Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Deepavali Diary - Part 2

What was in store for me was a long, hard day ...My 83 year old Thatha and 74 year young Jayanthima (she hates ppl calling her Paatti..she prefers to be called Jayanthima {as in - mother of Jayanthi} need to close all brackets now) had to go to Pondicherry and I had volunteered to drop them there, spend a few days and come back. I hate travelling by day buses, esp when its not a video coach, but chaperones don't get to make decisions so we left Bangalore at 9am by KSRTC and reached Pondicherry at around 4pm. The journey itself was uneventful if i can choose to ignore the things that were happening between those two lovebirds from DELL just behind me. I'll leave the rest to your imagination. Tired from the 7 hr journey, I decided Pondicherry darshan could wait for tomorrow and switched on ESPN-STAR to watch EPL... NO NO....I did NOT see India vs Pakistan..Remember i have given up on Indian cricket. Thankfully my decision paid off as i had a chance to watch two of the best footer matches i have ever seen - a North London derby producing some attacking football n plenty of goals and a West London Derby fought with passion and fury. While Chelsea's 4-1 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage had me on Cloud 9, it would have been great if Spurs had won by that odd goal in 9 against the Gunners... Neway the 2 pt lead stays and we march on..


Lesson learnt first thing in the morning - Generation gaps are REAL...And I am not toking of simple things like beliefs and ideologies.. I am talking of some really big GAPS in areas like "acceptable Sunday behavior" - Imagine having to wake up at 7am, brush ur teeth immedietly, finish your morning duties without the newspaper and then have a bath by 7:30...Dammit....Even breakfast was ready but when was the last time I'd had breakfast on a
Sunday...My memory fails me..Neway by 9am I had been fed once and had nothing to do till 11am when lunch would be ready....So tried my hand at THE HINDU Crossword after a month...Results were along expected lines.. Got barely 7-8...Quickly finished lunch and ran away from home :-)

Pondicherry...A town straight out of an old storybook.. someways Dickensian...Quaint houses, polluting FUT FUTs (phonetically named after the sound they produce.. we call them tempos elsewhere), loud but helpful people, cops dressed like they had jumped out of a French history text, cheap alcohol, commercial complexes and Kovils side by side....all this and much more.. How I love this place where I was born.. Now I was out on the roads seeking to re-explore it all again after so many years....No holiday in the past had ever been without me watching atleast half a dozen movies.. Taxes being low, ticket prices used to be atrociously cheap. Things hadn't changed much this time around except that most of the halls now seemed to have joined the DTS bandwagon. Balcony rates were Rs 28 and First class Rs 20. There were tickets for even Rs 10. I was lucky to get hold of my only pal in town Subbu and luckier still to find that he was yet to watch any of the new releases. For someone who used to see 3 movies on Deepavali day itself, he seemed to have changed a lot. We decided to watch THALAI'S ATTAGASAM at Balaji. When we reached the hall and I saw the first cut-out from the Pondicherry Ajit Thalaimai rasigar manram I knew i was in for a ball...


Being a Sunday I was quite apprehensive if we would get tickets and my fears were compounded when 30 mts before the show, black tickets started showing up. I was astounded to see that even those tickets were very affordable since all these touts did was to hike it up by just Rs 5. But Subbu, being a son of the soil, was unperturbed and insisted that he would not buy black. Subbu wanted to so desperately sit in 1st class and be amongst "makkal" but I wasn't gonna let him convince me on this and we easily got balcony tickets. As the lights darked out and Ajit loomed big on the 70mm screen, I let out my loudest whistle.. Seeing this, Subbu joined me and we created a huge scene much to the chagrin of the 'deesunt peepul' :-) The movie was typical masala with 5 fights, 6 songs including a few shot in Romania and after 3 hrs, we thought we had our money's worth. Rounded off the afternoon with snacks at Nehru street where Subbu made my day by commenting that though i had become " a manager" I had not changed much :-))))

Sundays evenings in Pondy can be great fun if u know where the real action is.. And thats MG Road..Its Sunday market time and everything except parents and spouses are available here..One long stretch of 1.5 kms and you get everything from clothes, books, CDs, household articles to stolen electronic goods..The last time I had been to Pondy I'd bought a brand new (pirated though) Catch-22 for Rs 40 and on my previous visit chanced to purchase Bach's The Bridge Across Forever for Rs 10. Deterrmined to raid every single treasure trove, I made my first halt at a hawker who was shouting "Pathu ruba Irubadhu ruba" (10 bucks, 20 bucks)....Bought 5 used books there...Two James Bond novels (Dr No and From Russia With Love), Bach's Illusions, Alvin Toffler's Future Shock and Arthur Hailey's Wheels. Paid a princely sum of Rs 70 for the entire lot. The Alchemist had been anything but impressive but FF had strongly recommended Veronika Decides to Die and By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, so ended up buying both at a slightly up-market (by the general surrounding stds) store. Costly purchases they were since Pondy people seemed to have heard of Coelho and I had to part with Rs 100 for the two. Moving on, I dug out an old copy of MAD and paid Rs 10 to the small time paper merchant cum shopkeeper. The best was however reserved for the last stop. One particularly deserted vendor had loads and loads of Tamil classics strewn all over his corner. Rummaging through his pile, I chanced to see a slightly worn out hardbound copy of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. Pulse racing, I asked him for the price casually since i suspected he knew he was holding a treasure in his hand and would quote really high. When he asked for Rs 70, I had a distinct feeling he didn't really want to sell. I offered him Rs 20 :-) He acted as if he was shocked. By this time he had seen the huge pile of books in my hand and concluded that i was a genuine lover of books. He seemed to get reasonable and was ready to part with it for Rs 50. I stuck to my guns and he relented a little more. This was turning out to be a real battle of wits. In the end, I realised that in actuality he was bargaining with himself - whether he really wanted to sell it or not. I paid up Rs 25, assured him i would take good care of his book and was about to set off when he took the book back, opened his tarpualin sheet and came out with an even better looking copy of the same book. Winking at me, he thrust it into my hands and went off to serve another customer. Needless to say, I was speechless. Lest he change his mind, I quickly made my way with the huge pile of books towards the beach. Along the way I ended up buying a pair of shorts, hawaii slippers and some other needless stuff :-)

It was half past four but the beach was already abuzz with activity - old people walking their dogs, children prancing alongwith their parents, Frenchmen jogging, sundal mamas plying their trade.....A pleasant breeze was blowing too... I chose a neat rock overlooking the lone ship in the horizon, laid down my huge pile, opened Veronika Decides to Die and started reading.. 94 pages and an hour and a half later i took my first break. I looked around me and an entire new crowd had replaced the old one. It had considerably darkened too. I dearly wanted to finish the book at one go but it was so disturbing that i took time to sit back and reflect. 15 minutes later, pondering still on some of the questions raging within me, i walked down to Gandhi statue where I had two packets of the world's best sundal (no exaggeration this...every person whos gone to Pondy will tell u this) from the Iyengar mama in his corner. It was too late to visit the Ashram so trudged down to Mission street, packed some samosas and raskadams from Mithai Mandir and left for home. Slept fitfully that night thanks to Paulo Coelho. The most unforgettable Sunday in a looong loong time.

The last day of my 5 day holiday. It had to happen - woke up feeling low since I'd have to go back to office the next day. Cajoled myself into banishing all such negative thoughts by going out vegetable shopping. I always knew I was bad at such domestic stuff but when the vendaikai i had bought was pronounced 'romba pinju', the kathrikkai 'sothal' and the vazhapzham turned out to be more of a vazhakkai, I knew it was a disaster ...Add this to the fact that I'm not even aware of a certain CATCH brand of salt/pepper that seems to have become popular in the market, I am beginning to believe I might need some serious training..But won't this take atleast 2 years....Mom, can we put that 2006 March deadline a little further back :-p

Neways, intent on making as much use of the time at my disposal, I paid a visit to the Aurobindo Ashram later that afternoon. The calm, the silence, the serenity...there is so much more to this place that I cannot even describe but somehow any visit to Pondy will always be incomplete for me without a trip here.. I meditated for around half an hour, then dropped in at the nearby Manakula Vinayakar Temple and trudged off again towards the beach. If there is one thing I hate about living in Bangalore, then its the absence of a beach. (Mumbai had been great simply because every time i wanted to let off steam I could go to Juhu and walk aimlessly for hours.. Pondy's beach is even better since its cleaner but unfortunately Bangalore does not afford this possibility) Another hour flew by and dunno why but my feet then took me to another cinema hall, one screening DREAMS... Eeeeks.. it was such a pathetic movie that within an hour, I was in dreamland. Woke up half an hour before the climax, able to second guess every damn twist that had happened in the previous 10 reels. It was only 6 pm and my bus was for 9 in the night. Still left with atleast an hour to kill, i wandered through the confusing maze of intersecting streets around MG Road which today looked so deserted...At 7 i left for home, had a quick shower, grabbed a light dinner and set off back to Bangalore. I was unfortunately booked on a KSRTC Diwali special bus (one that looked like a relic straight out of a Govt musuem) where the driver also doubled up as the conductor. And to add to the romanticism, the first thing he did on starting the bus was to ask the passengers if they knew the route. What a sense of humor :-) Luckily I slept most of the journey and woke up at 3:30 today morning to reach Bangalore. Slept till 9, typed part of this story on the lappie, ran to catch the shuttle and got to office on time.. Not much work so got around to completing this post jes now...

....So how was Deepavali ? Definitely a damp squib..


Anonymous said...

Oh God, this one is so long. Shall read it tomorrow & comment.

Anonymous said...

Now I know where the CATCH came from? You sure seem to be her F-P-G..everything but BF!