Thanks to all my readers and wellwishers. The blog has just crossed 10,000 hits! Hope i can sell that many books at least when i launch it!
Update for month of November 2013
Morya was a boy not more than four and a half feet tall. His determined steps indicated his confidence beyond his age. Morya did not know how old he was, but that did not matter to him, as he had casually asked me what it meant. I was taken aback by the casual way the young boy asked me this question. I first observed him as he was climbing down the stairs at the Dadar station bridge. He was walking besides an older girl in a worn salwar kameez with a cloth bundle on her head and a crude rural drum strung across her shoulder – crosswise. She must have been a couple of years older so I fathomed that she was not his mother. I followed him and his “sister’ till they disappeared into the crowd outside the station that spilled onto the flower market under the road bridge flyover. I was on my way to the temple for my weekly obeisance to the creator. It was also an opportunity for me to thank him for what he gave us and ask for general health, prosperity and good biding. And as is the usual practice at Hindu temples, I would drop some loose change or a few notes into the slotted donation box placed strategically in front of the deity – so that devotees can pull out little coins or notes from their little purses or clenched fists to drop into the box (lest someone forget the “purpose of the visit”). I usually then walk across to the market nearby to stock up on my weekly groceries and veggies. But that day, I stopped outside the temple as I saw Morya again. He was with his “sister”, however his clothing had changed. He was wearing a long red skirt – and was shirtless and his tonsured head was covered with a red scarf. I still recognised him by those steady mature, yet vulnerable eyes and his forehead that was smeared with yellow turmeric, and punctuated by the large red vermillion dot at the centre of his forehead. He was walking upto devotees who were either waiting for their taxis or just standing by the road nibbling on their little prasads. Morya was carrying the whip made of cloth and had draped it like a python across his shoulders. He was seeking alms and if someone refused, he quietly walked away – unlike the usual beggars who would pester those with food to part with at least a piece or two and leave after getting their “dues”. His sister followed him with a slow rumbling scrub of a bent stick on one side of the drum. This was only to attract attention now, but when Morya would perform, it would become his rhythmic beat. Her head was balancing a small stool coloured red with a deity’s idol on it. The deity was smeared in red vermillion. I walked through the crowd to see the young boy and perhaps talk to him. As I negotiated the crowds, a long green bus came along and prevented me from crossing the street. But that would not deter me or would it?
The D Street had climbed its highs and the D Boyz on the higher floors were quite happy to have taken their beloved SENSEX so high. But then this young D Boy amongst them climbed down the stairs of the tall building structure and walked down to the busy marketplace street that operated during the day in these crowded CBD lanes. The boy wore a red t-shirt and slightly ruffed maroon trousers and his walk was with a purpose. You could notice the SENSEX also follow the red dressed D Boy till he mingled with the crowds in the markets where people sold more than people could buy. Don’t ask me how that happened, but this was a case where the consumer was not the King, I guess, not unlike the consumers at D Street. And in the bargain, the SENSEX dropped from lofty heights of 21200 points to as low as 20196, but end its trip for the month to just 20791.
The green bus passed and I crossed the street. Morya was headed to the grocery store that I frequented. I hastened my steps and quickly caught up with him. I did not want to startle him, so I walked past him and stood near the entrance to the large grocery supermarket. I tried to look busy. The young boy, as was his usual style, walked up close and looked at me through those purposeful steady black eyes, mature yet vulnerable, and mumbled something that I did not catch in the traffic and market noise. I turned around and saw the boy. He looked younger than I thought and I asked him his name. He looked frightened and almost walked away, but I softened my tone and quickly tried to open my manpurse, strung around my shoulder. He stopped and awaited his alms. I pulled out a few coins and before I could place them in his cupped hand, I raised my eyebrows again – asking him his name without talking. He silently murmured “Morya”. I asked him about his sister (she indeed was his sister). He was a sin taker. A sin taker? Yes, he whipped himself in public to take on the sins of the person who gave him alms. No – I could not do this to the young boy. I almost felt like taking away the money that I gave him. And that was when I saw this young lady – perhaps in her thirties looking at the boy and walking towards the sister. She wore a worn out green saree with a maroon blouse and also had a drum strung around her shoulder. Her saree was draped over her head and her nose rings and large vermilion spot on her forehead indicated that she was perhaps his mother. She was worried and was talking to the sister. I let Morya go after thrusting a currency note into his hands. Perhaps he could have a tea and few snacks with his mother and sister, and I just let him go.
How many Moryas do we know? How many times do we pass them by. Some are part of a syndicate of beggars and many will grow up on the streets and perhaps die there. Would you give alms to seek sin cleansing? Could I have done anything different? I have som many questions this week. Perhaps you would help me with a few answers
Have a good week ahead and I wish Morya and many others like him also a good week ahead!
Update Nine Working Days ended 13 October 2013
As Gebal looked out of her whitewashed windows at the sea, the white fluffy clouds gathered overhead obscuring the Mediterranean sun for a few moments. She was thankful that the weather was fine on this post Sabb’ath day. She was waiting for her husband Adonis to return from his fishing expedition and had prepared the unleavened bread for the meal. Depending on the catch she would prepare the fish. However, she did not pin her hopes on anything big to cook. That was only incidental to his real fishing expedition in the coral islands off the coast of Tyre – the murex sea snails. She hoped he could bring back many of the snails for her to help make the expensive purple dye that he could trade to the Romans. And yesterday, Rasaathi completed her vow and as thanksgiving, she climbed all the 600 odd steps to reach the temple top to pay her obeisance. And what a sight it was that evening. In the twilight, she could the see the gathering monsoon clouds in the horizon over the Palani hills of the Eastern Ghats and as if on cue, she had not one but three peacocks displaying their plumes and their shiny peacock green and blue and “dancing” in joy. She knew that her wishes would be fulfilled – even before she went to tonsure her head ahead of her temple prayers to the Young God of the Hills. Kashibai went about picking the leaves from the forests and made the large bundles that she would carry with her to the flower market street. She could not afford a stall in the market and was content with selling her leaf bundles on the streets that led to the market. Today would be a good day, as she gathered the dark green mango leaves and lesser dark circular Apta tree leaves that would be exchanged at the festival 2 days later. She was beaming as she boarded the local train at Kasara – she had and will never know that the colour of money is green, or will she? For her, the green leaves were her wealth! Hansel had grown up along the cold Rhine valley and summer months were cherished…. She wanted to make it special and so she urged her father to do something that would bring the golden sun to her valley. Her father hit upon an idea and planted seedlings of an oilseed just as soon as the cooler spring was letting go of the cold. And by the end of Summer – Hansel had what she wanted – the golden yellow from the sun had swept the farmer’s fields. And the sunflowers followed the journey of the sun from the east to the west broadening the smile across her sunny face. Naome and Phoebe were twin siblings growing up by the Nile River and admired the birds that flew in the sky. How they wished that some day they could fly into the blue skies and see their little village from above the treetops. Maybe they could see the mighty Jinja Falls from up there. And they would share their dream as they ran the five kilometer stretch along to school each day. And a few years later – as teenagers, both of them chose to be separated – separated by 4 seats and an aisle as they sat stuck to their window seats on an aeroplane that flew them to their first marathon run in Nairobi – and from the aeroplane window, they saw the blue skies, the blue colour of the fast running Nile and then, the foamy blue of the Jinja Falls and then the deeper, darker blue of the Victoria Lake. Their day was made even before the marathon run!! Gauri sat on the banks of another river – the mighty Ganges, selling what she had sold since she was a child – vermillion powder to the pilgrims. In all shades of red and crimson. And her helper was Peter who had stayed back form one of his “soul searching trips” and he would spoon the red powder into the folded newspaper paper cutouts and neatly fold it into a triangular “paan”. Gauri always wore the dark red vermillion spot only on her forehead and today – she was sporting it on her parting of the well oiled hair as well. And she was beaming as her friendly neighbor stall-keepers came to wish her. She was blushing a deep red herself, as Peter tuned coyishly and boyishly red too! Luiza grew up in the crowded barrio of outer Caracas – where little shanties stuck to the edges of the hillside as much as to each other lest they fall off due to gravity. Getting in or out of her neighbouhood was a challenge, not only for vulnerable little girls like Luiza, but even for grown up adults – as distances were littered with filth and crime. And then like a prayer from heaven came the car – the cable car that would change the lives of many Luizas. And today Luiza was going to wear the white blouse and white skirt to her first day in school. And with the earnestness and hope in her eyes, she would one day become the first girl in her neighbourhood to go to University. White is not a hopeless colour, said Luiza – on the contrary, it is one of hope; as she went to school! Ingrid grew up in the far north – on the largely uninhabited island of Greenland. She was a good student and when she chose to go to the US for her university education – her parents were not surprised that she chose the sunny state of Florida in the south. She always had a wish – to pick a fruit from the tree and eat it juicily there and then. And when she reached Tampa – she asked the taxi driver to stop by the roadside while she got out and walked into a field and admired the orange orchards. She walked up closer and wanted to pick a shiny orange fruit. Just then Jack was driving along his truck on the orchard and stopped as he looked at Ingrid. He smiled and politely said “Miss, would you like me to pick a few for you or would you like to do it yourself. Maybe you would like the latter”, he added invitingly. Angela was worried as her pet dog was barking at the door of their farmhouse by the Blue Mountains. She urged her father to go out and find out what was wrong – and she followed him. Angela was surprised to see that unleashed dog went running towards the gum tree thicket and stood there barking excitedly. Angela saw the cute ball of grey huddled to a smaller ball of grey and black – the koalas were hurt or maybe they were sick. Her father called the vet immediately and they took the koalas to the barn. The vet gave some injections hosts to the koalas and said that the koala cub was unwell – perhaps something it ate or got in contact with – and Angela was worried. She wanted to be by the koalas’ sides all night, but her father and the vet advised otherwise. She was up early next morning and was at the barn in a jiffy – and she was so glad that the grey balls of fur were looking healthier and eating the gum tree leaves offered to them.
D Street had its share of colour this month. Starting on a rather grey note as the previous month ended and the grey clouds of the monsoon still dogged the D Street skies – keeping the D Boyz’ moods grey as they prepared to celebrate the Navaratri (Nine Nights) Festival. And thereafter, they rejoiced with the colour of orange with Ingrid and built up white hope with Luiza. The D Boyz saw some red on their streets and their SENSEX when Gauri sold the vermillion, but it was a temporary phase as they quickly changed moods to meet the true blue twins of Phoebe and Naome before embarking on Hansel’s bright yellow fields. They ended their work week with the green leaves of Kashibai and enjoyed the weekend with Raasathi and her dancing peacocks and hoped to make a fortune with the colour purple, made by the Phoenicians and so revered and clamoured for by the rich Romans. All in all, a colourful week or nine working days that took the SENSEX form 19500 levels to 20,528 – a good 1000 points up!
And the women and some men on the streets of the country also celebrated the great Devis of yore and now and of the future – as they celebrated each colour – starting with grey last Saturday to the purple and violet of this Sunday. Sometimes, even the “dull” shades of grey and sombre shades of white can have a dramatic colourful effect on ones lives, don’t you agree?
If you have any colourful stories to share – please do write in to me.
Have a great week ahead … Cheers…
Update for week ended 20 September 2013
Prashant, Mana, Aditya and Dharini got together for their regular evening playtime. The weather was warm and getting slightly muggy, but they were keen to spend some time outside. Their mothers were also pleased to see that the children got their daily share of activity and group interaction through these sessions. It is another story that some of the mothers actually enjoyed and cherished these moments for the solitude and quiet in the house – as the noisy children ran about in the building compound playing their usual games. And then, Aditya had a change of plan. He asked the others to join him in his house to play some indoor games. But he had to seek permission from his strict mother. His mother reluctantly allowed the children home on the condition that they would not make any noise and would not play in the children’s room, but in the guest room. The children were up at the 11th floor apartment in a jiffy (figuratively, though, because they could only get up there as fast as the elevator took them). They quickly grabbed the games that they wanted to play from Adtya’s room and as per instructions, closeted themselves in the guest room. They had a Rubik’s cube, a board game of snakes and ladders, a skipping rope (now that was a surprise!) and their books (which could transform themselves into tablets or electronic pads during play – quite innovative and lateral thinking). And amid the din and noise, they settled down to a game of snakes and ladders. The dice was tossed and the game began as they raced across the numbered board. The initial small ladder climbs were celebrated with exciting yeahs! and wows! And quite a few gasps were let out with a hissy phew! when Dharini missed being “bitten” by a snake that could have got her sliding down 10 points. Prashant would squeal the most whenever the dice was rolled and Dharini would also get excited. The climbs were either decided by the roll of the dice in steps of five, three, or even a double six, and an occasional ladder climb. And then there would be ohs! And aahs! when the snake would lurk on squares to bite the player and swallow it down its tail. But today was a good day, when all four of them raced across the board to the right, then to the left and then to the right and up and left and about, till they were in the nineties in just a few rolls of dice. And then that long snake sneered from number 99. Prashant was at 92, Mana was at 95, Aditya was ahead of all at 98 while Dharini was just behind at 97. And then the inevitable occurred, as Prashant rolled a six and then a 1; while Mana rolled a four, while Aditya rolled a 1 and Dharini, a two. The ohs! and Ahs!! were so loud that even Jeevan – Aditya’s elder brother, who was trying to study while listening to his songs on a phone, had to shout a loud shush! Aditya’s father was busy in the other room putting together a quiz for his friends while his mother was trying out her new recipe for crispy dosais (a south Indian rice based crepe). They tried to quieten the children and warned them of the instructions. The game did not end then, but there was a fun pause, as the kids who had had a good run were all brought down about thirty points…… and children being children, they went back to the roll of the dice and the game and did not bother about the setback.
But on D Street – the D Boyz were shocked. They did not know how to react as the elder brother across on M street (where money is minted, goes the urban legend) raised his voice against some noisy price rises. But to rewind a bit, the D Boyz did have a good roll of dice through the week as they played on their version of snakes and ladders in the D Street – at times rolling just a few points as per the dice and on Thursday, climbing that second longest ladder to over 20600 points. The noise levels on D Street were louder than the just concluded Ganesh Chaturthi festival and even the NGO against noise pollution was keen to train its ire on the D Boyz rather than the goons of the Ganesh Mandals. And then the shock and oh! on Friday pushed them back to 20263, and when the day ended, the D Boyz were not sure how to react to the elder brother’s shush!!! They went silent and almost resolved to stop playing. Thankfully, there was a weekend ahead and with little rain, they could forget the elder brother’s admonishment and get back to playing the game like the four children,
Prashant, Mana, Aditya and Dharini. Mana and Dharini left early as their respective parents called for them, and Prashant and Aditya got back to the game to finish their turns. Then they decided to read their books as books, and not as make-believe tablets or electronic pads. Innocence and team-work in children is something that I admire and I am all for letting them be like this for as long as they can!
Have a great week ahead! Cheers ……..
Update for month – mid August to Mid September 2013
Katoo was from Australia and lived with his family on the 18th floor of a highrise and since the building was on a slope the window of the apartment complex across the street was of the 20th floor. Katoo would look out of the window whenever the curtains were opened and wonder who lived in that apartment. He would whistle and generally whittle his time away. His family was good and they cared for him, but would not take him out when they went. They would coo something into his ears or gently run their upturned fingers over his head smoothing out his ruffled locks and maybe bribe him with a few crackers and some nutritious nuts. And then they would draw down his curtains and let him sleep off before they left. And Katoo always wondered where they went to. He had never been “out” and remembered being with the family since he was little. They were not his parents or siblings, but they loved him as one. As a curious youngster, he had once sipped some dishwasher near the kitchen sink and turned pink and they had rushed him to the doctor and he had spent a few days in the hospital. The family was overprotective since and never allowed him out his room. He felt like a caged bird, with wings, yet unable to fly. And yet, he always wondered what wonders lay in the apartment across the street. And then the day arrived. It was early mid august and the weather was sunny. He was taken out for a drive to a nearby park. He was amazed to smell the fresh flowers, the smell of the leaves. The sounds were so different. He could hear the noisy traffic muffled by the sounds of rustling leaves and the faraway gentle rush of water. Could there be a river or a waterfall nearby. Wow, he cried out! His family was happy for him and they smiled, but they could not hide their tears. Katoo did not know why they behaved strangely with him. They cuddled him, stroked his head and fed him his favourite nut, the macadamia nut from Madagascar. And then they did something that they had never done before. They held him in their arms, one at a time and finally Father just tossed him up into the sky. He fluttered his wings and although he had a hunch he could fly, he never realized that he really could. He squawked and flew to the top branch of the magnificent sea mango trees that lined the path of this artistic garden. And when he flew back to the bench where they sat with me, they were gone. He looked to the left, to the right and flew up into the sky to look beyond and they were not in sight. He was alone and yet free. He did not know where he was and his Australian accent was not one that the Cantonese sparrow understood. She looked crossly at him and chirped out to her friends, the mynah and the Ceylon Blue butterfly. And what she twittered to them was beyond Katoo’s comprehension. He ignored them and went flying down the garden path and explored his new world. He came to a tree over a pond. He was amazed to see that the fish in the pond were actually teasing a terrapin. One even tried to take a nip off the turtle’s toes. The cross looking terrapin kicked the fish and moved on. And then he faced the first obstacle of his new life. The black kite. One did not need a kite’s sharp hawk-eyes to miss this new white foreigner amidst these green surroundings. And moreover this new flier was also struggling as he flew – given that he was new at it. The kite just came swooping down and with its squeal , scared the wits out of Katoo. Katoo flapped harder and saw a glimmer of hope as he spotted the red car that he had just taken on the way to the park. Maybe his family was still in it, and they would quickly let him in and he could back home to his apartment. That is all he wanted to do – he did not want to see what was outside the closed windows. He squawked as he chased the red bodied sedan with a white top and flapped his wings faster. The red taxi was going down the slope and Kato followed it squawking all the time as the kite swooped down closer. And then the taxi swerved to the right and climbed a small flyover. The ride was getting dizzy and Katoo was getting tired – he was not used to so much of flying and that too with fear in his thumping heart. The taxi drove ahead and as the kite closed in, there was a distracting ding ding. The kite got distracted and Katoo carried on as he passed by a tall double-decker black tram. He wanted to inspect it more closely but had no time. The taxi was getting out of sight and then it went into the tunnel. Katoo followed, as the taxi slowed but was surely going down a slope. Katoo was tired and in the slow traffic, he managed to perch atop the white roof. And panted, to get air back into his lungs. The deeper it went, the more he felt suffocated as the pressure in is ears started building up and his ears were about to pop out. Thank God, he did not have earls like a dog or cat or a human lest it fall off, he consoled himself. He looked around and it was well lit by electric lights and the slow moving taxi gained speed as he saw brighter light at the end of the tunnel and as the taxi dove out, he prepared to alight when it would stop. But this was a different place that he was unfamiliar with. The tall green trees were all replaced with tall buildings, so close to each other that the sunlight never ever reached the streets. The red neon lights were brightly blinking and never having gone to a school, Katoo could not decipher any of the legend on the colourful neons, reds, yellows, blues, and a few greens. The taxi slowly wound its way out of the busy streets onto slightly more open areas and as it passed a park, Katoo got a little more scared. What if the kite was waiting for him here? Then the taxi swerved into a large housing colony by the hillside and stopped. Katoo was eager to meet his family, but was disappointed as the taxi driver was the only person who got out of the taxi and walked away. Katoo flew at the window and saw that the taxi was empty. He looked around to identify any familiar sights, perhaps that window across the street that he wished to go to. But he could not recognize this strange place. The buildings were smaller in height and spaced out as well. The hills looked inviting and he flew out towards them as he was hungry. The high pitched squawking attracted him to a mango tree. He was surprised to see some green Indian parakeets with red ringed necks. He smiled nervously as he perched on a branch not too far away from them. He nodded a nervous friendly hello and the pandemonium creating parakeets made more commotion as they fluttered closer to Katoo. That was where he met the friendly, but noisy Indians. Initially, he was not sure if he could not understand number of multiple conversations that were occurring, or was it the speed with which they spoke or just the accent. But finally he understood them and told them of his story. They looked excited and hopped around him to see him better and some even asked him whether he was a famous chef from down under or did he appear in that cooking reality show. He was in familiar territory and he felt safe now – away in the green hills amongst his green friends. It was to be a new life…..
The D Boyz who lived and worked in tall buildings were also curious of the occupants of the opposite windows. But they were not wishful like Katoo. They would just go to office each day and back. And although the colour of the taxis in Mumbai was mostly black and yellow, the odd red coloured cabs were also doing their rounds. And in early August, they went to office like any other day, except that thereafter, it was whirlwind of a trip like the one Katoo underwent. They were deserted by their foreign foster parents (FIIs) and when left to fend for themselves, they did not know how to handle the dangers and vagaries of the world by themselves. They chased the red car that they came in and kept following it down the hillside and before they almost got attacked and knocked by a ding ding tram and then followed the red taxi into a tunnel that went under the sea. And in those depths, they felt suffocated and tired and the high pressure in the tunnel also got them all sick, until they slowly emerged out but had to go through narrow and crowded alleys on the other side of the sea tunnel and as they finally came to a stop of this whirlwind trip, they had moved from the comfortable confines of their homes and workplace to the foster (FII) parentless world of dangers and the unknown. They saw the hills by the edge and settled close to a grove of Mangifera Indica trees. And then the green Indians came in flocks to soothe their anxiety and fears. And the green comfort of the trees, the folks around was enough to soothe the frayed nerves. And in all that mayhem, they had chased along their SENSEX from the 18900 levels down to below 18000 and after plummeting to these suffocating depths of 17497 – they emerged from the tunnels and moved around the crowded streets and slowly got close to the greenhills of the 19000 levels to settle amongst familiar and nerve-soothing, high-end reaches of the great Indian mango trees to almost taste the sweetness of 20,000. And amongst Indian friends and having let go of the Foreign Foster parents – who left them to fend for themselves, they settled down to this new life in mid September … with the SENSEX still close to 20000 at 19732.
The noisy parakeets had gathered and shared so much information in those few minutes that Katoo was actually missing his quiet home. But they were not rude, they were just being themselves. They wanted to know of him, what he liked, who he found attractive and did he go skinny dipping at Bondi Beach? What! exclaimed Katoo. He was a bird, not a shark. And he had never been to Australia – at least he did not remember if he even went there. He was raised in this Ozzie home on an island and then here he was, in the wilderness of the new lands with these migrants. The New Territories is what he called these hills and green environs. And one day he flew to the top of the hill chasing a Caucasian man with his spaniel dog. He looked a lot like his foster father. And when they reached the peak, he looked closer and knew that this was not him. But the awesome sight he saw from there was something he won’t forget easily. He looked southward and beyond the high rise apartments was the sliver of the sea that parted the mainland from the island that had been his home for long. And the island also had tall buildings that competed with each other – perhaps for the sun or was it to reach the peak on that island. And the peak had a thick crown of green cover of forest that looked and felt familiar. Katoo could not recollect where he had seen them before. But there was a sense of sadness when he looked at the buildings and the forest on the island. On the island, the Payne family was packing their belongings and the little girl Cathy wanted to take the golden cage along. Dad Payne smiled at his teary eyed little girl and told her that she could get another cockatoo when she got back to Australia.
Have a nice week ahead …. Cheers……..
(some of the landmarks referred to here are from a distant but real city).
Update for week ended 10 August 2012
Parukutty Amma had more basil and ixora to pluck and pick today. As she walked into the basil grove, her ankles brushed the plants, and she bent down to pluck the leaves. She knew which to pick and which to leave behind as there were 2 varieties in her garden, the lighter green leaves and the darker bluish tints.
Update for the month of July 2013
It was in the midst of the long rains that we had made the Nairobi trip and now it was time to return. We had spent a long day shopping at the sprawling multi-storeyed supermarket – buying toys, clothes, knick knacks for the house, the kitchen and taking back small gifts for our friends back home at Kisumu. And then after a hurried dinner, Mummy quickly packed the stuff into the bags we had and we started carrying them down to the waiting car. We were really excited as this was going to be our first night cross-country trip back home. It would be exciting to just look out of the window at the dark forests and try and decipher any movement of giraffes or baboons. And it made it more exciting as we were told some interesting tales of encounters with a herd of elephants or even a nocturnal big cat. Now that last animal set got us all so charged up that we fought sleep as the car rolled out of the sodium lamp lit double carriageway onto the single laned highway that would take us to the rift valley and across. The climb started. Our driver was worried about passing through the forest route and so chose to take a longer route across the rolling hills of Molo. Molo is situated in perhaps the highest inhabited part of Kenya at over 7000 feet above mean sea level and given the salubrious climate, is home to the merino sheep that grow thick coats of wool after chomping on the fresh green grassy slopes of this “mini Scotland”. And that climb started getting dizzy as mists started enveloping our car and visibility was dropping by the minute. The strong fog lamps of our car were not able to pierce the thick mists that were rolling onto the mountainside. We heard a loud thunder and all the children in the car woke up with a start. Yes, the drive was uneventful and the dizzying ride made us sleepy. It was close to 10 pm now and at least 2 hours past my bedtime. And despite the biting sub 10 C temperature outside, we felt cosy in our own woolen sweaters and scarves as we huddled together in the back seat with Mummy. And then we could see the dim lights of the little town ahead of us – eerily glowing through the mist as it was slowly tending to clear as we got closer to the town centre. All the stores were closed and so was the sole petrol pump. We had driven slowly, but there were other vehicles ahead of us that had either stopped en route or were cruising along even slower, as we soon crawled to a bumper to bumper drive on the mountains. And then the descent started which fortunately (or so we thought, but we judged too soon) was better as the mists started rolling off and the road ahead was more clearer. We noticed that the vehicle we were behind was a large Pilsner double trailer. And we had heard of horror stories about how these Pilsner Trailers drove on treacherous mountainside roads. (see below). And then the large water drops started pelting on our windscreen. First as large drops that just fell splat and then were quickly swished away by the car’s wipers, and then a few uneven rattling that sounded louder on the rooftop than on the windscreen, but was albeit, loud. Hailstones… after mist, now we had hit a hailstorm. At first the tap-tap tap were intermittent, but then started pelting down faster like someone shoveling tiny gravel onto metal sheets. The noisy din kept us awake, as well as the fear, as driving visibility dropped with the hail accompanied by raindrops. And the worst fear was that we were following a Pilsner Trailer – a double trailer for that! It was impossible to see beyond the windscreen and we could not stop as there was large truck behind us too (and who knows it could be another Pilsner or Tusker truck!! Shudderrrrrr……..) Appa was prodding the driver to keep driving on when suddenly a dark splat plopped itself on the windscreen in front of the driver! Now we were doomed….. the only saving grace was that the truck behind us was no longer behind – the driver had perhaps stopped for you know what!! (see below). Appa urged the driver to step out and clean the splat – but he was reluctant because of the heavy rain beating down as well as the cold. But he got off and tried cleaning it, and could not. We were now really petrified as the downhill drive was steep and all our interest of seeing animals crossing our paths were gone – washed away from our minds by the long rains of Kenya and the double trailer truck ahead of us in this visibility challenged trip at night.
The D Boyz were happy and eager to go shopping and so they picked up some equity here and some more there – some for themselves and some for the friends and in the process, helped move their dear SENSEX higher and higher. In fact their shopping frenzy continued even after the SENSEX climbed on and on and even beyond 20000 points. The climb was smooth and took the SENSEX across what initially looked like idyllic rolling hills – like the Scottish highlands. And then once they reached the highest peak at 20300 or so, they met with catastrophe – almost like the author’s tryst with the foggy weather and hailstorm. And then there was no stopping, as it hailed and stormed on D Street – almost like a reckless “Tusker or Pilsner” truck winding its way down slippery mountain slopes. All the enthusiasm of shopping and gifting before this journey ended in a muddy slurry as their SENSEX skidded down sharply to 18789 by close of business on 8 August 2013.
The Tusker and Pilsner truck trailers were large Mercedes or Volvo trucks that carried crates of the brew that was popular across the country. And in a country where beer was almost as cheap as milk, it was no wonder that many took to this kidney cleansing but liver challenging drinks. Many violent incidents in towns and villages were caused due to the inebriation of it. At times, the containers themselves (brown 750 ml bottles) were used as handy weapons in quarrels that would go fatal at times. And so the urban legend of these trailer trucks was that, not only did it carry the deadly brew that could cause more destruction without even realizing it, but the drivers of these trucks also partook some of the goods that they ferried across from the brewery to the stores while driving, causing accidents along the treacherous escarpment hugging roads of the Rift Valley and beyond. And to be ensconced between two such trucks was as close to the gates of hell or heaven (whichever one went to) as one could get. Imagine these playing on the minds of 9, 10 and 12 year olds!!!! Now you realize why there was petrified fear.
Thank you to the readers who wrote back on their fond childhood journeys – most were of train travels to holiday destinations or just plain going home on poetic trains. To read them you can go to the comments section of http://riteriterite.wordpress.com/2013/07/07/the-drive-across-the-rift-valley/ .
Have a great weekend and Id and Shraavan Greetings to all!!! Cheers…