With a denim shoulder bag loaded with my teaching aids and lunch of course, I unbolt the main see through door, clenching my little one by her palm. One may wonder what’s so special about stepping out of the house! It was, yes it was, since we were venturing into the wild domain of monkeys… tens and twenties of them – on our porch, on the parapet, on the walkway, in the swaying branches of weak trees, why? Even on the baby swing I had for my daughter in front of my house! How true is Darwin’s theory? Man descends from these creatures – very true MAN with his 6th sense is still senseless and disastrous.
Fighting our way through, (Why do these creature target human beings like this?) sometimes I wait for a passerby to take his company or pace long strides to join another group proceeding to the bus stop and we reach there somehow. My little angel feels safe in my hands, but poor thing she doesn’t sense my
The school bus
I never felt the pressure of going for a job, even in a millionth of a second! Every moment I lived, every moment I cherished and every moment I breathed. The usual seat, fourth last was for us…. Both of us. The driver ignites the engine and off, our wagon slides through the clean winding, cemented roads of the colony towards the colony entrance.
Not far before the entrance, on the right was the Vinayaga temple. A rarely seen devotee knocks his head and rings the brass bell to register his prayers with the Lord. In a wink our bus reaches the public road, moves straight and takes a sharp turn in front of the mill.
Exactly at the corner is a culvert, with the gurgling Thamiraparani going on its own way. Sometimes she flows over the road and I’ve longed to cross her-my ankle deep in her… allowing her chillness to drench my feet and wade through…. I still repent why I didn’t, even once, since I live long away now and I don’t know when she overflows and spills herself outside her realms!
The bulrushes on both the sides, the nameless water plants, no, no, the names which I don’t know are all over, overladen with blossoms of all hues, shapes and sizes, the moss and slime on the stone walls of the canal by the side of the rustic road, occasional fishes x-rayed by the morning sun into the sparkling water…. All for whom? For whom? FOR ME. They were for me, to add colour and glory to my journey to school, to speak volumes of God’s creation, to scream to this world the mysteries of nature!
O nature’s beauty – I bow to you.
I sigh regretting the backward push of the culvert and the picture frame passes to the humble tea shop on my left. When I remember this, this question flashes to my mind.. Why does any tea shop, big or small, attracts only the male population? Dotted with men in unkept hair and sleepy faces; these tea shops may speak long histories of men’s chats – indeed they are men’s special.
“What on earth do they enjoy in crouching on the rugged wooden benches in tea shops and sip the frothing tea from just once rinsed tea glasses, when a better version of tea is served at every house? Ah! It should be a man’s fantasy! What magic do the tea shops spill to lure the so called “heads of families?”
As I ponder, our bus ascends the high bridge enclosed with criss
cross metal scaffolds on either side: it majestically stands over the
silent river winding down.
Nature again, serene and surprising, her glory, surpassing every trait of the human race. The local folk, inhabit the banks with their dirty stuff- washing them on huge boulders, helping their children have their before school baths while a few more with neem twig brushes in their mouths.
I see the same faces under the same tree shades, the same pegs to which they tether their buffaloes and the same goat devouring the dry garland around the riverside Vinayaga! Just immediately to the right, on a comfortable below eye level angle, almost 100-150ft away from where I was, was the panchayat crematorium; one shouldn’t imagine it was a well-built one within a boundary! It was just a shed open on all sides with a tin roof resting on tall poles on four sides. In the middle was a crude mount in a height of 3ft from the ground exactly enough to lay a corpse. Relatively close from this spot, at a stone’s throw was the silent river, offering its divine water to the waiting team of people complete their last rites as the closing segment of a funeral. The same river, the same ambience, the same locale…. But, how much of a difference between the either sides of the road! On days when there had been a corpse, the tiny crematorium would be strewn with heads here and there; the calm river would seem colourful with the blossoms that have been thrown on her!
When I just turn to the left and tilt my head – at a far distance, towering amidst the lavish greenery is the towering Shiva temple. A spiritual throng runs through me and I recite a Shiva hykoo silently and wait for the next slide that my journey would screen for my thirsty eyes.
With usual sights of humble cyclists, fresh vegetable vending outlets, school goers in unpressed uniforms and slicked double plaits and heavy bags, farmers driving bony cows and bulls, the jingling and rattling of the passing bullock carts laden with fresh farm produce or stacked firewood, we are almost near the protestant church on the left again.
I know our bus will pause a while to take a right turn into the main road, where a middle aged fish monger squats on a small tuft of grass under the shady tamarind tree, with a black plastic sheet spread in front of him. Groups of customers carrying frayed baskets or once upon shining utensils surround him, hoping for the bargain to begin. Iam also his regular Sunday customer, since I venture into fish monging only on Sundays.
While most of the people take the stock as they are, there are a few who demand the shop keeper to clean and slice the fish for them, for an extra contribution of the price. I have always wondered his knife skills! How deftly they burrowed into the scaly skin and scooped out the guts. As the flaky scales had been slithered earlier, he had to do away with the head and the tail. With bloody hands he navigates a 60 degree to his right, splashes the bubbling stream water from behind to wash, wraps the slices tightly in a teak leaf and hands them to the eager customer.
Our bus inches after a right cut again. We are entering the main road again. A temple, the usual busy Indian residential zone with commercial outlets springing on both the sides of the road. A cinema and a small market were the characters of the next frame. I would like to say something of the market. Well this was low lying; the whole place had taken a square frame with small shops, mostly make shift ones.
When the outer lining was like this, the central area was occupied by an irregular criss cross of vendors, some displaying their ware on the ground on carts or on the ground over withered tarpaulins. I have always wondered at the common sight as in any other local market – How these tradesmen bargain their stuff, finish the deal, lift the heavy tarpaulins to throw the currency underneath and rummage the balance from there on. Shockingly, I’ve witnessed heavy wads in the possession of a pauper looking shop keeper. Business is promising, be it a vegetable one or any other. These rugged, once fawn hued tarpaulins even had strong metal rings along their hand hemmed edges to hold the slender bamboo poles erected to support the thatch canopies for the buyer and the seller.
Our bus next crawls past Amali School, a well-known convent that shows its significance by the idol of the Virgin Mary in a niche’ by the main entrance. Several yards further from this school my bus stops to pick my colleague Mary.
Mary the art teacher in school is a strange personality with a rare combination of fine arts and classical dance to her credit. Expressive eyes, a slightly tall figure for a female, an open broad smile, a loose careless stole casually draped around her bosom – these are all of Mary I will ever remember. With Mary also by us, our bus takes the winding tarmac to Agasthiyapatti. Again a Vinayaka temple in a corner this is a posher residential area with independent houses – belonging to the upper middle class. Initially the bright, newly painted houses made me lift my eyebrows in awe, bewildering at the fact that none of them looked eroded by man or weather. They didn’t suggest a coat of acrylics either. Slowly I learnt that most of them belonged to the Madura Coats white collars who had invested in these dwellings and migrated elsewhere on voluntary retirement or redundancy.
The EOU unit was the next on the moving frame – a group of well-spaced, stone walled buildings in a sprawling campus adjacent to our school. Colour is wonderful and anything in colour pleases the eye; but wrong is that notion after having seen this export oriented unit. There was no colour anywhere, only the stone walls with iron windows. The one foot broad strap of white paint on the perimeter of every window was the only man made colour to be seen on the walls and that was enough to speak of its elegance. Facing this factory was our principal’s bungalow.
I have longed to have a glimpse of it throughout my life there, but I didn’t. Hope so to take up a principal ship in this school, direly to be blessed with the opportunity of residing there. Our school is seen standing high, FAR from the outer compound wall.
My heart breathes extra life into my veins!!