Bus Stands.

In my previous post I mentioned about sitting at the bus stand and not wanting to go to work.The bus stand, like I said, was a melange of people. If I wasn’t lazy I’d have written about all of them.

A scrawny woman who always chewed pan came here every day unfailingly; she sat on the bench to the left corner and carried a basket far too big for her. She sat there till she finished chewing the first ball of pan, and made garlands out of flowers. She never got on to any bus.

Next to her sat a woman, who styled her hair differently every day, she was shorter than I. She wore neon-green aviators and always carried a book with her. She used her finger as the bookmark, but I never saw her read the book. She just sat there and listened to music on her little black ear buds till a Volvo to Banerghatta arrived.

The other was a guy was about 6 feet tall who went to the gym behind the bus stand. He always had a red backpack he wore on one side. Somehow his walk reminded me of the proud-walk the Emperor does at the end of the novel the Emperor’s new clothes.

Occasionally, I met a classmate who was always more than an hour late to her place of work. She interned at a neuropsychiatric hospital, and didn’t really seem to care that she was running late. (I don’t recall seeing her on time to class either)

‘Sitting here at the bus stand seemed far more interesting than getting on a bus and going to work’. It truly was.

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Tampered Meds? Here’s what you have to do

Another one of my pieces for Citizen Matters.

Apparently, being given tampered or used medicines in Bangalore pharmacies are quite common, and an issue that needs to be talked about more often. Since not many people are aware of this, here’s what you have to do.

Dealing with Tampered Medication

 

Parishe

Scrolling down my gallery on a lazy summer afternoon, I found a bunch of pictures I had taken when the city was gearing up for the annual Kadle-kai Parishe, not of the parishe (fair/flee market) per se but just a few things that meant something to me. These little pictures took me back to that winter evening.

The parishe opens officially after these peanuts have been offered to Nandi, whose statue resides inside the temple on top of the tiny rock called Bugle Rock in Basvangudi. It is a weeklong affair that happens on the streets bordering Bugle Rock. Farmers and their families from the villages in Karnataka, and some on the border of TN and AP bring in the kadle kai (peanuts) that they harvest and sell it raw, salted or boiled.

We went on the evening two days before the parishe ‘officially’ opened. When it ‘officially’ opens the roads are blocked and closed off to traffic and the crowd from all parts of the city and other villages flock here. The unofficial opening is only known to those who are passer-bys or live nearby. But going earlier also meant that one wouldn’t be able to see all the stalls up.

Amma tells me stories of a time when I was tiny and would easily fit in her arms and on her hips. She would carry me around these lanes on evenings when she was bored and I was being whiny. She would put me on a kids ‘giant’ wheel and watch the whining vanish; she would then bring me back home only to be troubled by take me back’s and more tantrums of that sort.

This evening the traffic was still open, but still the farmers sat on the borders of either sides of the road. It was different; they hadn’t been worn out by this city yet. The roads were lit up, not just with street lights, but with fairy lights hanging down from every nook and corner. Never had Basvangudi been decked up so much. The parishe also hosted local handicraft sellers- some selling beautifully painted ceramic pots, others selling clay pots, some sold beaded jewellery, and others sold plastic toys. It was beautiful though, the happiness in the air, the crowd and everything.

The uneven rock around the temple were a bunch of amusement rides – the Columbus, a Tora-tora, a Giant Wheel, and another ride which I don’t remember. Every time the Columbus swung a roar of happy screams of children filled the air, along with a dangerously scary creek which and a thud. One could only hope that it wouldn’t fall apart and hurt anyone. While I stood amused, Amma coaxed me to go to the temple.

While I climbed, I thought of reasons to not go in- I’ll go see the new public gym, I’ll check the stalls out again –need to buy something, and what not. But, nothing seemed to work and my little happy stroll ended with going to the almost empty temple; the priests were oiling the Nandi statue made of stone. The huge stone structure was smooth to touch, probably worn by years of washing and oiling and other rituals, the coldness felt soothing under my palm.

While I stood there and waited for the prasada (why else would one go to the temple?), I looked up casually, and saw a flock of pigeons in every corner; nothing like your ornithophobia to come kicking in to ruin the experience.

Maybe, the year after would be better. For now, the highlight of this parishe, for me, was its lights.

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The hills and the Stars

As the road from Belur began, I anxiously peeped out through the think beige curtains of the bus. The sun hit my eyes, but still revealed a little city. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the ancient temple that this town had accommodated for hundreds of years, but we were well past it. I drew the curtains back and dreamed of the green hills-cold, tranquil with an occasionally whoosh of the wind, the estates, and strong smell of coffee from a tiny hut, and what not.

The next peek showed me hills. The hills with the giant grey windmills, which I would always see while travelling to the native. When I was younger, we stopped at every third windmill- either because I wanted a picture or because I wanted to stay in the open air a little longer. These were hills, but they were farming hills, still close to the earth harbouring little fields, not the ones that reached up high to kiss the clouds.

As the bus closed into Chikmangalur, I realised that the hills I wanted were beyond the town I was staying in. Much, much, beyond.

x—x

After a little visit to the Coffee Museum, a dimly lit space, we decided to take an auto back to our comfy little hotel. The minute we came out we realised that we were on a isolated highway. L and I slowly began to make our way back to the own. Even though the clock had just struck 5, it seemed like the twilight wanted in early that day.

Cars buzzed by as we walked on the gravel amidst the random bushes the line the roads. Some did have beautiful flowers, purple and white, or a bright yellow. But most looked like the ones that cause my allergy.

(If you’re expecting something nasty to happen, it didn’t. We had a nice walk back though the gravel was a little twisty and annoying to walk on with our flip-flops)

x—x

Though the hotels and restaurants looked modern, the gullies of the town were still the quarters of old thatched houses. How beautiful, I tell you.

Pastel shaded abodes of these men and women that had been around for so long that even the nature had begun to see them as their own. The little creepers that hung from the trees, that climbed the walls, broke the paint in some places and revealed the grey blocks of bricks that the shade hid.

Everyone seemed to know everyone here. No matter how much we tried, walked around in the most casual clothes, we were strangers. Their Kannada was similar but different, I can’t precisely remember how- I think it was the words that we used.

Even the cats knew we were strangers; they watched us from the roofs, the balconies, from the top of water tanks, from the windows of houses, their beady eyes following us very carefully. Like they ran a secret service to protect their city from possible threats (us). I could almost imagine them throwing nets as us and capturing us like they do in the film Cats & Dogs (It’s a stupid film, watch it for the puppy, not the story).

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x—x

By the time my eyes opened the next day, the clock had struck 6. With the shades drawn, the room was still dark. I remembered what day it was. I looked out of the window to see the hills in the distance. Still green, covered in fog.

L was still asleep beside me. Scenes from the GoT episode I had watched last night wouldn’t let go of me, still as fresh as it was the first time. I had to have breakfast.

x—x

The hills.

When I first see the road begin to go uphill, my stomach knots with happiness. My chest tightens, I could cry. I really could cry, and would have had my pride let me. The silver oaks are carefully guarding the estates and the shrubs. Estate after estate rushes past, soon the estates run out and the wild bushes take over. Everyone of them adorned with pretty looking flowers, as if to tempt us mortals into touching them (But I remember Amma telling me not to do this and went my way anyway). You can smell the earth, you can taste the air, and what not.

There is no happiness as the one you can feel when you still on the edge of a hill, knowing that if you fall, you’d fall down on the ground a few kilometres below. The wind is howling in your ears, touching your skin and giving you goose bumps, the gravel you’re stilling on is still a little wet from last evening’s rains, everywhere you look it’s a new shade of green.

You learn something new even when you’re sitting idle. Chikmangaluru, I learnt was a secondary forest patch. But putting aside all the botany and shizz, it was green. I can’t even begin to count or name the shades of green- or maybe I didn’t want to.

The silence here is paradise.

x—x

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But we stopped to get some chai by the roadside. The old man gave it to us in a little plastic cup. It was hot, steaming hot. The woman in the hut behind us was hitting her clothes hard against the rock to wash off all its dirt. Something spicy broiled inside her hut.

As for us, we sat in her backyard with the small cups of chai. I think this is what happiness is. To sit with your best friend, on the side of a hill and sip on chai. L knew what I was thinking( I think), and smiled back.

x—x

As the sun began to set, the proud blue sky began to blush. Red. Yellow. Orange. Purple. And finally, navy blue.

As the bus raced down on the road back home, the stars began to appear in the night sky. One here, one there. And then, they were everywhere. It was like watching a new world begin born, a world where there was tranquillity. A world like the sleepy, green, town that I’d left behind.

x—x

 

Rant

Earlier today, I ran across a post that sort of questioned all the ‘controversy’ surrounding the #happytobleed, #righttopray, and #readytowait campaigns. That, and a few other blithering idiots with very skewed perception of the world and a woman’s life had absolutely ruined my morning. A girl on my list, who identifies as a ‘feminist’ thinks that it’s okay if women are not allowed inside the temple. Why? Because it’s an age old tradition and who are we to disturb this.

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A post that a friend of mine shared on a social neworking website and her response to it.

Firstly, if nobody had questioned the Sati system then it would be mindlessly followed by thousands of people all across the country. So in my knowledge, the Sati system only started because Rajput women believed that it was better to jump into their husband’s burning pyre rather than being raped by the Mughals. But to many who followed this system, in their opinion, women should jump into their husband’s burning pyre because they had no right to live or have no sexual desire, or just desires, for the rest of their lives.

And till date, I’m pretty sure that women would be jumping into pyres because women don’t have a life if her man is dead even if there is no war and foreign dynasty set out to capture her. But at the same time, if the woman was the one who was dead then the man marry over and over again till he would please. Like many movies portray what happens behind closed doors and goes unnoticed; 80 year old men would marry 8 year olds so they remained ‘youthful’. Yes, yes, keep screwing little virgin girls so satisfy your never ending need for sex. But then you let these mindless men into the temples, and not the woman who actually needs to calm her minds and raging thoughts just because she’s being human, aka bleeding from her vagina.

Why is a woman impure if she bleeds?

If she didn’t bleed then she couldn’t have you, if you weren’t there then this world wouldn’t exist, if this world didn’t exist then none of these rules would exist.

So if a woman is impure when she bleeds then each one of us thick-headed humans who came into this ‘polluted’ world through a bleeding woman’s vagina is ‘impure’. So yes, what I’m saying every man, woman, elephant shrew, and bats, that exist are ‘impure’. So in that sense none of us should have been allowed into a temple. Heck, we shouldn’t even have built a temple! Because ‘impure’ people have no right to do such things.

But, the campaign started because this man (who’s name is identity is of no interest to me) thinks that in future, some person would let women into the temples (thankfully, it’s being considered now). And if that successfully happens then they would introduce a machine that would scan you. Maybe they even come up with a hand held device that they’d shove between your legs and see you’re bleeding. But if the machine isn’t working, what would they do then? I’ll tell you, they’d strip you just to make sure that you’re not bleeding.

But then, why aren’t you screening men? Why aren’t you making sure that they don’t have a hard-on before entering the holy place? Why aren’t you checking to see if he’s just had sex or masturbated or some thing like that? Heck, why aren’t you checking if he’s a murderer or a rapist? Why only the women? Why? Did your god tell you to do that? Just curious.

But what is so wrong with bleeding? Would I bleed so much that I’d flood your city? Would my bleeding kill your precious men?

Next they’d say what’s wrong with a two-finger test? It’s been happening for years; let’s not question this. What if a woman is dying and her last wish is to see the temple but she’s bleeding? Let her die, meh, who cares about her, she deserves to die anyways, she’s BLEEDING!

Maybe you think that women shouldn’t be allowed in the temple. That’s okay. But by some miracle of your lord they are allowed inside after years and years of trying, what would happen then? Would you let random men check you to see if you’re bleeding? Now you’ll tell me that’s why women should stay out of it. But guess what, its high time that a few men learned to keep their eyes, mouths, hands, legs and penises to themselves.

Before I end, one kutti doubt. How exactly do you worship goddesses? Do you see when they’re not their period and worship them? Do they get a break from these devotees when they are on their period? Now don’t tell me they don’t have their period, these goddesses seem to be frozen in their youth, so by my logical calculation they have to have had their period. No?

If you don’t agree with that, then you tell me how exactly did this goddess give birth to some other god that you worship with menstruating? Now, don’t tell me that biology didn’t apply to the gods.

 

Zuber

I didn’t want to go today, it was so far; I could have skipped, I had attendance too. I was sleep deprived and an hour long ride on a crowded bus would just make the mood crabbier and the body tired-er.

After drowning myself in self pity and pointless ranting, I went anyway; I got off the bus and waited for someone to cross the road where the traffic never seemed to stop. A bunch of people from the railway station came and waited as well. I hid between them- their fruit and fish baskets, huge cloth bags, and the children most of them were dragging. They didn’t realize, and I crossed the road feeling proud of myself like I’d accomplished something on a miserable day after all.

Bangalore weather is a bitch; the sun shines as bright as it does on a summer noon. Correcting myself, Bangalore has only one season- summer. I walked to the up the path and I turned right, I saw the garage and a few chickens in front of it, grease and oil all over the road along with little pieces of rags.I was close to the school now, I couldn’t walk, I froze.

I felt someone nudge, I looked. A little boy stood next to me and smiled at me. “Hi putta! School-ge barthidiya?” I asked him, he nodded. Slipped his hand into mine and walked with me to the yellow building.

I racked my brains to remember his name. I couldn’t. I knew his brother Rashid. He was the kid who’d hit me the week before, I had a little bump on my lower back because of that. He was a little kid, maybe three, who ran around like a tornado. His voice was raspy when he spoke and he cursed, so much. And he climbed on everyone he saw, and he liked being carried and turned around till he got dizzy.

He would run up to me and climb and kiss me on my cheek, the snort on his nose would not be wiped and I would hope it didn’t get on my cheek. And then he would have a moment of great affection and he would hug me and almost choke me. He would make me carry him and walk around the huge playground. Once, twice, thrice.

But his brother was different. I was standing inside the dimly lit classroom, and I still felt the little sand-covered hand in mine. I wondered what he did to get his hands and legs that dirty. He was just standing next to me, not asking for a sheet to draw, not asking for a puzzle, not asking to go back into the ground and play. 20150131_150827

And then he said ‘draw’. He didn’t talk much at all, he didn’t run, he didn’t do anything. I got him paper and colours and sat next to him as he started to colour. He had big eyes, he didn’t wear any shoes, they were as dusty as his hand. I reminded myself to sanitize my hand before I ate anything. But then again, these kids didn’t even have water to wash their hands.

I sat next to him for two hours without speaking a word, I didn’t fall asleep. I sat there and watched him fill colors into the drawing in front of him. He occasionally looked up and smiled at me. Before I left for the day, he slipped his little hand into mine, told me he wanted to walk around the ground and I did that with him. And then I bent down and hugged him, I wasn’t much of a hugger, never was.

Something in me snapped and I hugged him tighter and kissed on his hair. His hair was soft and I tasted sand on my lips. I wondered what he’d climbed on or where he’d fallen that he was THIS covered in sand.

I slipped away, saw a flicker of sadness flash across his face. It went away the same way it came. And I left promising to come back next week.

I wondered through the week if he thought of me,or if I he would remember me at all. I missed a week and I went a week later.

He slipped his hand into mine and asked me why I hadn’t come the week before. I told him I was sick and he seemed concerned. He asked me to guess his name, I told him I didn’t know. And he asked me mine.

“Niveadha, but call me Nivi” I said.

“I want you to call me Vishal” he said.

His brother came running up and I felt his fingers dig into my palm for a second before his hands slipped away. Rashid climbed into my arms and abused him in Urdu and called him Zuber.

“Vishal kanno, Zuber alla”, I corrected him. He looked at me chocked me with a hug and ran away. I told him I’d call him Zuber too and he walked away.

He climbed on the compound surrounding the ground and walked to the far end of it. Stood on the far end of it, he walked faster on this compound than I could run on the sand. When I went he hid behind the concrete, at first I thought he was playing and then I told him it was too hot so I was going back inside; I thought he would follow but half way into the ground I realized he wasn’t.

He just hid behind the cement compound, I was scared to do to the other side. I was scared of the other side because it was almost 10 feet above the ground. These kids were used to it so they would sit there like they were sitting on a cliff. I waited he peeped once, saw me looking and hid again. I ran back and he ventured further onto the other side, I peeped from this side and apologized and asked him to come back. He wasn’t.

I went out of the gate on to the road and he got off and went into the other ground. I wasn’t suppose to leave school so I stayed and we just looked at each other for a long time. I gave up and I went in and he didn’t come back in that day.

The week after, he was alone. He had forgotten about me calling him Zuber, which was actually his name. He slipped his little palm, cleaner this time into mine and told me about him. I listened and we spent the rest of the afternoon putting together a Pinocchio puzzle someone had donated. He smiled often, lost in another universe. He wore the same orange shirt week after week.

He was from Bombay; he never wanted to go again to Bombay. He was in Bangalore; he didn’t want to stay in Bangalore. He was in 4th grade before, now he was in 2nd. Rashid didn’t come anymore. They’d left for Bombay to never come back, he said. He didn’t want to go, “Eshtailla” he said. I was surprised. He lived with his grandmother now, ate Kurkure and watched TV, and went to school. I was still shocked but this was still better than him being alone so I stayed quite. He never spoke to me again to this extent.20150131_151913

He loved getting pictures taken. He stood in front of a friend’s car and got a picture taken, then he asked me to wait till he got his orange shit off. “I look dirty with this shirt” he said and hid his shirt behind himself and posed for a picture in his ripped vest. My little Salman Khan, I had called him and he had blushed. Looking at this all the other kids came there removed their shirts and posed for a picture. Salman Khan-s I called them and they all giggled and ran away. I asked Zu if he had something to eat, “Kurkure, five rupees packet” he replied proudly.

I walked out of the gate with him, and gave him my lunch, unfortunately only a bar of Snickers. I told him to go home, run. I wasn’t allowed to do this, it would ‘spoil the kids’ but I did it and I didn’t want anyone to know. He beamed at me as he walked away.

It was nearing the end. It was a hot day and I didn’t want to go again. But I did. I crossed the road and walked till the yellow building came into view. I stood there realizing I wouldn’t come there again. I felt a nudge and a little hand covered in sand slip into mine. I looked and he smiled; his orange shirt was a little torn near the collar now. I squeezed his hand and he hugged me tight. I pulled away and we walked to the school together.

A District of Forgotten Marvels

Another one of the pieces I wrote while at Citizen Matters. Here.

I’d visited this place quite a few years back with the family; a little village close to this place is the grand mother’s home town.

She told me stories of how the girls back then would walk barefoot to school, and then walk to a temple that next to a river which was almost miles away so they could spend the evening looking at the fishes before they returned home and helped finish the house work.

What’s more fascinating is that Ajji thinks back on this as the best days of her life, without sulking one bit that she and the other women had to work at home while the boys would just play in the thottas and come back home to eat.

A District of Forgotten Marvels: Hassan