Thursday, February 19, 2009

Meeting Gods in the Morning

When you travel you get a feeling of becoming an island in yourself. You see a lot of people in the streets going ahead with their daily chores. They look at you with some sense of detachment. You reciprocate the gaze with the same detachment. Do you feel that you are a bit more important than the others around you? May be you feel so because you are away from your daily grind. You are not a husband, you are not a son, you are not a father and you are not a lover now. You are just a being caught in a limbo, limbo of uncertainties. Still you are happy because you know, in this uncertainty, there lies all the excitement.

I am not a great traveller. Feroze Babu is a great traveller. So is Somu Desai. I would qualify myself as a reluctant traveller. But once I am out in the street, nothing holds me back. I am not worried about what I left behind. I am sure everything can be taken care of. I have great friends in this life.

We are still in Baroda. In a couple of hours we will be driving towards Rajasthan. Kishu Chauhan wants to treat us with a farewell lunch. We cannot say no to the invitation.

I forgot to tell you one thing. As I claimed before, we are not going by a caravan. Yesterday, we took out the caravan. I drove it for a few meters. Feroze also tried his driving skills in it. Within no time, we realized that we are not going to drive a huge van without power steering. It is quite strenuous. We should not exhaust ourselves in driving itself.

So now we have a Travera on our disposal. It is a good SUV, spacious and comfortable. Somu keeps the key in a chain around his neck. I am sure he is going to do the major part of driving. He does not feel like handing over that key to me or Feroze.

This morning , we went out to have a cup of tea in Akota, a place in Baroda where we stay in a flat owned by our friend Asit Shah. Anubhav Nath from Delhi is with us. But when we came out, he was still asleep.

When you have your first cup of tea and you know that you are not going to have another cup of tea from the same stall, the tea taste good. I can’t say whether it taste good or bad. It tastes different. And that taste lingers in your tongue for long time.

Standing before the small tea stall, I imagine the road ahead and the experience which is waiting for us.

We walk towards a junction to have some breakfast. Gujarati breakfast is very light. We get our breakfast on a piece of newspaper. We eat from it. It does not taste anything except the strangeness that it gives. Feroze enjoys it as he is new to Gujarat. I had already lived here and I know what the food is like. I am not a foodie and I need guard my stomach.

We see a lot of houses with traditional art motifs stuck on the wall. They are mud mural replicas from the Kutch region and is called Abla in Gujarati. Feroze clicks a few pics.

On the verandah of a single house, a young woman gives lessons to a lot of young children who sit on the floor. A rare site these days. I see a row of small foot wears kept neatly along the wall. The children are very obedient, they seem.
We see a lot of people, both men, women and children standing in a crowd. The women are squatting on the pavement. They are all daily wage labourers. They are picked up by contractors. IF they are not picked up, they go back to the shacks from where they come to the streets. I don’t want to look at those children. I cannot look at helpless children struggling in the streets.

When you are on the road, you become over sensitive. You are vulnerable when you travel. The person whom you meet on the road, the person who gives the directions, the person who tells you from where you can buy booze are the angels of roads. You are at their hands even if you feel you are the most powerful person in the world.
We come back. Now we are ready to go. See you soon.

PS: Feroze tells me about a doctor couple, his close friends. Husband is a veterinarian. Wife is a gynaecologist. Husband knows everything in the world like computers, literature, photography, except his field. Wife is so devoted to her profession that she keeps making offerings to all the available gods before and after she attends a complicated pregnancy. Husband wants to read The Hindu newspaper when he is in toilet. He goes nuts if he does not have his Hindu. One day he was in a hotel room with no printed material around. He wanted to use the washroom desperately. Finally he took the ‘dos and dont’s pasted on the door of the hotel room, telephone directory and menu card to the toilet.

When we are together, perhaps we also come to know the private fancies of the friends. I am waiting for that.

Somu talks about the thirty three crore Hindu Gods and goddesses. Each god takes care of three people in India, according to him. “Still things go wrong,” he chuckles while pointing at the dried coconut offerings hung from a huge archway leading to a local temple in Akota.

Hope one God is there to take care three of us.

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