Wednesday, June 27, 2012

One For Me - One For You.

This papaya fruit is as small as a guava. It was green yesterday and had turned almost orange this morning. Ripe overnight without giving any indication. Reminded me of “neladinda moLakeyodevaaga tamtegaLilla, phala maaguvandu tutturidaniyilla” -  DVG.

Coming to the Guava, many people advised me to tie a plastic cover or a sock over them to protect them from Bats. I decided to do that only if bats turned as destructive as monkeys. I would not grudge them getting their fair share. It was as though the bats read my thoughts. Guava’s usually grow in pairs and the bats eat one and leave the other. This is the fifth. So it is one for me, one for you. I hope the understanding continues to work. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

'Phirbhi Dil Hai Hindustaani'

By about half past four on Sundays, after our afternoon nap and tea, we start thinking about spending the rest of the evening. After going over all possibilities like the beach, movie, temple, friends and shopping, we reject them all for one reason or the other. Then my wife goes for a walk with a MP3 player for company (She always complains that when I accompany her for a walk, which is actually a talk disguised as a walk, she has to do all the talking and that I never open my mouth! So if and when she is in a mood to listen, she finds a MP3 player better company) and I stay back watering the plants and washing the car. Since it had rained the previous night, there was no need to water the plants this Sunday and there was no point in washing the car during the rains. So, I just walked up to the ‘Sateri’ ( Durga) temple near my house and sat on the small platform built under the tree in its precincts, attempting to look inwards, contemplate on life and get some enlightenment if I could reach that stage.

Even though my eyes were closed the ears were open (I should have carried my ear plugs) and I was trying hard to ignore the noise of the passing bikes, trucks, and humans and focus my sight inwards when I heard a female voice close by.

“Namaste uncle”

On opening my eyes I perceived the owner of the voice, a stylish young lady, attired in Levi’s jeans,T shirt and Nike shoes. She would have merged effortlessly into any scene at Cross roads, E square, or Forum but looked totally out of place in front of the ‘Sateri’ temple in Ponda. As I wondered what made this piece of Bollywood lose its way and end up in front of me, she spoke again pointing to the tree across the road.

“Sorry to disturb you uncle. Is that tree a ‘Vatavriksh’?”  (Banyan tree)

I answered in the negative and told her it looked like a ‘Peepal’ tree to me.

“I am supposed to perform ‘pooja’ of a ‘Vatavriksh’ tomorrow morning and I was searching for the tree. Someone directed me to this place. But this is not a ‘Vatavriksh’. Can you please tell me if there is one anywhere around here?"

I had a hunch that I had seen one somewhere close by but could not pin point where it was. I told her so and she seemed disappointed.

“I thought you might know. You look so religious (!). Tomorrow is ‘Vatapoornima’ and I have to worship the tree early in the morning for my husband’s well being. Where do ladies in your family go to perform that ‘pooja’?

I was about to tell her that the lady in our family worships her husband in flesh and blood and does not believe in worshipping trees, but I checked myself.

Though the young lady seemed freshly airlifted from Broadway and was attired in ‘englishtani’ ‘joota’, ‘patloon’ and ‘T shirt’ I could sense a real ‘Hindustaani dil’ under the trimmings - as Rajkapoor very effectively put it in his song decades back- and I did not want to hurt her feelings. I told her to wait a bit and called my wife.

The wife who worships me helped me out.

“A Banyan tree? The big tree you pass by as you turn towards the main road from our street is the Banyan Tree. You would not recognize it of course. You will be lost so much in your thoughts that you may not even recognize your wife if you meet her on the road. By the way what do you want a Banyan tree for? Sit under it and hope for salvation? Forget it and come home. I have been telling you since three days that the rice is over and you have ignored it. You have to go to the market right now and get rice if you want your dinner tonight.”

This I conveyed (location of Banyan tree, not that I have to buy rice urgently ) to the grateful young lady who was extremely pleased to find the tree which ensures her husband’s well being and hurried homewards to comply with the orders and ensure my dinner. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Monkey Business

Our Guava tree is in its fifth year. For the past two years it has been bearing fruits now and then but not more than two at a time. Once we notice them we keep watching them grow and with a lot of anticipation wait for the right time to pluck them but the fauna that visit our garden, which are better judges of the fruit quality, beat us to them. One morning we find a half eaten fruit hanging on the branch and we hastily pluck the remaining one. We cut it into small pieces (with ceremony) and everyone in the family gets a bit. None of us have got more than one third of a fruit till date. So we were very happy and excited to see our tree bearing lot of fruits this season making the branches sag with their weight. Some of them are almost ripe and are going to be ready for consumption within a week.

It is nearly three months since the last visit of the group of marauding monkeys and they are due any moment now. I think that they plan their visits wisely giving enough time for the plants that they had attacked to grow back and be ready for destruction again. They also fix their route for everyplace on their map and when they decide to visit us they always descend into our compound from our neighbour’s house, which is at a slightly higher level. The leader monkey comes down first, sits on the step on my neighbour’s compound wall which seems to have been built there just for its convenience (I do not find any other reason for that step to be there) and takes a leisurely look around choosing the plants for attack. It also needs some time for stuffing and storing whatever it has found in my neighbour’s garden into its pouch and free its hands for the next attack.

We usually notice them when they are halfway through the destruction but even if we see them early all that we can do is shout helplessly from our balcony and wave a stick at them in a false display of bravery. The leader monkey, having met hundreds like us during its rounds and hence being well versed with human nature knows very well that we can’t reach them from the balcony and that we do not have enough guts to go down and confront them on the ground. So it calmly sits there either ignoring us or grinning / growling at us depending  upon its mood and directs its troop in destruction. 

This time, as you can see, the fruits will be hanging right in front of its face when it assumes its post and I dread to think what would happen if the monkeys arrive now.

We will lose the fruits. That I can bear. What would be difficult to bear will be the effect of betrayal of my wife’s expectations by her husband.  She is very fond of guava fruits and can’t bear to lose the ones which almost seem to have reached her hands. Slip between the cup and the lip or between the tree and the teeth in this case. Naturally, she will expect me to be a man, go fight the monkeys and save her fruits but her man is never man enough for that.

As a result, she will grind her teeth (she has worn out most of her grinders grinding them at me and as her personal dentist, I have the task of restoring them back to shape so that she can continue grinding them at me - look at my fate!)and give me looks which could convert me into a heap of ashes if she had the powers of the sage who figures in the ‘Dharmavyadha’ story. (ref: ‘Dharmavyadha’ 5th or 6th standard kannada text. I hope the story continues to be a part of the syllabus) So I am reciting ‘Hanuman Chaaleesa’ every morning hoping that lord Hanuman will keep his troops away from Ponda for another week and I have also bribed him with an extra flower and a semi ripe guava offering this morning.

This monkey business reminds me of a story that I had read somewhere a few years back. (If you are tired of monkeys by now, you are allowed to skip this story, click on ‘like’ button and shut down your computer.) Somewhere in north India there existed a collector or some such high ranking British officer (British raj story, written by the officer himself and he has claimed it to be true) who was very fond and proud of his large garden. It appears a troop of monkeys regularly descended up on this garden and destroyed it completely once every few months. He tried to trap them, shoot them and even poison them but to no avail. The collector’s wife who had similar sentiments as my wife towards the fruits grown in her garden not only kept giving him looks and grinding her teeth at him (though I am sure they were nowhere close to the looks and grindings of my wife) but also chided him saying that he is not fit to call himself the protector of the district if he cannot protect his garden from a troop of stray monkeys.

It seems the collector was a good collector and so, the village wise man (old of course)who heard about his predicament advised him to seek the help of a sage who lived in the nearby mountains who was known to have been able to exercise some power over the monkeys. The collector humbly walked all the way to the hill, climbed up and found the sage in the precincts of an old temple there. He bowed in front of the sage, offered the fruits that he had carried with him, explained his plight and begged for help. The sage had also heard that the collector was a good collector and decided to help him out.

Then, (the collector has written) that the sage made some peculiar clucking noise and within a minute three monkeys appeared in front of them. Two of them sat on a short wall and the third one below on the ground. The sage introduced the ones on the wall as the king and queen monkeys and the third one as the commander of the troop. He then asked the collector to offer them some fruits and request them to spare his garden. Later the sage spoke to the monkeys in some strange language which they seemed to understand and told the collector that he would not have any trouble from the monkeys in future. The collector says that he could not believe himself when the troop of monkeys visited him the next time and just walked away to some farther place along the fence of his garden without stepping in.

I had not believed it too till I started noticing our monkey troop’s time table, adherence to the route and the leadership of the leader monkey. I have half a mind to roam around the hillocks near Ponda ( at the cost of my knees) and see if I can locate the monkey’s abode and by chance find a sage or some such person who may have some control over them. 

PS: Between the time I began this story and reached here, some fruits seemed to be getting yellowish and the tension was mounting. Will we get them or won’t we? So I plucked a few in different stages of ripening hoping that the offering (to my wife, not to lord hanuman) may help soften the disappointment if monkeys get the rest and provide me  with some relief in the form of a less piercing look and a subdued grinding of teeth.