Raya Asked A Question…A Story For The Young And Old

Sanmargam

Part 1

One day Emperor Krishna Deva Raya (of Vijayanagar empire, 1509-29), aggrieved by a recent loss of a dear relative, fell into a spell of serious introspection: ‘What is the most important lesson in life to be learned?’

He knew there would be many answers to his question. So he decided to hold a sadas – like today’s conferences, it’s a forum, practiced even today, for enriching discussion and debate, not necessarily competitive – of learned pundits from near and far.

On the appointed day, the Royal Court quickly filled up.

Tenali Raman was also present…

Hey, wait a minute, a mere court jester, he’s no way a pundit qualified to be part of this assembly.

…bringing along a guest of his, a guru, not widely known outside his circle.

Sadas commenced with a brief introduction from Raya, followed by the Raja Guru (chief guru of the Royal Court)…

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Teacher’s Day: A Lesson That Turned Nossel

Part 1

 ‘We chaps are terrible. We’ll accept anything that happens around us and go about as if nothing was in the wrong…no wonder we don’t make progress as a country.’

After retirement we’re apt to catch hold of some amiable chap and harangue him on a pet peeve that pops up handy and ready for jumping in. 

In this instance it was my next-door neighbor’s son I had buttonholed just outside the entrance to our apartment complex; and the words were said as I bent down bones creaking and picked up a cookie wrapper recently voided of its contents, for depositing in the waste-bin.

The suddenness of my remarks without any preamble startled him. Saw his clueless face and knew some explanation was in order on why our country was a laggard.

‘You think no one passed by this way before two of us? Yet no one thought of picking this up like we did!’

If you noticed I readily shared the glory with my ‘mate’ – never mind he knew nothing about and had no role in the act – as has been my wont in all my years as a senior executive in corporate sector.

Joyed at being promoted from a third wheel to a team player he warmed up.

‘Yes, Uncle, you’re right.’

Was happy to see he was with me on this: ‘When we see something amiss, it is our duty as responsible citizens on the spot to jump in and set things right and not just walk away because it doesn’t concern us.’

‘Yes, Uncle, you’re right.’

It gladdened my heart. Here was a youngster in whose hands future of our country was safe!

And this four-word response was much more than I could hope for in an age when youngsters regard vowels to be redundant, grammar rather restraining and eloquence distracting for communication.

Encouraged by it, I cleared my throat ready to expound on the theme on which I was good for easily another fifteen minutes: What was impeding the progress of our country and what should right thinking citizens do. But again quite often in life the inane sadly pushes out the profound. So it was now – both of us were called away from what promised to be an interesting…what if it was a monologue; I by my wife and he by an thoroughly ill-timed discordantly insistent call on his cell phone. 

Feeling a little ‘cheated’, I said, ‘Some other time,’ and returned home.

Part 2

It was evening; my wife went up to the terrace just above our flat for her usual walk during this lock-down.

During this time it was my routine to walk likewise, however, indoors. Walking indoors I did not have to wear my a little over-sized shoes that were more like those brake-shoes clinging to the wheels of vehicles than for walking, considerably slowing me down. Walking on the terrace also meant constantly looking under one’s feet for the water pipes laid any which ways, ready to trip anyone pacing with his chin up in the air. Or, those TV cables running haphazardly, level with one’s neck.

Nearing finish, I broke my routine just this once deciding to catch a few minutes of sunlight and fresh air up on the terrace.  .

At the end of it, feeling drained and at the same time happy the self-inflicted torture was over, we trudged our way back.

On the landing before our flat:

My wife: ‘Why did you shut the door?’

‘I did not. You know I don’t. I left it open with a crack’. But when I looked up, it was indeed shut surely and securely as observed by my wife.

‘May be the wind?’ I helpfully suggested.

‘You well know a category-5 storm can’t blow out a candle on its last legs in our flat…Now, I don’t have the keys with me. You? I suppose…’

Oh, oh…

So there we were standing before an unwelcoming door telling each other what we don’t do right.

A few minutes later, hearing the commotion but not the specifics hopefully, the neighbor’s door opened. Emerging from behind was my favorite and lone audience of the morning, however, with a shopping bag in hand. So evidently it was not what I had thought.

‘Sir, what happened? Any problem?’

He saw us staring at the unyielding door in front.

‘Ah, you know, Sir, you probably did not notice…the door was not properly closed. It caught my attention and I…it’s so unsafe these days…I couldn’t just walk away doing nothing about it, so I banged it shut. It’s all due to the little chat this morning. A lesson I’ll never forget…am a changed man, thanks to you, Sir!  

Giving credit wherever due – a quality I appreciate in the young – he bounded down the stairs with a wave of hand, on his errand.

Forgetting all about the door for a moment, my wife threw at me a ‘What did you tell him THIS morning, eh?’

I let it ride. Now, hardly dressed for the occasion, more suited for a visit to the washroom, I had to hop across to a neighbor’s place and fetch the spare set of keys. Luckily it was already a little dark. I could walk it up a little brazenly because people knew me well enough in the neighborhood to associate me with a sight so bizarre, believing it couldn’t be me over what they saw with their eyes. .

I suspected there were at least four sets of eyes looking through the view hole before their door opened. My story unfortunately was not amenable to a sum-up in less than twenty fully formed correctly sequenced painfully narrated sentences, standing at the doorstep all the time, in order to get across coherently. Nothing less would pass. Finally the kid stopped looking at me and screaming, they half-believed the story and the keys handed over at the threshold.

Well, once inside, it felt good to a give a good kick to the door as it shut, never mind the toes hurt.

End

Words To Brake A Free-Wheeling Mind

Tenali Raman Shines Again – A Folk Tale For Kids

Once, Tenali Raman was permitted by his king Krishna Deva Raya ruling the renowned Vijayanagar Empire (VE) to visit the kingdom of Gajapati’s of Odisha at the request of the latter. On his way back, he broke his journey at Rampur, a small state with friendly relations with the VE.

After reaching the palace, he realized his visit was a little mistimed on learning about the recen happenings in the state.

*

The chieftain of the state was, for a month now, unfortunately down with an ailment – a painful stomach ache – that proved incurable till date. The prime minister of the state had organized experts in various different systems of medicine from all over the state and outside to come down and treat his master. With all efforts to no avail he was at his wit’s end on the next steps. It was then he heard about the arrival of a yogi from deep south on his way to Kashi. The yogi was reputed to have performed some incredible feats through his yogic powers. Where formal medicines have failed, maybe he could help. So the minister with the consent of his chief went ahead and made arrangements for the yogi to visit the palace and examine the patient.

The yogi on arrival was received with due honour and taken to the living quarters of the chieftain.  In the presence of the prime minister, the royal priest and the royal vaidya (doctor) he thoroughly examined the patient. When he was done, he turned to the vaidya and asked for some common herbs to be brought. Mixing honey, he pestled the ingredients into a gooey paste. Gesturing the two to silence, he sat down and for some good ten minutes chanted some esoteric mantra’s invoking Agni, the god of fire, keeping the paste in a shallow dish in front. Done, he handed over the dish to the vaidya for use.

And taking the prime minister aside he asked in a low voice:

‘Sir, speak truthfully, just between us when did you utter a lie, a lie of any kind, last?’

The minister was taken aback at the question so suddenly sprung on him. Recovering his poise, he said a little abashedly, ‘Yesterday, night, to my lady…before we went to sleep.’

The yogi wanted him to continue.

‘My wife has been pestering me for quite some time to get her a necklace like the one worn by our queen during last Dussehra (festival). I bought peace with a promise I’ll get one before the next Dussehra though I’ve no idea or the means on how to; and yesterday night I had to repeat myself when she brought it up.’

The yogi smiled.

Moving on to the vaidya he asked the same question. The vaidya too unprepared. He collected himself and confessed many a time he had given placebos to patients in the name of medicines though it did prove beneficial in number of cases. Would that be considered as lying?

The priest admitted to not being truthful when in his zeal he blessed devotees with aayush (longevity of life), arogyam (health) and aishwaryam (wealth) though it was in no way within his means to deliver or ensure the same, instead of praying for the same to the almighty on their behalf. Misrepresentation, right, was he lying?

Addressing them, he said: ‘this medicine is now invested with the power of agni to burn his ailment; giving three spoonful’s at one shot would cure him of the illness. Next morning he should up and about. But for now let it stand under the hot sun for a couple of hours before using it.’

In just three spoonful’s the stubborn ache gone? So potent? Incredible! They were visibly overjoyed.

The yogi continued: ‘Not so soon…there’s a condition, not easy to satisfy. It must be given to the chieftain only by someone who doesn’t speak a lie at all for any reason, good or bad. Anyone who does not qualify and yet tries to administer the medicine, would face intense heat of agni first and if he persists he would be burnt alive. So be very careful who you chose. Also remember the medicine would lose its potency in about three days from today- ah, wear this kappu (amulet) around your wrist and you’ll not come to any harm handling the medicine. Of course it won’t still let you…’

Nothing more to do, the Yogi took leave to continue his journey.

*

The inner council got down to the job immediately – they knew it was not going to be easy to find such a soul if there was one at all in mere three days. They brainstormed on how to go about. All kinds of ideas were thrown up, nothing appeared promising. Drawing a blank, they finally decided to broadcast a message right away covering all parts of the state inviting anyone who thought he qualified with a promise of a rich reward for the right man.  

So criers were dispatched expeditiously in all directions with the message however without disclosing the details of the sickness their chieftain was suffering from for the fear of demoralizing the entire populace.

In the following two days about fifty people, young and old, men and women turned up. There was no way the officials could check on their claims except lead them directly to handle the medicine set on a table a few feet away from the patient’s bed. No surprise not one of them could go near the table without getting badly singed.

Third day morning, the priest, the prime minister and the vaidya got together to contemplate their next move; and there was no next move they could think of. End of road. It was precisely at this moment of utter despondency, Raman landed at the palace.

*

Raman heard intently as they narrated to him all about the stricken chieftain, their efforts and finally the yogi’s prescription and the impossible challenge for them.

They were disappointed when all Raman said was he wanted to rest for a while and come back to join them.  His reputation had led them to expect much more.

Anyway, they sent an attendant to take Raman to his quarters, make him comfortable and stay with him to attend to his needs.

It was after lunch. They had resigned to the inevitable. The attendant came running.

‘Why, what happened?’ the minister inquired listlessly.

‘Sirs, an hour ago, sahib came out and spent time talking to the palace guards – about six or seven – one at a time in the gardens. He finally settled on our Ratna, the tall guy with a handlebar moustache, you know. When he finally parted, I overheard him tell Ratna to go home and get his son within the next hour without fail. When the latter hesitated about leaving his post without permission, sahib assured him it was alright, it was for the good of his master and the state and he would personally vouch for him. Don’t know what had transpired between them. Couldn’t talk to Ratna either as he had left for home to fetch his son.’

‘Intriguing! He has asked for Ratna’s son, and he assured him it is for the good of his master…at this time, I’m sure he’s as serious and concerned as we are and not engaged in any frivolous caper, so what’s going on here?’ the minister thought loudly.

‘I agree,’ the vaidya chimed in.

‘I think I got it,’ suddenly the priest jumped in excitement and ran to the gardens at the back.  In a few minutes he returned.

‘I have spoken to Ananta, the short stocky guy, and asked him to get his son here right away. He’ll be here anytime now.’

‘Care to tell us what’s happening? A children’s party for god sake?’ the tired minister shook his head.

Arre ram, don’t you see, we were stupid to go through all that…’

The other two were not amused by that bit of inclusive self-deprecation.

‘You know, Ananta’s son is about four years old. Would he know what lying is?’

The ‘penny’ dropped.

‘Great, simply brilliant,’ exclaimed the minister. ‘We’ve cracked it.’

The priest let go – this wasn’t the time to contest the collective ownership and credit for the solution.

Shortly Ananta came in with Veeru, his son. The child looked a little scared at all the attention he was getting suddenly.

The priest explained to the father what needed to be done and the father made it easy for the child. All the child had to do is to take the dish on the table, walk up to the bed and feed the willing man a spoonful of the paste. Just like his mom fed him over dinner. Likewise two more spoonful’s. As simple as that. Ananta made it a fun thing for the child – imagine a child feeding a grownup. Yes, it would be fun – Veeru perked up.

No sooner the child neared the patient with the dish carefully held in his hands, he shrieked and stepped back in horror. What had happened? It was like getting too close to fire, intolerably uncomfortable.

With great difficulty they coaxed the child to try once again. The second round was even shorter.

The four of them could not figure out what was happening. There was no question of a third round.

*

Just then Raman walked in with Ratna and his kid Sambu. One look at them, the unhappy Veeru almost in tears and his own crest-fallen attendant told him everything. Disregarding it for the present, he explained to Sambu what needed to be done.

With no fuss, the child did just as instructed within a couple of minutes! The chieftain took the spoonful’s and almost immediately fell into deep sleep, his snoring could be heard from where they stood.

They were nonplussed except for Raman.

The children were sent away with their father packets of candies for their efforts.

The looked at Raman.

Raman explained: ‘So this guy,’ pointing to the attendant, ‘was snooping on me, eh? Anyway, don’t you worry, no harm done. Well, it is right no child at that age knows what is truth and what is not. Whatever he sees or hears is the truth, the reality for him. There is a ‘but’ to it. If the child comes from an unhappy home, suffering at the hands of parents who are strict, impatient or even given to violence, the child begins to speak lies simply to escape from punishment. You should have checked like I did before bringing the child in.’

Next morning, Raman was seen off with generous gifts by a grateful and fit chieftain though a little sad his guest did not extend his stay despite his request.

End

Image from goodreads.com

It’s Bull Alright, No BS

About This And That

A software engineer was visiting his grandparents in the village.

On the following day, he took a round of the village.

On the outskirts of the village he came upon a strange sight he had not seen before. It was a thatched shed open on the sides. He saw a bull slowly and steadily going around in a rutted circle. And a man who seemed to be the owner was sleeping peacefully on a bench.

He stopped a passer-by and asked him what was happening.

Amused, the man explained it was an oil mill to crush oil seeds to extract oil. Sometimes it was dried coconut kernels (copra). These were held in a large mortar like structure and ground by a big pestle driven by the bull in a harness, sometimes a pair. .

He found it very interesting to observe this traditional oil-expeller in action.

A question occurred to…

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Good Lord, Don’t Listen To Us…

…prayers excepted.

**

‘Don’t forget. Next Tuesday is Rama’s birthday by our calendar. Take Rs 500 with you and pay it at the office for a one-day upayam on that day. I wonder if you remember – hers is kettai nakshatram and gothram is vaadula, yours. They’ll need these details. Her exams are coming up and she must do well…make sure you collect the receipt.’

To let you know, we celebrate birthdays according to Srirangam panchangam (a well-known authoritative traditional calendar cast in the town of Srirangam), the date determined by the month and the star at the time of birth, with gothram specifying the lineage. Most temples have this scheme where one pays a part of that day’s expenses for conducting special prayers and rituals in the name of a person specified. In this instance, my daughter.

‘Also pray for your father. The poor man is suffering from joint pains, unable to walk like before. And, of course, for yourself so He may bless you with the promotion you’re seeking.’

You guessed right, that was my wife filling up the order-book for me.   

Forty minutes later, I was back all done, after praying for my father and myself and, for my daughter, enrolling for the one-day upayam coming up in the following week. Also included, of course, was a non-specific prayer for my lady’s well-being. Did not forget to collect the receipt. Domestic bliss assured with a 10/10 performance, I thought.

But there was something else…though not hell-raising and luckily I was not on stage.

As I let myself in, I heard her voice coming in from the kitchen.

‘Only two months ago you came asking for Rs 200 for buying medicines for your husband. I gave you without saying a thing. Last month it was another 200 for your child’s school uniform and now you want 300 for some repairs in your house. Helping out someone in need once or twice is fine. But don’t make a habit of asking, asking, asking…No one will oblige all the time. I’ll give you this once – but don’t come back with something else anytime soon.’

It must be the maid talked to.

A thought crossed my mind as I collected the kumkum and the flowers brought from the temple and the all-important receipt for handing over: It was my hope our kind Lord in the skies above didn’t listen in and get ideas, abandoning His good old ways.

End

Image from gyanyogbreath.com

Mumbai’s Homeless (For Kids)

In Mumbai, when it rains it usually pours.

This time it is happening metaphorically too.

Just when we are coping up with this Covid-19 lock-down seriously impacting everyone’s personal, professional and social lives, there were these reports coming in of imminent invasion of the city by some zillion locusts, advising us to hermetically secure our residences and stay indoors until it passes away. Fortunately it did not happen as feared – the pests seemed to have lost their way or perished in their march.

Barely a few days later, now the Met Department suddenly came up with the announcement of a cyclonic storm deciding to visit Mumbai proper in the next couple of days. Heavy rains, yes, cyclones, never in this city for as long as I could remember.  High wind-speeds and heavy rains were predicted. We were advised to stay indoors which we were anyways doing with the lock-down in force; and, alerted to the possibility of disruptions in power, water, essential supplies and what else – we didn’t know.  

When it came, the cyclone had mercifully changed its mind choosing a course to the south of the city. Did cause loss of lives and damage to property in its wake though not as badly as feared, quickly dissipating itself over the land. In the city, if the clips are to be believed, rains had lashed certain parts turning some streets into mini rivers, utensils and clothes sent flying in some high-rise buildings…On our street the tall coconut trees swayed crazily. In our own complex, three or four Ashoka trees, young, tall and slender, no longer able to keep their heads high, bowed down touching the walls on the inside. Surprisingly the neem tree, also young and slender, stood up well.

All in all, no serious damage done, no disruptions of utilities, we, lodged safely in our houses – except for a vague and a nagging thought not asserting itself strongly enough yet to cause loss of sleep.

**

So here I was on the following day into my midday nap. A blissful escape – for, a man at my age can only take so much of not-so-amusing series of nature’s capers.

And then just when god and everything else seemed to be in their place and peace reigned, well, it was not to be.    

A persistent…rrrr…rrrr….rrrr…that refused to go away, loud and strident sure to wake up a hibernating animal in mid polar winter.

 Man had taken the baton over from nature, it looked.  

I woke me up with a humour not unlike of a man tapping on the back of a mama bear in the forest and asking it to shush its bawling cub.

It must be from the accursed neighbour’s flat across the street, I suspected. For some 6 to 8 weeks, they – mason, carpenter, painter, plumber…were making such a racket every day from morning to until late evening. Appeared to be doing some major make-over. And then the lock-down came about restoring the tranquil. So it was mercifully for several weeks until partial lifting of the lock-down was announced and today they must have returned to continue with their mayhem and murder. Don’t know how it is elsewhere, but here in our country the building and repairs industry is one of the worst offenders guilty of high-decibel noise pollution and quite unconcerned about the same.

Got up to find out what was happening…and a target for my ire.

It was the municipal staff, arranged by the quick-thinking secretary of the complex, sawing off the precariously bent-down sections of the Ashoka trees. Like decapitation on execution blocks in medieval times.

Uncovered by the branches lopped away, a crow’s nest showed up on the neem tree, now open to the elements.

Suddenly the nagging thought surfaced and struck me.

It’ll be several months before the trees grow again from the stumps they’re cut to now. Sawed off it had to be, only I wish it was done a little higher up on the trunk leaving some foliage as leafy cover for the birds. May be it was considered and found not feasible.

With their homes gone here and now, where would the sparrows rest, sleep and breed?

The only comforting thought is: it had happened before and they survived. Fervently hoping they tide over it once again. Though didn’t hear them chirp two mornings last:-(

End

Image: Jayashree Kulkarni,‎ House Sparrow Waraje, Pune Dec – 19

Words To Brake A Free-wheeling Mind

This Animal Did Change Its Spot

Sanmargam

Received this Tamizh clip yesterday – it’s about Actor Madhavan who successfully held/holding his own in the volatile world of seven-day wonders – Kollywood. Though not an avid film goer/watcher I personally loved his comic sense whenever he appeared on the screen however brief. But a serial of his I watched eagerly and in full years ago where he appeared as a South-Indian groom in a Panju family. Not one of those mind-numbing antics passing for comedy, but truly and refreshingly hilarious.

Am told this is an old clip, date and occasion not known to me (My version of WP does not let me upload). He’s talking about Mother’s Day. He recalls affectionately, nostalgically, gratefully three pieces of wisdom given to him by his Mom that kept/keeps him going in his profession, internalizing and living them out:  a) Don’t hurt anyone intentionally b) Don’t cheat anyone out of his money…

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Reminiscences

Part 1

This was mid to late seventies and I was a rookie engineer, still learning the ropes, going around with senior colleagues installing imported computer systems of a leading manufacturer.  Most customers were from government as import by private companies was like climbing Everest on crutches.

We had just finished installing a large system for an instrumentation based application at an Government Of India facility on an island in the state of Andhra Pradesh (AP), some 100 kms away from Chennai. A tiring job over some six weeks to get it up and working given the by-no-means-unusual number of dead-on-arrival equipment/peripherals, and an irate and impatient customer breathing down our necks. Nevertheless, an interesting assignment, wherein I learnt from P, my senior, among many other things digital, analogue and real world, how to troubleshoot digital circuits with a piece of wire to short two points and a blade to cut the trace connecting two points – no DVM’s, no oscilloscopes! 

So it was finally over, the installation-completed report signed by the customer. With a great sigh of relief – it was mutual – we bade our byes, came to our rooms, picked our bags and boarded the bus that took us to the mainland by a narrow causeway, luckily not under water owing to low tide, in some 20 – 30 minutes.

P, speaking in Hindi and English, fixed up a cab to Chennai. The driver seemed a pleasantly chatty chap.

When we were ready to leave, the driver turned to me and inquired:

Ennanga (What, Sir), don’t you want to take home some rice from here?’

P was roundly ignored – coming from north, he would not be interested in buying rice, the driver guessed. He didn’t seem to mind it.

‘Believe me, your people will love Nellore rice. It’s expensive in Chennai. I know some good reliable grocery shops here, will get you quality stuff at a good price.’

After some hesitation, prodded by P, I allowed myself to be led to a shop; bought 5 kilo’s of a kind helpfully recommended by the driver and at a price he negotiated.  The rice came in two or three smaller bags for a reason I was to learn soon.

I was excited – for, this was one of those few occasions, living with parents, I was buying something for the house with money I earned; of course, laced with apprehension how it would be received.

When we returned to our cab, strangely the driver did not move the bags to the boot. Instead he spread them out on the floor where I rested my feet.  

The bulk I carried about me, not designed for squeezing into smaller spaces even in those younger days. Hard cushion, torn seat, MAYBE, but hard rice bags under one’s feet was a NO, especially in a long ride. Also, to me, it was and still is unacceptable to put one’s feet on rice, one’s food.

I looked at him.

‘Don’t worry. It is only for 15-20 minutes until we cross the border into Tamil Nadu (TN).’

Again I looked at him.

‘You see, on the way to Chennai, we cross a check-post on AP side of the border and, soon after, another on TN side of the border. ‘

So? <note: the words in italics were not vocalized>

I wasn’t giving up even if took all of Twenty Questions to get it out of him.

‘The TN guys will check our vehicle for any liquor we may be smuggling in – of course we don’t, and the AP guys for any rice we may be smuggling out.’

What…What did you say?

‘Nothing to be alarmed about. We’re not taking out sacks of rice. Only a measly 5 kilo’s. And usually they check the boot in a hurry and let us go – cars back up quickly on this busy highway, you know.’

From a rookie engineer to a rice smuggler? I stood still not moving.

‘Dear Sir, trust me, I ply this cab every day for years now. They’re after the big smugglers and not small fry like us.’

He roped in P for support. P made it sound a little better; he said I was carrying only a small quantity and that too for personal use and not for any commercial purposes, so it should be okay.

I relented.

The small talk on the way did nothing to dispel the visions I was having of me posing in a striped dress like they show it in movies.  

*

Part 2

Shortly the cab slowed down and stopped behind the barricading pole.

An officer in uniform carrying a baton in one hand and a torch in another walked up casually to our cab.

The driver asked us to look normal and not tense up. It’ll be all over in a few minutes, he assured.

In those days, returning from college, when I took the exit at Matunga railway station, on many occasions, the TC (Ticket Collector/Checker) would, like a hound on scent, pick me from a thick flowing mass and ask to show.  Something to do with the visage – looking guilty when I wasn’t one wee bit. So much so, returning from my official overseas trips, for many years I always went for the red channel though carrying nothing more than a few toys for the children. 

And here this guy was asking me to look normal…ah.

In a practiced routine the officer went to the back of the cab, inspected the open boot. And then…he came around to my side of the cab. Well, really not well, this was no part of the script as I had known it to be.

I summoned to mind all those best scenes of Om Prakash, Asit Sen, Utpal Dutt.

The glass was rolled down. He stuck his torch inside and shone it at the first draw directly on those rice bags under my feet and the few grains that had spilled.

What made it worse was he did not look at me, did not utter a word. The defence I had urgently put together was not called for. He walked up to the driver in the same casual manner, signalled him to come out and follow him to his chotu cabin.

Turning to us and making gestures of resuscitation, the driver complied.

Minutes passed…a few cars lined up behind us.

Finally, the driver came out and headed our way.

Was a police jeep with siren and flashing lights being summoned?

*

Part 3

‘Sorry, Sir. I had told you not to panic.’

Oh

P took charge: ‘Now, what?’

‘We need to pay hundred rupees. He had wanted two hundred and fifty – I negotiated…’

They’ll let us go?

The matter was resolved and we pulled away as fast as we could.

Took a while for all signals of life in me to return to their base.

The rest of the journey passed without any further ‘excitement’, engaged in some perfectly inane chat.

I was at once sore at the driver for getting me into the tangle and also thankful to him for tactfully fixing it later.

*

Part 4

The following day, in Chennai office, we finished the official business with regard to the installation.

Over lunch, when I began sharing our or my harrowing experience of the day before, the account manager who had not accompanied us interrupted:

‘Wait, wait. Let me guess – so you were taken to a shop, you bought some kilos of rice, shoved it under your feet in the cab, got caught red-handed…or rather rice-footed?’ He let out a guffaw that drew every eye in the room to us.

Wasn’t amused at all at his levity.

‘I’m so sorry, I should have warned you guys. Happens all the time like sun rises in the east.’

Eh?

I tuned out.

*

I was at an age innocent of the ways of the temporal world.

Luckily, also resilient. Most engineers are – they don’t hurt/sulk for ever.

The fact did not rankle me for too long that the rice from Nellore in the final tally was twice as expensive and easily available from the nadaar kadai at the street corner!  Or the generous tip paid to the driver at the end of the day for his ‘damage-limiting efforts.’

End