Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Tea-Man

Under the Neem tree. A tall man with a longer moustache. He squatted. Numerous kettles circled him. A gas cylinder stood stout behind. From the matchbox peeped a lone stick. They rubbed each other and magic!!! His stove lit with the yellow orange. But the flame shone blue and brighter. One tumbler is chosen. Be seated on the hot brick is the task. An Amul milk pouch was tore open callous. The plastic added to the already contended lives of his predecessors. The mixture of white and water planned to boil. And they giggled at the flame getting hotter. Two spoons of tea leaves. The mixture sat quiet at the new neighbour. Slowly they gelled together to effervescence. Shades painted to brown, they leapt to jump out of the room of theirs. To enjoy freedom, to discern the life beyond. But the man continued lowering the glow. A spoon kept jetting in and out of the sugar tin, spitting the crystal candy into the mix. A style so indifferent. Music as the same spoon hit the side of the kettle with sincere regularity. Ginger added to the boil squeezed and squashed with an iron rod. Hot tea is poured to strain. Not on a strainer, but a cotton piece. The cloth wrung to its maximum. Solid and liquid filtered of their togetherness. A moment of melancholy. Decisiveness of collectiveness still stood in every molecule. The kettle is fuelled full. Tea leaves, sugar, ginger, milk and water packed in the essence of my plastic cup. I sip it hot.. aaaaaaaahaaa….soothing.The tardiness blown away, a fresh breeze filters through the Neem leaves too.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Heyyyyyyyy, Auto !!!!!!

Auto-rickshaw or the ubiquitous crowd puller. This 3 wheeler also phrased as the rick/rickshaw sifted through my thoughts on reading an interesting article in DNA. Mclaren designer quoting the auto as a charming and great utility vehicle, an icon he says because it transcends fashion and resists ageing. Quoting it as a classic at par with the Mini, Beetle And Willys he evoked sweet memories in me.

The shape of the Rick like a bedbug fascinated me always. As a kid, the school bus made auto rides a rarity, but ‘bus breakdown hein’ news were a welcome thrill, as heads turned to the “Eyyyy, Auto” call. Those auto days in Trivandrum were sure to ensue heated debates on the little ‘extra than the meter’ fare demanded. Still I enjoyed the fights and the efforts taken to nullify the effect. Special mention for the drivers in Trivandrum as Lal-buffs. Courtesy, the palm sized profile of Mohanlal adorning the windscreens alongside the umpteen Gods from mythology. The Malayalam movie “Aey auto” cashed and showcased the unity and strength of the same auto drivers.

Thanks to the mixed culture I hailed from, any visit to Calicut never got me in the tangle of words. Appreciative glances were the only little gifts exchanged for a ride. The drivers had always been honest and fair in fare. One of the most refreshing experiences came forth when the driver retuned some coins for the meter was faulty.

Fainter are the memories of the roaring diesel engines from Piaggio trying to rule the roost. Boasting a wider seating space, yet petering out on the hegemony of Bajaj petrol providing an uncompromising mileage.

An inevitable shift to Mumbai decanted a muse of losses including the three wheel rides, but the first sight of autos lined at the CST made me feel at home. The regular auto art and the smoke spooking silencers weren’t seen. Instead CNG, the eco friendly automobile had its authoritative stamp. The identity in the front panel for Mumbaikar’s rickshaw was their unique registration number unlike the Malayali autos flaunting cute names like the chinnu, minnu or kuttu. Then wows the audio systems with thumping beats of the FM transporting the heart to my mouth. “Beleave a snake, not a girl”- The graffiti’s with the funny, witty or philosophical taglines romancing a treat for the eyes often had me in reflections and splits alike.

The amusing display of the rickshaw culture in Mumbai is worth emulating, from the fair on fare meter policy to the one legged drivers. Those whom I mistook for being differently-Abled, until getting enlightened that their left legs are tucked inside for the comfort of driving. None debates. Calm and composed in coughing a rupee less than the meter fare, though the meters tick even when the engines are not coughing. Doctored, I know, still reasonable to the core.

As a traveler I found Chennai drivers at the fleecing worst, while their counterparts in Bangalore, Kolkota & Goa fared marginally better even with the ‘fix the rate and then travel’ policy. Many variants in hues too are available like the usual black roof making way to the yellow in Chennai to the CNG green in Delhi. The share rickshaws of Surat and Mumbai communicate an altogether different story. Transporting the urban populace in a congested and unsafe mode, banking on the disorganized public transport system.

So much more in line… but ending on a serious note, the three small wheels and the bumpy rides turn a major employer in our country, livelihood to a major chunk of the population. Painting a true picture of the quintessence of modern and contemporary, rural and urban, rustic and the burgeoning India in different shapes, sizes, colors and characters.