Can You Spot It?

Something interesting here, I thought, though not the kind to set Ganges on fire.

This is a picture taken by B, an ex-colleague. a friend, a nature lover, an ace shooter…with his camera, a cook who loves to experiment, a reviewer of eateries, etc. etc.

Location: Chembur.

To me, it is interesting to see this winged fellow picking twigs for the nest, all of uniform girth, neither too thick and stiff or too thin and breakable as if there exists some engineering specification!

End

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The Chat Continues…More Friends In Chembur

‘Modesty aside for a moment, aren’t we so pretty?

And yet, would you believe, they have just one of us here:-(

‘We know we got you hooked…But do look around, there’re more of us back there, you’ll like them too.’

One glance, you’ll know we’re not Parijat, Bonsai Lotus or Jasmine!

‘Small, but no less beautiful! That purple at the center breaking up the white is our beauty spot. You agree?’

Would you believe if we tell you we’re actually a Periwinkle? Of course, the leaves give it away if you noticed. See down there the purple duo, our kin?’

‘Don’t we know you can never get enough of us, Gulmohars!’

‘Figure out we’re green turning yellow or yellow into green?’

‘Or red into green or green to red?

Very small, may be (less than a cm across), but sticking together in a bunch we’ll stop you in your tracks! Admit our striking yellow amidst the green is something.

The chat to be continued!

Chatting With Friends In Chembur

A mere palm leaf, you say? I can shut out the big guy in the sky for you!’

‘You’ve seen the Thai dancers. Have you seen our show?’

‘A sure way to stay fit – touch your toes like we do…’

…Regardless of your station in life, however high.’

‘Flaunt it if you’ve got it, they say. And why not? We’re whiter than white!’

‘And to think we’re in the cleaning job – we mean the air you inhale.’

Tabebuia rosea – don’t fault us for our name is not our doing. When in bloom we are all flowers and no leaves!’

Call us immoderate, intemperate….we, the bougainvilleas, just don’t seem to hold ourselves back when in season.’

But then we do bring some color with us. Like, how!’

‘When we, the gulmohars, go flaming red, there’s no room for grays. That goes for your days and moods too. ‘

‘You’re late for your tryst with us, my friend. In early and mid summer we are at our flamboyant best in red and orange all over. The season is nearing its end – there’s still some zest left in us.’

The conversation goes on.

The Best Spend I Made…

in a long time.

On my morning rounds, a few days ago, I saw something that wasn’t there before. Abutting the fence on the outside of the garden and near its main entrance, on the pavement where we  walked, out of nowhere had appeared, out in the open,  two ‘stalls’ each having a cane chair and a foot stool. Presently two gentlemen in their fifties, sweating and in shorts, were occupying the chairs presumably after completing their rounds. One of them was being attended to by a man and woman, seemed to be in forties. And the other also attended to by another man and a woman likely to be in their early thirties or even younger. Were they one family? Were they two couples? I had no idea. In Wodehouse words they were doing things to the men’s feet and legs from knee down- the women handled the feet and the men, the legs. .

I said ‘Oh, sh**. This is the beginning and very soon there would be so many of them plying all kinds of trades completely usurping the pavement. The ward office, as always, would do bugger-all to clear up the place.

Next day they were very much there – not gone away as I had secretly wished – busy with a couple of customers. I cursed the men (the service providers) in my mind for using women to lure their customers and the customers falling for it.

On the third day, two things happened. A spark of sympathy lighted up in my mind – at least they were earning a living honourably and not going around begging as many others do, though the annoyance at the place being messed up didn’t go away. Secondly, the gentlemen being serviced were never looking at the women labouring on their feet, preferring to chat among themselves or even read newspapers.

It wasn’t until three days later I resumed my morning walks – the interruption owing to a medical condition.

This day I was fully expecting them to have digged in. So they had. Their ‘stalls’ now had roofs of canvas rolling down on three sides to keep the rain out – the monsoon is threatening to break anytime now in Mumbai. There was one more thing I noticed and it was quite unsettling – the younger woman was blind.

The unfairness and irony of life hit me hard – the medical condition I mentioned earlier was: I got operated couple of days ago for cataract in my second eye now fitted the most expensive lenses recommended by the doc – of course it did punch a good-sized hole in my finances partially offset by insurance. And I have seen enough there is to see in this world unlike these two souls in their prime.

And today it was even worse. As I passed them in my round, I saw the two – the young woman and her companion – huddled under an umbrella looking forlorn without a customer. The umbrella was centred over the man’s head and the woman partly catching the light drizzle.  I got near him to  pull him up for not covering her also under the umbrella when to my shock I noticed he was also blind, though not completely.

Overwhelmed, I moved on without a word.

I had gone a few steps. This was one time my gravy cells didn’t fail me. Rummaging my pockets – I don’t carry a wallet – I found it luckily. Went back to him: ‘Keep this – you may not get a customer today. See, it’s a hundred rupee note.’ Fearing he might refuse to accept I hastened walking away, not failing to notice a half-smile on the woman’s face that was priceless. The man recovered and shouted: ‘Saheb, please come tomorrow. We’ll do for you.’

That’s simple rural Maharashtrians for you. They don’t want it free. Their innocence, honesty…it melts you. Well, a mere hundred rupees is not going to solve their problem. Nor can I afford to part with it every day. Not that they wanted money. I hope some social organization comes to their help for providing a legit place for them to practice their trade and also to render any possible medical help.

Meanwhile I wish the chair in their stall never gets cold.

End

A Road-Show Of A Different Kind

It takes all kinds of people…

CHEMBURTired after taking a Pulmonary Function Test at a clinic, he insisted on walking back home under the hot noon sun, disregarding his wife’s protestations. He wanted to check out how well he was able to take it, given his labored asthma-afflicted breathing. Cataract in both eyes slowed him down even more.

It was not a long walk.  They reached the junction of the Central Avenue and the 11th (Cross) Road perpendicularly cutting and running on both sides of the main road. Easily crossing one way of the main road they paused at the divider running along the middle, waiting for a break in the heavy traffic going other way. A steady stream of three-wheelers speeding past held them back. Just then, suddenly, a motor-cycle shot out from behind, cutting right across in the way of the three-wheelers and stopped right in the middle!  A very dangerous move, the man thought, though there was just enough room ahead for these highly maneuverable vehicles to slow down and stop.

The man and his wife were rattled but he did not have the strength to pull up the rider of the two-wheeler – unexpectedly a man in mid-thirties, in civvies, not a brash youngster – for endangering his own life and possibly, of others.

In stark contrast, the rider was unruffled, his demeanor like that of a circus acrobat who had just finished successfully executing a tricky maneuver with precise timing and judgement. And, finesse. Or, better, like a traffic cop on Indian roads who unhesitatingly walks into an oncoming traffic knowing fully well he would come to no harm (of course, he has been proved wrong on occasions).

Just when the man turned squarely to the rider to convey by sheer look his shock and displeasure, he saw the rider with one hand stretched out to halt the traffic and with the other hand politely gesturing the couple to safely cross the road now without fear.

Reaching the other side of the road hurriedly holding my wife’s hand, I looked back to him, not sure if he should be thanked or admonished.

He was gone – the traffic annoyed at the inopportune delay had resumed with gusto.

End

 

PS: Not a fiction. Image from freepressjournal.in/mumbai/

A Tale Of Two Young Men

It is not unusual things happen all at the same time. So it was today. We had a neighbor’s son’s marriage to attend and Raju had a job interview to go, his sixth in the three months after his graduation.

Pushing him to get ready was not the easiest task. He had his time with the morning papers, and an unhurried breakfast. With vagaries of traffic on streets of Mumbai there was no telling – one was always too early for a meeting or too late. Somehow we got him out of the house in my car. And soon we were on our way.

We caught a red at the Amar Mahal Junction going over to Ghatkopar from Chembur (East). Shortly after we had stopped, a young man materialized on my side of the auto (three-wheeler), one hand scratching his unshaven chin and the other hand open and tentatively stuck out at me.

saadman aungkarns

At this junction, a red stopping the traffic is a green for alms-seekers of all hues – physically handicapped, transvestites, children, women with babes in arms and men with an arm or a leg in an outsized cast – to descend from the side-walks on their prospects in vehicles. They spot a likely benefactor, plead and close, all within only a minute or two before a green turns on the traffic. For them women traveling by auto’s – there are no glasses to roll up and shut out – have proved to be a fairly sure bet.

Just on the count of appearing on my side – the wrong side – I marked this guy down as not a professional. He carried no pan or a can to collect, stood there investing all his time with a prospect he couldn’t be sure of and was in no hurry to try his luck with the vehicle ahead of us. No heart-rending words or gestures on his unkind fate to milk our sympathy. He just stood there gazing at me. An abject loser, it seemed.

Instinctively I fished out some coins and thrust them into his hands just in time as the red changed to green and we moved on.

We rode past a few blocks when my wife said: ‘You’re doing a wrong thing.’

‘What did I do now?’

‘A soft touch, you arediscouraging able-bodied men from working for a living…they get used to it. There wasn’t anything wrong with him.’

The nice ladynever stops me in my act. But never fails to let me know what she thinks.

My views were different: ‘Who knows? He might be deaf, mute or even mentally challenged. Arrey, you know, engineers in my office fa*t around not knowing what do in their jobs. And here we’re talking about a guy, assuming for a moment he’s fit though I doubt very much, with no education, no skills and possibly no home or family and expect him to push himself into a job and earn a fair wage?’

‘I still say he ought to find some job rather than be on the road. The market place is just behind us. Must not be too difficult tp find some work even as a casual labor. One must start somewhere.’

I fell silent. These encounters on the roads always drain me until other distractions thankfully take me away.

That was that. We proceeded to attend the marriage followed by a feast as always. On our return ride I did not look for him as we passed the spot – I had forgotten all about it.

In the afternoon we were rudely woken up by Raju leaning on the door-bell.

The young man looked no worse for the wear as he walked in with his shoulders in a usual stoop. Like a batsman returning after a long innings out in the middle.

My wife wouldn’t hold herself back:

‘Raju, what happened? You got the job?’

‘What Mom…yes, I had to get selected. Couldn’t have been otherwise. But I said no. ’

‘Arrey, why did you do that? Was the pay not good?’

‘Not that. In fact they were ready to start me off with a higher pay. These guys sell their equipment all over India. They want me to travel by train and bus to reach the sites for installation. Told them it has to be metro areas, no mofussil. Sorry, Mom, you know I can’t do it.’

‘Not to worry, son. Am sure you’ll get a job of your liking. Only a matter of time. Don’t let it pull you down. Now go and change. Did you have anything to eat or should I stir up something?’

I wasn’t one to say anything to an audience I didn’t have.

End