DANCE LITTLE LADY DANCE. Karaoke for my granddaughters Shreeya and Shreeja (song features them in the video). (PLEASE USE PHONES)
Saturday, August 27, 2022
Monday, August 15, 2022
Thursday, August 11, 2022
Turning towards me the attendant assured me, "Don't worry, I will remove the trash bin from the compartment and request him to dispose off trash in the outside bin near the toilet".
The attendant smiled widely at the tall man. Talking in Hindi he asked, "Saab, hope you are comfortable and everything is fine."
The tall man patted the attendant's shoulder and nodded.
"Saab, please don't throw food inside the compartment. Madam is vegetarian."
The tall man's brows knit in confusion. The attendant added in broken English, "Madam... no meat... only vegetables eating."
The tall man looked surprised and nodded at me.
The attendant added, "Saab, tomorrow breakfast, what will you have?"
The tall man looked at me while addressing the attendant, "Madam food, same same."
The attendant asked in surprise, "No eggs Sir?"
"No. Same Madam breakfast."
I did not mean to stop him from eating whatever he wanted. Frustrated at being mistaken I addressed the attendant, "I didn't mean to object to nonveg at all. Only to disposing off food inside the compartment!!".
The attendant was not listening to me, focusing on the tall man he asked curiously, "Idli, pongal and vada Sir??!!"
The tall man gestured elaborately with his hands conveying that the names of the dishes didn't matter. He added, "I happy vegetables eat."
I asserted, "No, no, please have your usual breakfast, I don't mind if you eat nonveg."
The tall man stared and I turned to the attendant to translate.
The attendant told me in Tamil, "Please leave it. He wants to have vegetarian, let him taste our idli, pongal and vada".
"Oh, okay", I said in a resigned tone feeling like a spoilsport.
Guilty, I became tongue-tied.
As I turned towards my berth the tall man started talking to the attendant. His Urdu mixed Hindi was heavily accented. In between I saw him gesturing towards me. Irked, I mentally decided not to talk anymore and as usual put up with whatever happens as God's will.
The attendant looked at me hesitantly. Irritated with the attendant for miscommunicating I ignored him and sat on my berth.
Approaching me the attendant said in an embarrassed voice, "Saab is saying that you seem very frightened of him. He's asking you not to worry. He says you are his sister and he will take care of you in the journey."
I was taken aback. Pleasantly surprised and touched by the sentiments expressed by the tall man I felt my mood lighten.
Embarrassed, I smiled shyly at the tall man, "Oh... thank you so much!!" He nodded seriously.
With the weight lifted off my chest, I thanked the attendant and prepared to lie down on my berth.
Picking up the trash bin the attendant walked out, pulling the shutter-door behind him. The tall man immediately pushed the shutter-door open, looking at me pointedly. His action of pulling the door open was deliberate, as though assertively conveying to me that he meant no harm. The compartment door remained open all through the night.
Finding it difficult to unwind and quieten the Veena inside myself I was awake for a long time.
I was surprised to see the tall man climb up the opposite top berth even though the opposite lower berth was reserved for him.
Feeling totally at ease I drifted off into an uneasy slumber.
Something made me wake up with a start and I found myself gazing at the tall man struggling with the most exotic colorful mini-carpet in the alleyway outside the compartment. The carpet looked like a yoga mat. Baffled and fully awake I wondered what he was trying to do in the dead of the night. My wristwatch was somewhere and I didn't know what time it was.
Somehow feeling responsible to help him I got up and walked to the door.
He glanced at me and continued his efforts in spreading the mini-carpet. The carpet was wide and too big to fit in the size of the alleyway.
It suddenly struck me that he wanted to pray!! Was it early morning? My head felt fuzzy from inadequate sleep and tiredness.
Feeling at ease with him, I cleared my throat, "Excuse me, do you want to pray?"
He looked at me blankly.
I showed in action by raising both hands like how Muslims pray.
With both hands I gestured towards the inside of the compartment, "Please pray inside." I combined my statement with the action of praying.
He understood me clearly. He stood for a moment, pondering doubtfully.
I understood the reason for his hesitation.
Looking at him directly I told in a firm voice," No, No, please pray inside the compartment. Main bahut khush!!" I added in broken Hindi. I combined with elaborate hand gestures to make myself understood correctly.
Not waiting for his answer I bent down to pick up the other end of his carpet. He immediately stopped me with his hands and somehow preferred to pick up the carpet himself. I backed away realizing that probably non-Muslims are not allowed to touch their prayer mat. Before picking up the carpet he bowed to me. When he lifted his head he was actually beaming. His smile reached his kohl-lined eyes that lit up his entire face.
I felt oddly rewarded by his hearty smile. Feeling odd to bow down in return, I folded my hands in a gesture of 'Namasthe' , smiling back at him heartily. Spreading the mini-carpet between the berths he started his prayers first in a standing posture and bending several times. I pulled my legs up to sit cross-legged, sitting close to the window. Bending sideways I pulled the loosely hanging bedcovers so that they did not come in way of his prayers. Fascinated by his chanting in low tone I noticed that he sat down in Vajrasana. Marveling and admiring him for his steadfast devotion to God, I closed my eyes to meditate on the stillness of Kailash Mansarovar in my heart region. Somewhere between sleep and wakefulness I felt an enormous sense of peace descend on me, to fill me, spill out of me to spread its wings, encapsulating the compartment in a golden glow.
Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Usually adept at shutting off my surroundings, I struggled to ignore the tall co-passenger's presence. His aura was compelling.
As I opened my food packet the train started its movement slowly. I sat facing the window to stare blindly at the dark glass while eating. I was unable to relish the food and more focused on finishing the food quickly so that I could rest my aching body on the berth.
A strong aroma assaulted my nostrils and I turned quickly to glance over my shoulder. The tall passenger was uninhibitedly opening an assortment of steel boxes containing greasy looking nonvegetarian food. Quickly turning back to my food I managed a couple of more mouthfuls before wrapping up the remaining food. Getting up abruptly I took the wrapped remains of my food to dispose off in the garbage bin near the toilet outside.
The tall passenger gestured wildly at me. My heartrate quickened and I stared at him not understanding what he was trying to convey. He kept pointing towards something. I turned towards the direction he was pointing and saw a small plastic dust bin near the foot of my berth. He was showing me the bin where I must trash my food.
I was appalled! What a place for a garbage bin!!I couldn't imagine disposing off food right inside the coach, even if the garbage bin had a lid. I shook my head at my co-passenger, softening my refusal with a smile. I heard him mutter something in a strange dialect as I walked out.
Trashing the remains of my food in the garbage bin next to the toilet I looked around for the attendant. He was nowhere in sight. Dragging my feet back to the compartment I entered. The tall man was engrossed in eating.
I reached out for the bedding that was neatly folded and kept on the top berth. Painfully aware of his scrutiny I started to prepare my bed and laid down self-consciously. As I lifted my legs up to lie down the tall man got up from the opposite seat and walked towards my berth. My heart stopped for a second and resumed its beating at a wild rate. He held one of the steel dabbas in his hand and bent to empty the remnants of his food into the garbage bin placed at the foot of my berth. Alarmed, I sprang up to a sitting position, pulling the bed covers close to me.
"Excuse me, excuse me!" my voice screeched in protest.
He turned to give me a piercing look.
My voice trembled, "Please... don't drop the food here!!" I appealed.
His brows knit and he looked confused.
I pointed towards the doorway, "There's another garbage bin outside." I told him nervously.
He shook his head as though he didn't understand me.
I quickly got up and went in search of the attendant.
Finding the attendant who was a Tamilian, I explained my predicament to him. "Look, I don't understand his language and obviously even he's not able to understand my English, and my Hindi is bad. I don't want the food to be trashed inside the compartment please. I have to spend 2 nights and one whole day in the compartment." I added hesitatingly, "It's difficult for me to spend so much time close to a trash can full of stale food, that too nonveg. Please explain to him." I requested.
The attendant smiled, "Oh, avaraa?! He's from Afganisthan settled somewhere in North. He knows little Hindi. You can tell him."
"No no, you please tell him." I requested.
By the time the attendant and myself entered the compartment the tall man was pouring all the remains of his food into the garbage bin near my berth. Horrified, I stood frozen, staring helplessly.
(TO BE CONTINUED......)
Sunday, August 7, 2022
I played Kanthamani as the main raga in my concert that evening. Improvised 'sangatis' of Kanthamani and the resonance of my Veena rang in my ears. Waves of tiredness and hunger washed over me.
Feeling ravenous I remembered the packet of aloo paratha and kadai vegetable snuggled in the side of my handbag. I reached inside the bag for the food packet. The compartment door creaked open and my hand stopped midway. A hefty, Afghani-looking man entered the coach sideways. He stepped in with his head bent due to his extraordinary height.
Dressed in a pathani suit, a shawl-like garment rolled and tied around his head and pointed boots, he was extremely tall....much more than 6 feet. His light eyes were kohl-lined , his hair a sun-burnt brown and his leathery skin was fair. Bad at guessing ages I wondered if he was in his 30s. His hefty and towering personality seemed to reduce the size of the compartment even further. Feeling dwarfed and overwhelmed I thought I must ask the TC to shift me to a coach with ladies.
The railway porter who brought the tall man's luggage placed them under the berth with great care. The tall man turned to look around the compartment, his gaze briefly touching my face.
He looked stern, his kohl-lined eyes narrowing when he found my Veena perched on the top berth. He quickly looked at me and back at the instrument and again back at me. My heart pounded in my chest and I wondered nervously if he had an objection to my Veena. He looked so formidable!
He said nothing but continued to stare at me unabashedly, his kohl-lined eyes fierce in its gaze. His open curiosity made me squirm and I shifted uneasily.
To my utter relief the ticket collector entered the compartment in his black coat and a pad in hand. He sat next to me, "Ticket madam".
Eager and at the same time not wanting to hurt or offend the tall man, I requested the TC in a hushed voice "Please, excuse me, can I change my berth to where there are ladies? Please??"
The tall man in his gruff voice cut me short. Addressing the TC loudly in a certain dialect with a splattering of familiar Urdu words he wanted to know why the berths seemed narrow in size and about the pantry service.
Struggling to understand what he asked and after replying to him the TC turned towards me again, "Sorry madam, all compartments are full, all families. I can't ask them."
"How about coupe?" I asked eagerly.
"Occupied by two sisters travelling together."
My heart sunk low.
I asked the TC, "Who else is travelling in this compartment."
"Only the two of you, unless someone boards on the way to Chennai."
I gulped nervously. "Ok".
The Jain meal in my bag lost its appeal. After some thought I felt it would be better to finish my meal quickly and go to sleep.
(TO BE CONTINUED....)
Wednesday, August 3, 2022
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