Monday, March 15, 2010

Stars of Bagamandala - A Nibble

“Bagamandala” the voice sang out in my head. I was going back to my roots, to my village after a long gap to 10 years.

Bagamandala a small village in the far end of Coorg district is the place I spent most of my childhood, with my grandparents.

Tall green mountains in the background, sparkling waters of river Kaveri cutting across, green paddy fields on one side of the road and rich coffee plants on the other

Hot steaming idly with coconut chutney sat still on the banana leaf waiting for me. Seeing ajji holding the jar of ‘midi opinkai’ (mango pickle) brought an instant smile on my face.

Steaming hot coffee in a dented steel tumbler added an extra joy to the break-fast.

Stars of Bagamandala is my entry to Katha Sagar (A story writing contest)
Do drop in at to read further and rate the story for what it is worth.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Stars of Bagamandala

"Chetimani, Chetimani, come quickly." the conductor shouted.
"Bagamandala 8 Kms" read the mile stone.
"Bagamandala" the voice sang out in my head. I was going back to my roots, to my village, after a long gap of 10 years.
Bagamandala, a small village in the far end of Coorg district is the place I spent most of my childhood with my grandparents.

Tall green mountains in the background, sparkling waters of river Kaveri cutting across, green paddy fields on one side of the road and rich coffee plantations on the other.
I often tell my friends in Bangalore, how Mother Nature has been too kind to the people of Bagamandala.

I lowered the window pane, and immediately a strong gush of cold wind hurried in and slid into my shirt. It seemed to hug me, the chill that it left felt familiar, it whisked past my ear and seemed to whisper
"Welcome back home."

The bus stop in front of the Bhagandeshwara temple, forms the centre of the village. A road runs to its right and turns into a stretch of small shops, coffee curing works, few houses and a small hotel.
I got down from the bus and started to walk, I turned around constantly to see if I could spot a familiar face.
On reaching my grandparents house, I stood silent, lost in time looking at the house, not a brick seemed to have changed place from the time I had last visited.
A small iron gate opened into the front yard, where sat the Tulsi decked with flowers and a few incense sticks, surrounded by lush green plants with colorful flowers smiling, a few coffee plants that bordered the compound wall, and overlooking them stood strong a mango tree.

"Sidhartha" a voice called me from behind.
I turned around to see an old man pushing his bicycle towards me, the khaki uniform and the letters in his worn out bag reminded me that it was Postman Ponappa.
"Sidhartha, look at you how tall you have grown." he patted my back.
"Do you remember me." he asked with a heartfelt smile and care in his eyes hidden behind those smudged thick glasses.
"How can I forget you anna, how can I forget those letter you brought to me."
"You remember." he smiled
"Look at you, you have grown taller than your father. I remember when you were seven or eight..." he took me back in time.

Postman Ponappa is the only postman to have served the village for more than 30 years. He would often come home to deliver letters or register posts. Once when he had found me bored and restless, counting days to go back to my friends in Bangalore, he had introduced me to letters and into my life walked in names that I fondly called Pen-Pals.
Address with black and white photos found in Tinkle comics became my friends. One in the Middle East, two in Europe. I would sit looking at the road, waiting for Ponappa to come riding on his cycle with my letters.
I would run into my room, sit at the table and feel like a grown up to have received a letter addressed exclusively to me. The next two days were often spent in writing back a reply, getting up from my desk only to ask Ajja a few spellings of words or requesting his copy of the dictionary.

"Ajja must be waiting go on in, I will come later. You have to tell me everything about Bangalore." he smiled and walked away pushing his old cycle.

I bent down and touched my grandfather's feet, ajji stood near the table wiping away a tear filled with joy. I hugged her, she pulled me down and kissed me on my forehead.
"Look at him Radho, he has grown taller than me." ajja spoke with pride in his voice.
Ajji affectionately brushed my hair and spoke
"Go take a bath, I will keep the break-fast ready."

Hot steaming idly with cocunut chutney sat still on the banana leaf waiting for me. Seeing Ajji holding a jar of 'Midi Opinkai' (mango pickle) brought an instant smile on my face.
Steaming hot coffee in a dented steel tumbler added extra joy to the break-fast.
I sat on the floor cross legged. The break-fast slipped away in world politics, Kannada authors, Bangalore and a few times ajji forcing more idly onto my leaf.

The hands of the clock had come together to welcome a new afternoon. I looked out of the window. The mighty sun struggled hard to break free from the thick clouds that had covered it, the fog had cleared and now visible was the majestic mountain that sat facing the village center, a pleasant chill filled the air, the road invited me out for a stroll.
"Going out for a walk, will be back in half an hour." I shouted out
"Don't forget to take the 'Kodae' " ajji shouted back.

I entered the road bare handed, walked along the line of shops, the smell of coffee from the curing works at the end of the street filled the air, Kaveri Darshini the only hotel in Bagamandala looked to be packed with tourists, I walked further ahead and stopped at "Aghora Provision Stores".

Rajanna stood across the counter handing out a pack of beedhi to a costumer. He looked to have changed a little, slightly on the fatter side but people often preferred to call it prosperity than fat.

"Mathe Rajanna vishasha?" (So Rajanna, whats new on your side?)

"Siddhartha!" he let out a loud cry.

When, what and how covered the next ten minutes. He invited me into the store and forced me on his chair while he sat on a pile of rice sacks.

Rajanna had once visited Bangalore five years back. He left the store to his younger brother and landed in Bangalore with bags on his shoulders and a dream in his eyes. A desire to live in the big city, a strange fascination for Bangalore pulled him to the city.

I will never forget that day I ran into him.

I parked my bike outside an abandoned bus stop and ran under it to take shelter from the heavy rain that lashed with no mercy. A human like figure sat crouched with his head hiding between his legs. A soft sob was all I could hear, but when the sob turned into a cry. I walked up to the guy patted on his shoulder. He jumped to one side, turned to me and shouted out with trembling folded hands,

"Sir, I don't have anything. Please don't hit me sir." he pleaded with tears flowing from his fear filled eyes onto his dirt laden cheeks.

It took me a few minutes to realize it was Rajanna, robbed off all his belongings, no food for three days, beaten up by cops, chased by dogs, he roamed the streets of Bangalore not knowing where to go. The people, the traffic, the smoke filled air had choked him into a shock.

He hugged me tight outside a restaurant after our lunch and cried on my shoulder for one last time.

I waved good-bye to him at the bus stop the next day, I stood there for a few minutes reminding myself of the promise made to him; his story would stay a safe secret with me for the rest of my life.

"Please come home for lunch." he held my hands and requested me, getting up from the pile of sack he was sitting on.

"Tomorrow for sure, today I have to visit the temple." I slid away.

Bhagandeshwara temple built in the 16th century by architects and masons from Kerala, had a huge open air corridor that ran around the main temple complex.

The speciality of the temple was that the idol of lord Bhangandeshwara is taken around in procession thrice a day, accompanied with dhol, 'chande' (a type of drum) and 'Valaga' (a type of Shehnai).

Rama Shastri a vetran pojari of the temple had the honor of carrying lord Bhagandeshwara on his head. As a young kid I looked at him with awe, his concentration, his strength amazed me. I would almost everyday tell my grandmother that I wanted to grow up to be like Rama Shastri.

Rama Shastri is a kind hearted man but is also famous for his volcano like anger. When walking on the streets, people seeing Rama Shastri approaching them would step aside immediately, bend a little and and wish him with folded hands. With one hand holding a bronze tumbler filled with water from the river and the other swinging swiftly by his side, he would walk past the people nodding his head and not stopping for a second to exchange pleasantries.

On one of those lucky days when huge groups of tourists entering the temple coincided with the idol procession, Rama Shastri would walk briskly with both his hands swinging by his sides and balancing the heavy idol on his head. He would suddenly jump, hop on one leg but manage to keep the idol stable on his head. A loud gasp followed by an expression of pure surprise often played on the tourists' face. I would look at all of them with a proud smile on my face.
I would try to keep pace with him swinging my hands to match his action but also manage to keep a safe distance from him. On reaching the main door of the temple he would stop, with folded hands he would shout out
"Bhaganda Bhaganda Bhagandeshwara." I always thought that his shouts were so loud that it would compel Lord Shiva to look down and smile at Rama Shastri.

It was almost two when I walked back home. I silently made my way to the bed room, and fell asleep on the soft mattress.

I was rudely awakened two hours later by voices coming from the living room. I pulled myself up from the bed and walked into the living room to hear ajja say
"His son was never interested, he is now an American citizen. He will not come back. Now all the secrets, all the knowledge will burn to ashes with him."
"It is a sad day, we have lost a great soul." Rama Shastri shook his head.
On seeing me walk into the room, Ajja turned to me and broke the news immediately
"Karei Gadhae Chikayya is no more."
I stood silent trying to picture him in my head. The last time I had heard about him was when ajja and called me up two years ago to tell me Karei Gadhae Chikayya had turned 80.

Karei Gadhae Chikayya or often addressed to as Ayya was a brilliant man. He was a dear friend of Ajja and an excellent doctor in his own right. He was a genius at identifying the medicinal qualities of a plant, an art, a science that was not documented anywhere but was passed on from generations from father to son.
People from around 20 nearby villages visited him for remedies and advice on their health problems. He never said 'No' and treated them all for free. Nobody had ever seen him frown or sulk, he was often heard saying "I have a hundred problems in life but my lips don't know them, they just smile."

"His son will reach by tomorrow afternoon." one of our neighbor's entered the room.
"Last month I had called him and had warned him of Ayya's deteriorating health." Ajja fumed.
"Ayya died without getting to see his son or his grand daughter's face. Could there be a greater curse." Rama Shastri lamented.
"The bus is here." another guy entered the room.

I stood silent with folded hands looking at the stream of people that had arrived to pay their respect to Ayya. Almost three hundred had arrived and more were expected, I walked into the verandha to see Ayya's body surrounded by his family. Tears made their way down their checks, people sobbed finding it hard to accept the loss. I bent down to touch Ayya's feet, a calm expression with a hint of smile looked to have settled on his face.
"He was adamant, never agreed to visit a hospital." a old man shared with a group of people.
"He never wanted the English medicine in his blood." another from the group spoke.
"Ayya, ayya, ayya." a man ran to his body crying like a child, few tried to pull him away from the body.
The affection, the honest tears, the genuine sadness around me, made me feel proud of Ayya. So many people he had touched, a life of absolute brilliance he had led.

I turned away from the people and stood looking at his farm, I had spent many a days playing in the trees, hiding in the bushes from the neem juice Ayya wanted me to drink.
I walked away from the house and entered the farm.
Cardamom plants along with coffee filled the 20 acre area. Various types of vegetables, jack fruit, mango, sapota (chiku), areca nut along with various other trees and medicinal plants also had a special place in his farm.
Almost every summer I had spent in Bagamandala he brought me a special jack fruit from his farm. On seeing him walking towards our house, I would run towards Ajji singing
"Chikayya bandhru, halasu thandhru." (Chikayya is coming, jack fruit he is brining)

The sun had divided into the horizon, darkness slowly started engulf the area. I sat under a jack fruit tree and looked up at the tree, small unripe jack fruits filled the tree. I lied down with both my arm folded under my head. The clouds looked to part and out came a full moon. Stars bright and dull appeared to fill the dark empty sky. The silence that surrounded the place felt peaceful, I closed my eyes for a minute and memories of Ayya, my summers spent in Bagamandala flooded my head.
I opened my eyes, a bright star to my right caught my attention, the star looked new to the sky, the star sparkled and seemed to smile at me.
I smiled at the star and said to myself
"That has to be Ayya, the brightest star of Bagamandala."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Time Travel

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 8; the eighth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.

"Time Machine, a device that has caught the imagination of the people for decades. One could go ahead in time, or back if one desired." I thought aloud sitting on my bed.
"Where is my bike key?" my elder brother ransacked the cupboards.
"If you had a time machine you could have gone back in time and..."
"Stop bugging me and help me find the key." he cut me. Every jeans pocket was checked and then was flung onto the bed, a huge pile of clothes sat comfortably on the bed, while my brother searched desperately for the bike key.
"Don't just sit there, help me or get out of the room." he pushed me away.

Sitting on the compound wall I looked around the road, my next door neighbor a fellow engineering student was busy on his mobile. The old couple who live a couple houses across where out sitting in their front yard sipping tea. A cricket match was in progress down the street, and just a few yards away five year olds played making weird sounds.
There was a sudden burst of a thought in my head and before the dust could settle my legs had sprang into action and I was across the road walking towards the old couple.

"Time Travel, eh" Swaminathan, the old man sipped his tea.
"Yes, so where do you think you would like to go if you could time travel." I sat back on the wooden chair that squeaked each time I changed my position.
"Radho where would like to go" he smiled at is wife and continued
"I would like to back to the 60s, back to black shining bike. Riding in the Agumbe ghats." he sat back.
"So you used to ride your bike a lot." I encouraged him forward.
"Radho you remember that overtake I did once" he asked his wife with bright eyes and a smile.
"How can I forget that." his wife replied turning to hand me a cup of tea.
"What happened?" I asked eager
"I would like to go back to that day, if I could time travel."

We were riding back from Agumbe; rain lashed on us, visibility was a clear zero. Radho held onto me tight, her face trying to hide behind my back. We were young, we were stupid, we rode in that heavy rain with a song in the heart.
I touched her shivering palm, the warmth I felt on her palm on that cold day will never leave me.

"What are you doing?" she interrupted and brought us back.
"I am just trying to hold my wife's hand" Swaminathan sir replied back
"Is there anything wrong with that young man?" he asked looking at me
"No sir, please continue with the story."

Now that I think, I was a maniac on that bike.
Riding in the ghats I countered corners with great speeds and seldom used the brakes.
Then came two lorries trying to overtake each other. I waited for them to tussle for a little time. Patience was running low, and there looked to be no space to overtake the lorries. Before my brain could realize, I had accelerated and was right between the two lorries. She shouted out in panic and hugged me tight. A few seconds and I had overtaken the two lorries cutting them right in the middle.

"Given a chance, I would go back to that exact moment when she hugged me tight." he looked at his wife.
He held her hand and tapped on the back of her palm gently.
"Those were the days, my son. We would silently escape into a theater without letting anyone back in the house know of it."
"Do you remember 'Abhi na jaao chhodkar'. he asked turning to his wife.
"I can never forget any of those days." she replied back.
Her wrinkled face was red with uncontrollable blushes. She got up and asked if we wanted another cup of tea. We both nodded 'No'. She walked away quickly from us with a bright smile on her face, and I mostly I saw a happy tear in her eyes.

"Swami, walking?" his friends interrupted us.
"Yes coming" he got and left with his walking stick and left me back a smile on my face.

I walked out to the road and stood there for a moment watching the kids play.
I walked up to them and asked them all
"Where would you like to go, if you could time travel?"
"Time travel?" they thought for a second and asked
"Anywhere we want?"
"Anywhere you want, it's a time machine it can take you anywhere you want."
One cute, chubby boy replied
"Jurassic Park."
Everyone shouted out their approval with joy and suddenly started moving and making growing.
"Watch out for that dino, anna" a kid screamed at him
"What dino, I looked at the empty road."
"We are in the Jurassic Park, look at all the dinos" another girl with a cute skirt and a mini mouse t-shirt pointed out to the empty road.
I growled out loud, lifted my arms and walked like a zombie.
"Run everyone the T-Rex is coming at us." the chubby kid shouted out
"Run to the base ship." another shouted out pointed to the parked auto.
I suddenly started running excited, a kid stopped me and said
"Anna you are the T-Rex why are you running away."
They all laughed, while I smiled and said
"No see the T-Rex is back there." and pointed to my neighbor still busy on his mobile.
They laughed again and some clapped with joy.
"Run quickly to the base ship." I shouted out and we all ran towards the auto.
Once inside the base ship I turned to them and asked
"Where are we going now?"
The chubby kid replied
"Remember it's a time machine. It can take you anywhere you want."

The evening slipped away with smiles and laughter. We traveled to meet bala Hanuman, Mickey Mouse and the gang, while busy with our time travel we also bumped into aliens and Superman.

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Power cut Paliya

Sultan Paliya a small village located a hundred kilometers away from Bangalore was fondly called 'Power cut Paliya'. Electricity being a rare visitor to the village, people had got used to living with darkness as their companion for most parts of their lives.
Summer was upon them and water seemed to play hide and seek too. The taps ran dry, the streams where once water gushed with fierce force now played host to cricket matches.
The spirits of the people though seemed to soar high with each passing day, there looked to be excitement in the air, smile on their faces and a purpose in their walk.
The small village was getting ready to host the wedding of Chitakala or Chitae (Butterfly) as she was mostly called, Saraswathamma was bright and smiling and rejoicing the attention her daughter got from everyone. Her father, Mahadevappa, though looked to have taken the tender for frowns, for his face bore nothing more than a tense frown.
Everyone from the village has gathered at Mahadevappa's house, the women helped with the food preparations while the men walked in and out following the orders of Mahadevappa.
Shanbag the village head, Borelinga the man with most acres of coconut fields and vegetable farm sent bags of rice, pulses, wheat and vegetables to show their support.
Shanbag took personal interest on such occasions and would put aside all his work and mostly spend all the time with the bride's father.
There was a constant movement of people from Shanbag's house to Mahadevappa's house, utensils, carpets and bed sheets made their way into Mahadevappa's house.

"Don't waste water" both Mahadevappa and Shanbag kept shouting at the rest.

Aslam the leader among the young boys of the Paliya had taken the responsibility of setting up the pandal and the decorations.
When they were eight year olds, all they did was catch butterfly in the open fields, in the green bushes covered with flowers of bright colours. Chitrakala who couldn't see the sight of a free flying butterfly now captured and forced into a cage silently would free the captured butterfly. Aslam once caught her in the act, and thus took birth her nick name Chitae, and a promise by Aslam and all the boys that none of them ever would hunt a butterfly.

"Pull that string, tight..." Aslam shouted out to his friends.
"Aslam, are you going to pick up Pradeepa?" Mahadevappa interrupted.
"Yes, the bus is at six, we are all going" he smiled.

A group of six waited for Pradeepa at the bus stop. The Tumkur bound bus was scheduled to stop for a few seconds at Sultan Paliya.
Pradeepa the elder brother of Chitae was a dear friend of Aslam and was once the leader of all the young men of the village. He was the fastest swimmer in the village, and the strongest among all, he was every fathers' wish and every kids' role model. But one dull day he left his warm village to take up an office boy job at one of the Tech-Parks in the city.

"Pradeepa!" they all hugged in unison. Broad smiles followed by a pat on Pradeepa's back, ended with handshakes and a few hugs.
Mahadevappa smiled for a split second seeing his son, but the frowns and the shouts were immediately back.
Pradeepa gathered all his friends to a side and asked them to update him on the situation.

Chitrakala ran out to the backyard trying to get herself away from her teasing friends, she looked like a strawberry, red with blushes on her cheeks. The backyard had turned into a make-shift kitchen, Saraswathamma and some women of the village were busy cooking, cutting and cleaning. The soft 'clung' sound of the utensils filled the air and danced with the sweet aroma of the spices.
Seeing Chitrakala enter the backyard, the women smiled and started teasing
"Chitae, see we are preparing peda, we heard it is his favorite."
"Hope you know how to make them?" another added and they all laughed.
"Come sit, have a taste" Saraswathamma moved towards her
"No I still have to get my mehandi done" Chitae ran away realizing, being with her friends is far more comfortable than with the elderly.
"She is looking so beautiful..." the conversations continued among the women.

"Tavarura bitu, avna manege hontae, namana nee maribyada..." (You are now leaving the house you grew up in and are moving to your husband's house, but don't forget us.)
Folk songs grew louder as Chitrakala hugged each of her friends with tear filled eyes. Mahadevappa tried hard to control his tears as he blessed his daughter and his son-in-law.

Aslam and the boys were still busy decorating Shanbag's, old white Ambassador, almost every bride in the village traveled to her new house in Shanbag's Ambassador.
The old car with bald tires, rusted edges and faded paint was a proud possession of Shanbag. He would often ride to his fields in the car. Siting proud holding the steering wheel with one hand, the other hand out of the window to wave at the people, Shanbag and his old car commanded respect from the people.
The villagers on the road would stand aside and watch the car ride away in a cloud of dust and smile, they were all equally proud of the car.

The colour lights across the house and the pandal suddenly went off, when the bride and the groom were about to enter the car.
Someone in the crowd shouted
"Chitae is taking away the colour and the light from the house."
Some laughed, some frowned, but the village danced and bid fond farewell to Chitae.