, not very near the lantern and not without a stick in hand. Near the lantern would flock the insects, and to catch them, the lizards. Even then, you would hear Grandma saying, ‘So, what is today’s game? Home-work or lizard chase?’

Curtsey Google Images

During the first rains, the entire house would be full of the newly born flying insects with disproportionate wings and a horde of lizards savoring them with mechanically opening and closing mouths. An entire inch by inch moth would disappear in a matter of seconds in those perennially hungry tiny jaws. If the menace became too much, and usually it did, Nana uncle before  dinner would take all the lanterns in the verandah, keep them side by side, let all the insects and lizards gather there and then methodically slaughter them one by one. This was yearly ritual. And it had to be done. If not, snakes would be the next, chasing after the lizards and… dhup…. in your bed.

There was a saying those days that if one killed a cat or a lizard, you had to pay back a cat or lizard made of gold to a deity in Benares. Nana uncle usually said that he will have to gather his weight in gold if he were to repay all those killings in Gold.

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There was demise in the family. Visitors were served the porridge on the 10th day ritual. The hosts thought that the guests will disperse the next day. They did not. Most of them stayed back for the 14th day ritual. To cope up with the situation, the woman of the house kept on stove the other day’s leftover porridge for warming. A lizard was seen swimming in it. She did not care. She just fished (or lizarded) out the lizard and served the porridge to guests. Most of them went sick for two days, since there was no medical help in our small town. They blamed the stale porridge, not the woman. After a period, out of guilt, the Lady of the house confessed about the lizard business and invited silent wrath of the clan. But she did not forget to add that the guests should not have overstayed in the first place. The lizards and the anecdote gained a cult status in our family because of this incident.

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When I graduated from engineering school, I had to register my name in ‘Employment Exchange’ so that I could get job offers from government establishments. The employment office then was a rickety old unkempt building. On my first day at the exchange, I had the standard questionnaire in my hand. At a particular query I stumbled and looked up to think about the answer. Surprise!! I saw a massive-massive congregation of lizards; on the walls, under the tiled roof, in the corners. There must have been close to five or six hundred of them, climbing over each other. The office staff was working right under them oblivious to their presence. It was no wonder there was not a single woman officer in the building.

I had to go there a several times to take calls (one at a time). Invariably I had to wait for my turn. I started using this spare time to sketch the lizards  with ball point pen– with open and closed jaws, resting, leaning, running, baiting, biting, heaping. Their colors varied between glistening pale green to muddy grey to striped to grossly ugly brown or black, textures transparent to opaque.  How they were living in harmony was truly awe-inspiring. May be during day time they discriminated their duties towards the staff and visitors and in the nights they showed their true character.

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Marriage brought to me my wife, in addition her fears about lizards and the horrified shrieks when you were least expecting these.

On a Sunday, I removed by bike from under the staircase, felt something on my back, but overlooked it because of the rush. I went to the laundry, my back was now having a good amount of exercise because there was something slithering inside the tucked in shirt. I requested the launderer to have a look. He did, jumped back but said there was nothing special and I should immediately go straight to home and change the clothes. I went home and requested my wife to have a look. Her shrieks confirmed my doubt. I hurriedly removed the shirt and there it was – a full-grown green one who had taken free ride on my back. Later on, the launderer told me that the lizard was peeping out all the time from the collar.

The other saying about lizards is that if they fell on the clothes you were wearing, you got new clothes to wear in near future. As expected, nobody gifted to me a shirt.

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Curtsey - Google Images

Recently, our permanent residence was closed for five years. When we returned, it was not our home but to a colony of lizards. They had even distributed rooms between themselves. We spared no efforts to throw them out; even pest controlled the entire house many a times. But they promptly returned to their respective rooms.  I had an all obsessive growing feeling that this was not our house any more. It was theirs and we were guests in it at their mercy. How best can you describe? You want to sleep and there is this couple resting above the head-board. You wished to write and the table would be already occupied by one of them. You wanted to wash utensils and there was one picking at us in the sink. The kitchen platform, couches, TV cabinet, nothing was beyond their reach. And that element of surprise! We spent sleepless nights just to make sure where their abode was today so that you were not surprised the next day if it came out of your coat hanger. But they always foxed you and appeared at different places every day, and night. One particular bedroom was their pet. So I plugged all the holes there, but to no result.

Painting done, when I was shifting a couch, 30 kgs held high on my head, wife spotted one roaming around the entire surface area of the couch. A big one. Imagine. I am holding the couch high and the lizard making an F1 circuit over it. I am worried that it will come down my arms. Wife is screaming behind you in most horrified soprano….I just dropped the couch on the newly laid tiles and damaged a few… and the Lizard vanished as if nothing had happened, to reappear the next day promptly. My wife now was confidently telling every visitor that she is indeed more courageous and I was more afraid of the lizards than she was.

Come pest control guy, sprays the whole house with liquid of nasty odor that brings about bouts of wife’s asthma. He disappears. The painter has painted the house with plastic luster paint.  The lizards are not killed but temporarily paralyzed behind the furniture. They come out and cannot climb the walls because the walls are too smooth for their nightly activities. Frustrated, they start racing all over the house on floor tiles. With them my wife, and because of her sound effects, I. Days pass, lizards take their rightful places, we name them by looks and beauty and we keep watch throughout the night with their horoscopes in hand wondering where they will probably rise the next morning.

I had to kill a few. The tools? The floor duster, grossly inadequate. They would just bear the blow and start moving ones again. Then we tried the domestic insect killer spray. The lizards would faint but start moving ones we were sure that they were dead. Wife would ask to throw them as soon as they fainted. As soon as I went to collect, it would start moving and before that would start her shrieks behind my back making it an impossible task. Finally, she said that I am coward and if  I killed one – means really killed one – she would herself throw it out. One did die. However she waited until the house-maid arrived the next day and asked her to dispose it off. When the house-maid went to collect it, it started to move. But our housemaid was braver. She eventually caught and disposed it off.

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The battle has not stopped. We listen to advises and read articles about how best the lizards control pests and insects, how they are afraid of us and we should not be of them, but do wish in the end that they do not surprise us at least.

National Geographic channel these days showcased a person who fed the wild lizards rice from his palms. He even had a whistle language to announce to them the lunch time. One of my “Friends of Snakes” nephew routinely caught lizards with bare hands to feed his snakes; so was a tiny girl who was not afraid of befriending and taking them outside her house in her palm. My salutes to such brave-hearts/hands. But caution! Once you get married, you can be made to lose your courage.

After all, when I was a kid, the lizards used to be called the Laxmi of the house, the deity that brings in prosperity and not the deity that brings in bravado.

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Peti Charkha

October 29, 2010


When I was through with my cinema theatre business (https://rajeevne.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/theatre-of-my-own/), I had spare time to look at the wooden boxes that I had found stashed in the ‘delivery room’.

One of them was a 2×1 feet timber box securely latched. I brought it out in the open from the dark delivery room, cleaned it and showed it sunlight. After ample washes of kerosene, the latches became pry-able. But I had to take permission from Grandma Tai to force open it. She said, ‘This belonged to Dada. Why don’t you ask him?’ So I asked Dada Grandpa. He just curled down his lips, which I conveniently took to be his permission.

Open Sesame! I forced open the latches. Inside was an old Charkha.  This was totally different from the one my real Grandpa Anna used daily to spin yarn. The flywheel was mounted inside the lid of the box, and the second, smaller wheel as also the spindle holder were all neatly mounted inside the other half. The Charkha looked unused. I tried to make out how it could become functional.  It looked like the flywheel and the smaller wheel had a common belt which was missing. I tried a woolen rope, but it did not work. I ran to Dada. He said that the belt used to be of leather, as he remembered. The one and only shoe repair fellow in the town said that nobody made such belts anymore, that is, after Gandhiji died. The matter rested there, but not my thought process.

On the weekend when Anna was spinning the yarn on his charkha, I asked him why those belts were not available. He said he will check out at Sevagram, Gandhiji’s ashram if they kept any spares. He did write a letter, the reply of which came in a fortnight. The letter said that these Peti (Box) Charkhas are not made anymore.

Anna then tried to dissuade me. ‘Instead, use my normal charkha’ he said, ‘But on one condition that you will make your own Peloo’s (the cotton roll outs from which the yarn would be spun). We had a Peloo plate and press in the house. When they used to be free from household chores, Tai and Anna’s sister Jiji used to press out the Peloo’s in the afternoon while gossiping. The Peloo plate was a slant timber board and the press a smaller timber board with handle. The Peloo- making was a simple procedure. Just take the spun cotton, roll it lightly around a steel pin and roll press. They both tried to train me in hilarious sessions, laughing and naming my Peloo’s. If my Peloo’s came out hollow and soft, they said it is Gokhale Peloo. If it was too tight, they said it was Savarkar Peloo. If I questioned why, they would say that I shall understand when grown up. To simplify, they would also name some in a way I understood – Birbal Peloo, Hanuman Peloo, Gandhari Peloo… and what not. Everybody got fed up with the quality and quantity I produced in a few sessions.

‘Why don’t you ask Anna if you can help him in sifting the cotton instead? That would be easy.’

Cleaning and de-seeding cotton manually was not an easy job either. I could produce only a handful every day. Sifting it with a bow was interesting and I could gain some mastery over it. This graduated me to touch Anna’s charkha. Spinning was of course out of question, and it took a good year for him to permit me, and me to start spinning a reasonably fine yarn.

Anna would bundle the spun yarn every now and then. It disappeared very often.

“What do we do with the yarn?”

“Well, we exchange it for Khadi cloth. Finer the yarn we spin, finer the cloth we get. We have to send it to Sevagram, the Gandhiji’s ashram.”

We sent yarn, the cloth kept coming and Anna wore only those clothes made of ‘our’ Khadi, till his last day. He even washed his clothes himself because he knew how much wet Khadi becomes heavy, and how it was hard for womenfolks to wash the wet Khadi clothes. Even I had to develop muscles before I could attempt to wash a Khadi dhoti or Jacket.

I developed an understanding for why he had only a few pairs of clothes and why he always wore white or black.

Those days, in summer, the water-man used to bring water from the well in buffalo-leather sacks. Once when he was mending his leather sack, I brought out my box charkha and placed it in front of him. I asked him if he could make a belt. He made it in only a few minutes, paid obeisance to the Charkha and asked me to try. It worked. I had my own Charkha now and vehemently fought battles to spin a yarn.

No sooner than Dada heard that the Peti Charkha was up and running, he took it back saying it was touched once by Gandhiji. Since my project of making the Charkha run was over and I received a few accolades for my efforts from Dada, I gladly handed it back to him.

However, I was bitten by the Charkha and spinning yarn for good. It was coveted qualification during our time.

As for forward integration, I chose ‘spinning and weaving’ as an elective hobby in school, and learnt to weave cloth too.

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Anna lived the Gandhian ideology without making a fuss about it. Charkha and Khadi were just one of the visible disciplines. Anna had quit politics after the freedom struggle. He refused offers to contest for the elections for the very first government of the republic and thereafter. But not Khadi.

Simultaneously, he must have been a Tilak follower when it came to starting a school (and then colleges in the name of Tilak) in a backward area.

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It took many days, sometime months to get the Khadi in exchange of yarn, since the cloth would be always in short supply. But Anna would not use imported, light, colourful fabric.

Many of his contemporaries made fun of him for wearing Khadi. But he stuck to his vow.

One of my grandmothers recently recalled an incident. Anna was to go to court to defend a case, when his friend told him that his Khadi Dhoti was torn. Anna said it did not matter. The friend said, it was torn at an awful place and things are visible from the hole. Anna simply said “It is not my body part that is going to defend the case in the court. ‘I’ am going to.”

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(Image curtsey..Google Images)


The title says all.

I am so frustrated because I have no time to post anything, I feel like shouting at the top of my voice, if I have any voice left.

I am sure you have felt the same way some day.

Be patient! – this is to me and to my frequent visitors.