Saturday, January 2, 2010

Down Memory Lane Part 2

Well now that you have got down from the bus, I need to welcome you to my town. Welcome to Surendranagar:). Sorry for keeping you waiting at the bus-stand.

Outside the busstand you see the clouds of burning coal-smoke from a small pot that has been kept over a heap of Khari Sing (roasted salted peanuts) on a hand-cart. Behind these swarms of smokes you see a couple of autos, who would charge you 5 rupees more, mainly for your looks, to travel to my house. You find it cheap. Still you negotiate as you think you should; he reduces that 5 rs. and you would know later how you pay for it. A friend of his would jump-in to sit beside him on the drivers seat chatting with him in Gujarati that you would not understand even if you were Gujarati. He wouldnot look friendly for the first 100 mts. of your drive and then he would tell you how, there is no rain this season too and how municipality gives water once in every 5 days. As you move along you realize the other aspect of the place- roads are almost non-existent. You would find enroute an arts and science college, with the only Tennis court (cemented) of the town. You dont see boys and girls gossiping together here like your cities. There would be a group of eve-teasers in the parking lot that you might catch a glimpse of. There, just ahead of it you would find people selling cricket bats and earthern pots; No there are no shops, you dont earn enough out of that business to create shops; its on the road-side. As your 3-wheeler jump over a few pot-holes no one cares about, you would realize that you are still not into the market area. You see buses enroute- private buses waiting for passengers to be taken to Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Ahmedabad. Most of the people in it are paitient enough to wait for the bus to get filled. The auto-wallah would stop near to a theatre where his friends get off and where a female of about 50 stands. She is wearing a typical banjara dress (Bharvad as the tribe is known as in Gujarat) with a black ghaghra and a black choli with an open back showing her aged, wrinkled and dark back and the tatooing on her hands giving her name like - "Devu Ba". She will smile at you with a golden teeth and scars of tobacco (Bajar) that she brushed on her teeth. You get uncomfortable with the smell of cattles that comes from her and unwillingly you look down on a friendly lady, and shout at the autowallah as he tells you that for 15 rs. you need to share the auto. Your negotiation for the money goes for a toss.

You move on and as you reach the underbridge, just after an ambedkar statue, you see traffic police taking 50rs. from a person driving without helmet. Its so typical of our times, guards -who are entrusted with the responsibility of serving and guarding rules, are so powerful that you fear them. You smile. There are a few things that you can relate to. There on your left you would now see the only mall of the town with a "Jay Khodiyar Auto Parts" board at the entrance, with red and green font on white in gujarati. The Mall also houses the courier company and the tiles merchant and many more, but from outside you would just find it like a building. Its a mall without any escalators and with the corners of walls stained red. There is a juice center just a few hundered mts. down the line in the market, where the soda is more transperent and less saltier than water. This is a crowded area, the roads are full of chattering people, newspaper-eating cows, pigs, dogs while the bikes and auto try to move on the fringes of the road or footpath. Mid way every now and then you might see a lavish bungalow, not a huge one but something interesting and outside most of these you would find a hand-cart of a dabeli-wala or Kulfi-wala. I would not like to leave you in the auto for a while till you reach my lane, you can enjoy the roads that arent on your way. Had you had come by train, you would have seen nothing of Surendranagar that you just saw, inplace you would have seen a lonely temple on a barren land where I first went with some special friends- these days they call it a "date".

By the time you get down of the auto purshottam(the driver) would have befriended you. Now as you get down and pay him at the end of the lane of my society (we call it society, rightly so). Enroute you would have already noticed a few things but we will pause the time at the end of this lane and take in a few things that our city life makes us notice. Almost every lane of any Middle class society (read it as relatively poor lower middle class with your city classification) in surendranagar has 3 things in common - Open uncovered gutters where the sludge from each of the house would flow in, a hand pump for the lack of municipality water where you might catch a few passers by drinking directly from the pump and a "Hanuman" Temple. Grapejuice (Vine/wine is a word you should not use in Gujarat), says that Surendranagar is registered with Guiness book of world records for highest number of templesfor the monkey god. Every Hanuman Jayanti the young boys of society get together to build a temple with their hands. So just on the sides of gutters or beside the handpump you might find a Hanuman temple. There just on the other side of the 25 mt. long lane, you would see a common plot which happens to be a playground for all the kids there, a dumping ground for all the kachra and the place of the thorny acacia weeds to grow. A small boy would run from the play ground to collect the cricket ball hit by a rowdy old friend of his into the gutter. The gutters are shallow and cemented in a half a feet deep canal-form; they look black and smell pungent. Very pungent to you. The young boy first herds the group of pigs lying in front of the gutters after their bath in it. There are marks they leave from gutters till the place they are lying. The young boy then runs and puts his hand in to the sludge taking out the red rubber ball, it looks black on one side. He runs down near you to the side of the handpump, pumps water out, washes the ball and his hands drinks a handful of water and runs back in to the playground. That young boy could have been me if you were here a 20 years back.

As the time has paused for us, we can look at each of the house carefully. For your eyes the two doors at the main entrance of all houses are unusually colorful green, blue or yellow with little fissures on them from which the kids look into their house after they knock to see if mummy is coming to open the door. The skyline, that is a long strip as you stand on the narrow 8 ft wide lane is marred with electricity wires and kites, on which you might find an array of bright green parrots with red beaks if the time is morning else it would either be pigeons or most likely crows. The row of small houses on both the sides are painted with equally vibrant colors. There outside the houses are small tanks with municipality taps. Each of the tank shas a cover to safe guard the waters from pigs/dogs and safeguard kids from falling into it. Women are out sitting on the porche infront of their house which covers the gutters. You have a peculiar sense of warmth and welcome on all faces that are turned towards you as you are standing at the end of the lane. You are Gotu's friend here. So let the Gotu formally welcome you to his society - Narayan Nagar Society no.3. We are back home!

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