Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sequel to Dhavala - Ravi's story

Ravi’s story ‘Dhavala’ (it is on his blog www.musings in the aether.blogspot.com) was so good that I could not help spoiling it a bit with a trivialized sequel to it. It is like having a temptation to just pass a nail along the body of a shining car. I do not know where I got this trait from. Surely NOT Jagalur. (I still need my limbs for few more years) May be the genes of Lukkumsandra which are also lurking in my body. Whatever it is, the sequel is the result of me having read about the Yuvaraja of Mysore’s race horses. So with apologies to Ravi, here it is.

Dhavala joined the service of The Maharaja of Mysore and participated in Jambu savari procession. He was a prized possession of the royal family and the Yuvaraja proudly rode on his back. The Yuvaraja later became the Maharaja and had his own Yuvaraja. Dhavala also sired many offsprings, all of them as white and as powerful. The new Yuvaraja was fascinated by these beauties and wanted to ride them. He wanted to ride them, go fighting and get back the kingdom that they had lost long back. But there was a hitch. He was fat and the horses were tall and so the Yuvaraja was unable to heave himself up and get on to their back. Yuvaraja was terribly disappointed and was thinking what to do. By then a lady by name Indira had come along and snatched away his privy purse and shortly afterwards the Maharaja had passed away. No Maharaja, no kingdom, no money. The Yuvaraja had to dispose off most of his possessions as it was not possible for him to maintain them. But he did not want to give up his horses. Dhavala’s breed. So he kept them, trained others to ride them and sent them to the racecourse. Dhavala’s breed were always the fastest and so they won many races, earning a lot of money for the Yuvaraja. He used the money to contest elections and won part of his kingdom back - though only for a few years. Then the Yuvaraja contested many court cases and won back his palaces. He lives in one of them even today and many people go to see these palaces paying an entry fee. I have heard some of them saying that a tall, strong, pure white horse is seen even now around the palace sometimes. If any of you visit the palace and see the horses please enquire about the breed and let me know if I am right.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

'Early Birds' in the forest.

Encouraged by the success of the trek to Dudhsagar falls, (success meaning that all the legs that embarked on the trek, returned back still attached to their owner’s bodies) the Early Birds of Ponda swimming pool, as the group called itself now (early FISH of PSP?) decided to go on a night visit to the Bhagavan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary which is at a distance of about thirty five kilometers from Ponda, off the Ponda - Belgaum road. The forest department has erected some tents inside the forest and we had planned to camp there for the night. The idea was to reach the forest late evening, cook a dinner, eat it (if edible and entirely at one’s own risk) and roam the forest for an hour or two. Then spend the remaining part of the night in the tents and return to Ponda the next morning. Either that or get up very early in the morning to roam the forest for an hour or two before returning to Ponda.

Since I had work in the clinic I could not leave early, and an advance party left Ponda with supplies to take care of the preparations. I was picked up exactly at eight by a friend who very kindly had stayed back for my sake. After reaching the Molem forest check post, we left the highway and got into the forest track. The track was not meant for a Maruti 800 but our car managed to take us to the camp without trouble.

It was a day before ‘Amavasya’ (no moon day) and the forest was totally dark. As we reached the campsite all we could see were the lamps hanging in front of the tents and the light from the ten watt bulbs barely reaching out of the lampshades.

We moved closer and came across a covered circular area open all around and encountered most of the advance party of the early birds sitting around two small tables containing filled glasses and snacks.

A little away two more birds were keeping a wood fire going, above which was placed a large vessel containing what was intended to turn out to be ‘Chicken Xacuti’. Nearby was a stack of cleaned, cut and spiced slices of king fish awaiting their turn on the fire. It did not take long for me to realise that whisky pegs and chicken legs were going to play a bigger role in this trip than human legs and I prepared myself to be as best a company as I could, holding a glass of ‘Limbu soda’ and making myself comfortable on a chair.

The following joke which I had seen in some news paper years ago gives an idea of how good a company I could be in these parties.

One man to another,
“Do you smoke?”
“Do you eat hay?”
“Of course not”
“You are fit company neither to man nor beast.”

It was eleven at night by the time the party could shift the concentration from glasses to plates and was past one at night by the time it dissolved. All that the human legs were capable of doing at that time was to carry their owners to the tents and all that the owner’s brains were capable of thinking about was the bed. Still I managed to shake a few, reminding them where they were and what they were there for and got a short “Ok Ok wake me up at five” as a reply.

We were three in one tent and to my luck both my companions had remained sober and all of us were up by half past four. Of the other two, one decided to go out with me and the other took the sensible decision of going back to bed after offering us his torch. It was very dark and we were apprehensive about going into the forest just the two of us. We had a torch each in our hands and my friend suggested that we better carry at least a stick in the other hand. We searched around and managed to get two sticks, which, if exerted, could at best kill a mouse and we set out on the forest track turning around repeatedly and shining the torch behind us. We had walked for about two kilometers when we came across a sign board which read ‘Devil’s canyon’. My friend, who had heard a lot of ghost stories in his childhood got jittery. He said that he had heard that the place was infested with spirits and that they were most active early in the mornings. He insisted that we turn back. I was scared too but made a show of bravery urging him that the spirits and devils were all nonsense but gave up the effort before he got convinced and we walked back to the camp. It was getting alight by then, and we walked in the opposite direction for another hour enjoying the forest scene.

We returned to the camp by the time others were up and as I had morning appointments I started back immediately with another friend who had work to do at Ponda.

The remaining of the group stayed back to finish the remnants of bread and Xacuti and after what I heard to be a very refreshing bath in the nearby stream that washed away all the hangovers, returned to Ponda resolving to get back to the forest once again in the near future for a really legs oriented programme.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Election And Its Uses

It is election time in Goa again. Election fever is running high. Any topic of discussion, anywhere, ends up with election. News papers are full of candidates and their prospects. Candidates are busy thinking of ways to hoodwink the election commission and bribe the voter when they are not able to find ways to hoodwink the voters and get their votes. Manifestos are promising roads, bridges, jobs and lokayuktas as well as free power, water and petrol. If free lunch is added to the list, I can close down my clinic and relax.

I have heard that money flows freely during election time. But I haven’t seen any of it flow in my direction. I do not run an election related business. I am not approached by any party or candidate with ‘goodies for vote’ or ‘cash for vote’ offers. When everyone is busy making money while the election sun shines, Raghunandan is in the shade depending only on extractions and fillings.

I had just one case last Saturday morning and even that fellow had got wise and missed the appointment. I was just sitting there brooding over the matter, reading election news in the newspaper and feeling left out when Shirodkar appeared in the door.

Shirodkar’s wife and daughter are my patients. He has accompanied them to the clinic many times but has managed to evade the chair himself till now. He is addicted to chewing tobacco and the signs of his addiction are all over his mouth. His teeth are almost black. I have suggested many times that he give up chewing tobacco and have his teeth cleaned. “Yes doctor, I know that it is a very bad habit. I will definitely come sometime next week. I will have my teeth cleaned and then give up tobacco once and for all”. I have threatened him with everything from gingivitis to cancer but have not been able to locate that next week on the calendar.

He was a middle level employee in a mining company and started some mining related business by the side in a small way. Just as he entered the business, iron ore turned into gold and since then he has had no time for anything else other than counting money, leave alone getting his teeth cleaned. I had heard that he paid about two crores as income tax last year. I was surprised to see him in the clinic and enquired what the matter was.

“I want my teeth cleaned urgently, doctor. You see, I have decided to contest in this election and have been promised the party ticket. The news is likely to be out this evening and once that happens I will have no time even to breathe. I will have to start campaigning immediately. I cannot approach my voters with these black teeth. At least clean the front teeth today and I will come later for the other teeth.”

I brightened a bit. The election, which I thought was of no use to me had at least brought a case on an otherwise lean day. People have come to my clinic for having their teeth cleaned just before marriage, before important interviews and before going abroad. This was the first time that an election brought me a patient. Who knows? If I look around carefully in Shirodkar’s mouth I may find some more ways leading to his deep pocket! I adjusted the chair and grabbed my cleaning instruments with enthusiasm.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Trek to Remember

Some of my friends who are regulars for the morning 6.30 batch in our swimming pool decided to test their capabilities on land and planned a trekking trip.
“We are trekking to Dudhsagar water falls from Kulem railway station doctor. It is twelve kilometers. Coming?”
I accepted the invitation and a few eyebrows shot up. “Twelve kilometers ONE WAY doctor. Nearly twenty five kilometers up and down. It is like walking from your house in Ponda to Margao railway station.” Some of the members who feared that they may have to carry me most of the distance tried to make me see sense. They calculated the full distance for my benefit and also gave a comparison so that I fully understood what I was getting into. I am the oldest member in our batch and they had probably asked me to join them, out of courtesy. My acceptance might have put them in a quandary.

If my performance in the swimming pool was any indication, they had reason to worry. In the recently concluded swimming competitions, the time I took to swim fifty meters was ninety seconds ( I was last, obviously) while the second last was thirty five seconds. If I performed equally well during the trek, they will need to carry camping gear and prepare for a three day trek. But being sportsmen, they did not express their feelings, encouraged me saying that I will surely make it and said that they would pick me up at quarter to six from my house.

The plan was to drive to Kulem railway station, a distance of little more than thirty kilometers from Ponda and then trek to the falls. It involved walking on/along the railway track for about four kilometers and the remaining on a mud path. We had planned to leave Ponda at six in the morning, stop briefly at Kulem for breakfast and begin our trek by seven and to the credit of everyone in the group we were on the railway track by twenty past seven on 26th January.

Walking on the railway track, which apparently had been built with only trains in mind, was not easy but we managed the four kilometers without tripping and falling or twisting and dislocating ankles and were happy to see the mud path running parallel to the track. With relief we descended on to the path but it did not take us long to realize that we were better off on the railway track. This mud path was a cross between a path and a crude road. Some small boulders and assorted stones had been strewn on the path in the hope of calling it a ‘motorable’ road but in the process making it unfit both for legs and wheels.

But we had decided to walk to the falls and walk we did ignoring the continuous flow of jeeps carrying tourists to the falls, bringing up clouds of dust and pushing us off the ‘road’ every second minute. It took three hours to cover twelve kilometers and we were at the falls by half past ten.

At the falls we met some of the tourists who had been clever enough to hire the jeeps and were regretting our decision to walk, when a lady hailed us.
“Are you the group whom we saw walking on the way?”
“How smart! I wish I had come walking too. This horrible ride has separated all my joints. I am dreading the return trip”.

After the experience of walking twelve kilometers we were dreading the return trip too but at that moment we had decided not to think about the return trip and make the best of the falls. At the base of the falls is a natural pool almost the dimension of a swimming pool, surrounded by rocks and the water is cold, fresh and inviting.

We dived into the ice cold water, hurt our legs on the submerged boulders while trying to swim, slipped on the rocks when we tried to stand, got muscle cramps because of the cold and managed to swim to safety after enjoying the falls and bruising our limbs as much as we could. We ate the lunch that we had carried and headed back with a lighter load on the shoulders- food consumed, but a heavier load on the mind - the return walk.

We decided not to walk the full distance at a stretch but to divide the distance into parts to gain some psychological advantage. To start with we only had to reach the temple which we had seen on the way quite close to the falls, then the stream only half an hour’s distance from the temple, then the lonely house, then the big tree with monkeys and from there the railway track was just another kilometer! But the legs were not prepared to listen to the lesson in psychology and protested every step. We managed to ignore the legs and kept ourselves busy chatting, singing and making fun of one another. It felt as though we had been walking for two days but actually in about two hours we had the railway track in sight again. Once we were on the track we told ourselves that since we had successfully covered twenty kilometers, the remaining four, that is less than a quarter of the whole distance was no big deal and in another hour we had the railway station in sight.

I have passed through Kulem station on every trip from Bangalore to Goa and have always felt happy on reaching there as it meant the journey’s end but I had never been as happy to see Kulem station as I was on 26th January 2012. We had a brief halt in the local tea shop which served the best tasting Bisleri water and even tastier ‘Limbu’ soda and then we got into the most comfortable ‘Swift’ and ‘Innova’ ever built, for our return trip. We were in Ponda by five in the evening after a ‘trek to remember’ as my friends put it.

I was under the impression that the old bones may not make it. But the old bones managed to take me to the falls and bring me back too. Only the old muscles and ligaments connecting them were complaining. I pacified them with some Brufen and Crocin and was even able to put them to work the next day to earn my living and prevent the old stomach from growling.