‘The mangoes were very good this year. How many could I have eaten all by myself? That’s why I leased the tree to Ramu. He paid me six thousand rupees and took care of plucking and selling them”. Before Triveni could attack with business flaws, Padma continued “Atleast Ramu could make some money. It will help his household expenses and his son’s school fee”. Triveni shook her head and didn’t know whether to feel happy about Padma’s generosity or feel sad that the mangoes had to be sold, because their children chose to not visit their village this summer. Summers before weren’t like this in Padma’s and Triveni’s.
It used to bubble with conversations and laughter, games and kids running around, delicious meal and annual events at their village temple, and of-course tasty yellow mangoes. The hot and humid weather couldn’t lower their energies either. Padma would wake up before sunrise and take a cold shower. She’d give immense love to her cow and its calf. She’d walk to the temple and offer her prayers. She’d make tea and breakfast for her children and grandchildren, a good 15 of them. She’d walk up the hill to fetch firewood. She’d nurture the small patch of pineapple, chilli, banana, a few other fruits and vegetables, and of-course everyone’s beloved mango tree. She’d sing folk songs for her grandchildren while cooking delicious meals for lunch. She just couldn’t stop herself from sharing everything she had in her capacity. It was as if she could bring all her energy into these two months, exactly like the 100m runners who can bring all of their energy to that one sprint.
When the summer holidays ended, she’d walk up to the bus-stop with her family. As she’d wave her hands to the loud ‘bye and see-you’ of her grandchildren, one could see how she’d struggle to hide her pain. Those eyes would long to have her family beside her, always. Those eyes would hope to spin the globe faster to arrive at the next summer holidays. Those eyes needed someone to comfort her. Everytime, it was Triveni who’d go and stand beside her in the empty bus stop. Only Triveni could understand Padma’s feelings, she also had to bid those goodbyes to her family. In these years of friendship they’d learnt to smile and comfort each other in times of silence, hardships and emptiness. Cherishing their summer holidays and time with family, they’d walk home with a light conversation and a laughter of innocence.
This year, their children and grandchildren couldn’t visit the village during summer. Padma and Triveni were rejoicing the memories.
These memories always brought immense joy and at the same time a sense of loss. They were losing themselves to time, time that changed relationships, time that made attractive cities, time that turned them old. Triveni let out a heavy sigh and got up to leave. Padma pulled Triveni’s hand and took out two mangoes. “Ramu left a few mangoes for us”, Padma smiled. Triveni joined her with a grin. The delicious yellow pulp slipped out of the fruit’s skin and the ladies playfully gulped the pulp and slurped the juice that tried dripping from their lips. Triveni danced a few playful steps to Padma’s folk tunes before heading home. Padma went in to relax on her easy chair. The cat jumped on her lap and purred for a while before taking its post noon nap.
‘This way sister’, ‘salwaar set hundered rupees only’, ‘You are looking nice’, ‘DDLJ parallels also available’, ‘See my side once sister’, ‘ ‘many patterns’, ‘Sister’, ‘Sister’…
Before the culture of malls and franchises there existed a complex full of shops. There were neither fragrances nor air conditioning at such places. These shops didn’t give big size advertisements on the roadside hoardings. They neither collected information like email address/name/birthday/how did they hear about the shop from people who bought clothes in their shop. They still did business. I was once their customer too. In the 90s and early 2000s Bangalore’s Majestic, Malleshwaram, Gandhi Bazaar, Jayanagar had such complex and shops. They still do. There used to be many sales boys at the front door who’d keep shouting those phrases, you know, ‘this way sister’ sorts, so that people walking in become their customers and buy clothes from their shops. I think most of the sales boys were less good at sales and took this exposure as an opportunity to tease girls. I remember pacing in as fast as possible to a shop which had none of those boys and had one or more women in the shop sales team. Generally in our family, shopping was a rare affair and yet I dreaded the whole experience of shopping for clothes, footwear and accessories as a teenager. There was a fear for no wrong doing of mine. I expressed my hatred for such teasers. I suggested we must teach them a lesson. Like every girl I was told to ignore them. There were many shops in many cities; I was asked how I could change everyone. They convinced me that it was a society menace. I didn’t have the courage to battle it all by myself. The helplessness had turned into my irritation for shopping. Then I grew up. So did the malls and franchise stores. I used to find them very expensive and yet would go onto buy only because I didn’t want to go through the ‘sales boys’ harassment. I wonder how many girls like me put an end to these small shops and drove to chain stores in the malls, for this reason. I worry how many didn’t / couldn’t and have to still go through this. For many years I had a suspicious eye for every sales representative, even the genuine. Probably, I still do. The way business is done might have changed over the years, but, the picture isn’t rosy yet.
We still have teasers in ‘many patterns’, in all lengths and forms. They are not only in these markets, they could be anywhere.
I was reading a book called ‘An elegy for easterly’ by Petina Gappah. In one of her short story she mentions a Zimbabwe market where a sales boy calls out ‘Sister, sister, this way’. When I read this, like a jolt the Alankar Plaza and sales boys that I thought I’d kicked out from the deep and dark corners of my memories, came back in a lightning speed with their haunting voice calling out ‘this way sister’. However this time, I wouldn’t walk away with fear. I say NO to teasing and bullying. Teasing is an ugly social behaviour.
For holidays I’d travel to grand-ma’s home and that’d be our summer camp. Half of my summer camp would be in Thirthalli (dad’s native) and the other half in Udupi (mom’s native). The travel from Bangalore to our village ‘Patlamane’ was a tiring one with ten hours travel time. Our journey would start with a red coloured KSRTC bus from Bangalore to Shimoga. In the six hours journey I’d ask mom to buy me groundnuts, biscuits and chocolates. After some munch I’d stretch and sleep on mom and sister. Once we got off at Shimoga, we’d stop by at Thrupthi canteen to eat curd rice, one among the best curd rice I’ve had. The journey isn’t over yet, we still have a long way to cover, not distance wise but time wise. We’d have to take a bus from Shimoga to Thirthalli and then from Thirthalli to Ganapathikatte. Sometimes I’d feel travel sick and a few times that I’ve reached intact, I was supposed to run for 2km and send my cousins to mom and sister to help get our suitcases. There are two ways to reach home, one by the main road and another through our betel-nut farm. I’d take the farm road, because it’s fast and also I was scared of a pond on the main road. I’d run to grand-ma after, who would get up from her bed, smile at me and ask ‘ivaga bandhya’ (did you arrive now?). I’d say yes, then wait by her side and she would slowly pick a plastic cover under her pillow which would have my favourite orange candy. By then mom and sister would arrive and everyone gets into a melodious conversation. I’m lost in the talks and also in time now.
I’d slowly walk towards the entrance to see the vast betel-nut trees. I’d then step towards the cowshed. All the cows are munching their evening grass meal and I walk-in to speak with them. The shiny black cow standing next to the entrance is ‘Saraswathi’. Standing next to her is ‘Lakshmi’ and beside is her calf drinking milk. Lakshmi always delivers a male calf, always. The orange cow at the far corner is ‘Parvathi’. She usually uses her horns to shoo away unknowns. This cowshed has sheltered many cows in the 60 odd years, the names have changed but the stories have remained the same.
I walk near the wooden gate, pedestrians can walk by in the small opening and when a motorcycle or a four wheeler comes, someone has to slide the four wooden bars which are resting on a small pillar, to make way. I see thousands of jamun fruit on the pathway, they all are smashed and have oozed out purple liquid. I see my cousin’s jeep up the road and I run towards it. I see an old man by the jeep. He’s squatting and smoking ‘beedi’ (thin cigarette). He is wearing a shirt which I guess would have been white once, now it’s full of mud. He’s got a striped shorts and has put a towel on his shoulder. He’s got a curly hair and has cracked legs. I go near him and he throws his cigarette away. He smiles and I can see his broken tooth. He asks ‘Puttamma! chennagiddira?’ (little girl, are you doing good?). I smile back and show my broken tooth and tell him that I’m doing good.
Neeliah Nayaka, who is an essential part of my school summer holiday memories. So many jeep journeys with cousins and him, his infectious laughter, walking me up the hill to drop me at cousin’s place, his puppy face when doddamma (dad’s elder brother’s wife) would scold him for drinking and coming home, his silence, his tree climbing techniques and the wild fruits he’d bring me.
Joyful days, Joyful memories and Joyful Neeliah 🙂
The alarm kept buzzing and it took a few more snoozes before it was fully silenced. Mornings are a challenge themselves, while, winter mornings challenge you with a dark dare. I always thought birds recognized sunrise to wake up and that ain’t true, they shout at three in the middle of my sleep. I dragged myself to the kitchen to prepare my honey lime warm water and saw a pound of bread resting in a corner. I sail back in the sea of my memories.
My mother is busy working her way in the kitchen. She has draped a blue and red printed saree and sporting a maroon bindi on her forehead. She is making filter coffee for everyone in the house. She pours the decoction and adds the creamy milk to make it a glossy brown liquid that kick starts the day for most adults. I couldn’t see the coffee bubbling on the burner, I stood straight and barely reached the kitchen counter. I walk into the hallway and see my father in his white vest and dhothi, leaning in the sofa and reading every bit of news from the Kannada newspaper ‘prajavani’ delivered by a local boy in his cycle. I go to sit next to dad and continue to play with my semi-naked barbie doll. My sister is wearing her favorite light blue frock with white flower prints. She’s lying on the floor and scribbling words on a book with her new crayons. The black cat walks past us to enter our kitchen and continues to meow. She’s stayed outdoors all night wanting to hunt down rats of our neighborhood, but, she looks disappointed with her efforts. I leave the doll on the sofa and run behind her to the kitchen. As I try to hold her, she slips away to circle around my mother. She wants her dose of morning milk. The cat closes her eyes and licks all the droplets of milk from her bowl. I sit beside to pat her while she scratches her neck and continues to lick herself up. My mother asks me to keep a distance from the cat, she scares me that its hair would go to my tummy and result in a stomach ache. I give a deaf ear to her talk and continue to play with my black panther. She hands over a glass of milk and asks me to drink it quick. I’ve been waiting for this moment since morning and I ask her to give me slices of bread to eat along. She declines my request and says I’d be fussy and wouldn’t have my breakfast if I eat the bread now. My lips drop down and I make a crying face. She doesn’t budge and I begin to cry frantically which includes a choke that stops my inhalation. Now the cry has transformed into a shrill. Everyone in the house run to the kitchen and begin to worry. They put the bread on my palm and calm me down. I start to breathe, slow down my sob and focus on the piece of bread. My joy slowly returns and I feel accomplished. I’d won my game of bread. My sibling peeps behind my dad to watch this intense scene and probably wonders how her sister is born with a taste for bread. Maybe, only to realize that decades after this very sister moves into a country of bread and makes it her home, as if it were destined.
I can feel the happiness now and I break into a smile, while marido walks in and gives me a cheery good morning hug. I’m wearing a black shirt and a pink shorts. My hair’s all messy. Well I too begin to make some filter coffee.
and bread… I’ve saved them to eat along 🙂