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Monday, November 7, 2011

The Fountain Pen

A was getting married. It was big news for lot of us. When I mean us; its her close friends who know a lot about her and can easily predict her. A little about her first –

She is very punctual – if she says she will be there in 10 mins it’s a guarantee that you will have to wait for the next 30 to 45 mins bitting your nails or looking like a lost traveller.

I don’t know how she comes to distance against time conclusion, even google maps does not say that, if she says it’s a one hour journey it means a painful two and half hour journey.

The smell of garlic – A has a habit of putting garlic and oil for a better, healthy, shiny, etc. hair. Sure enough she does not wash it properly and the next day the whole bay will be freaking out because of the garlic smell. Anyone with indigestion problem will have it cured that day because of the ‘aroma’ in the air

Phone Calls – I think she holds two mobile phones but none of them I consider as her mobile rather I would say it’s a piece of landline junk or a toy. Take my word she wont answer it on the first attempt. And if you are lucky a reply to the call will be given.

On the whole she is a wonderful friend with out of the world qualities. That’s her and now her marriage.

I never knew when she got engaged; one fine day I send some senseless forward to her email and I get a reply saying ‘I am engaged’. I was staring at my monitor for a while and then realized ‘Oh yeah, its her so its obvious that you get informed a little late’. At least she told me before marriage.

So her marriage was on Nov 2nd 2011 which BTW was in a middle of a week. I went and got my invitation from her and for one of my ex-colleague G whom I knew for a while. The plan was that both of us would start from Bangalore and reach her marriage. Oh wait where is the marriage again? A says Darsi which never enters my brain but what did enter my brain was she continuing saying ‘its near New Jersey da’. I had brain freeze then she giggles and says I just like to compare because Darsi sounds like New Jersey. Ahh .. trust me Darsi is no where near to New Jersey in literal sense and the sarcastic sense. Darsi is somewhere in Andhra which thankfully is in google maps but no thanks because it really was of no help to us.

Here starts my calls to her; to find out how to reach that village. Sure enough she does not answer and a week before marriage she tells that buses are available to Ongole from Bangalore and she continues ‘from Ongole some 40kms da and you get frequent buses to Darsi’. Deep down a voice was telling me ‘Uhh.. it’s A don’t trust her man, you are getting nailed’.

Ok so, the booking hungama starts she books for me and G in a volvo from Bangalore to Ongole which is wise enough of her. Because I had a feeling that we will be travelling on top of the bus, with basket full of chickens, ducking the tree branches and eating mosquitoes.

Oh wait! she told she has booked from Bangalore to Ongole but what about the return; Takkal of course; which never really was successful so G books bus for both of us for the return.

The journey begins – Its was Nov 1st and the bus was scheduled to depart from platform 10 of KSRTC bus stand. I met G in platform 10. G is kindaa person who will talk even if she was the only living organism in planet earth. Our chat starts from work, drifts to sharuk khan, drifts to Ra-One and then the wake up call – G’s mom calls to enquire about her, it was about time because there was no one in platform and no bus as well. So I walk around to find if the bus is already there and yes there it was in the midst of other APSTRC buses. We board the bus just to find out someone else is sitting in one of our seats. The thing that sparks in my mind ‘oh damn now we have to fight for seat’ but thankfully that guy just moves politely out. Must have been someone who boarded the bus directly and was looking for an empty seat.

The bus starts and so does the conversation. The thing about KSRTC is they don care whether you like it or not; they start playing a movie which would have been a big time flop in recent times or a big time flop in the past. Anyways the movie starts and there were guys in the front enquiring whether it is Kannada or Telugu – Hell who cares.

A little while later G becomes silent and has a look on her face. The kinda look which says I am gonna puke on you. But G is strong person, I guess she managed we got couple of vomit covers just in case but nothing bad happened. So I keep chatting and she keeps saying ok and talks a little (quite opposite to her original form). The bus stops at hotel Kamat in god knows what road. There was no other shops around and I could not get sprite that G asked. All that was there was mazza and water bottles. The bus continues, couple of guys in the back laughs at the daring action that the hero takes in the movie. The other guy gets a call from some girl and he starts chit chatting blah blah ..

By now, G wants to sleep and tries different positions, some of them where like yogasanam. Then she keeps bag on her lap and lies on it but that din help her much as well. Later we figured a little soothing position after entering deep sleep she leans back on the seat which is meant for sleeping and then dozes off (I think). For some reason I could not enter deep sleep mode but what the hell, I was literally living in the bus for the past one week. Ongole is not an easy ride, even though it was Volvo the bus jumps so one can imagine the condition of the roads.

Its around 6 in the morning, drizzling outside, droplets on the window and the light of dawn slowly slides in. G wakes up checks herself on the big display of her mobile which she uses as a mirror. Around 7 the bus enters a lane which I don’t think had anything called road. The bus stops and we realize we are in Ongole.

We get down with our luggage. Trying to be smart I go an ask a guy how to reach Darsi, he looks lost and asks people around and still lost he says you will get it from that platform. Being skeptical I go to the enquiry the person who says something in Telugu which of course I don’t understand and so again no clue how to get to the place. One of the conductors of a local bus was speaking hindi so G kicks in and says where we want to reach and he says direct bus are not frequent. In order to reach that place we have to first get ourself to Podhili (the name never got into my brain).

The deep down voice of mine kicks again ‘Somehow I told you so’. Okay so what now, we just listen to what that conductor says and board the bus.

The bus is 3-2 seater, we find an empty 3 seat available in the rear and make ourself comfortable in that. The bus must have seen a lot in it’s a life. Few more rides and it would fall apart, the windows being the first of it. G places her luggage in the corner and instructs me not to allow anyone else. The bus starts the conductor starts issuing ticket. Its not like Bangalore where the conductor uses an electronic machine which gives your start point and destination. This guy has a lot of tickets clipped on to what looked like some poor kids exam pad. Signature move of the conductor is he removes the tickets of various denomination and places between his lips. After the required price is reached he holds them together and punches it. I and G were like does he brush?. Well we get our ticket finally and the bus starts and the roller coaster ride begins.

The crowd is the bus is quite different; most of them looked like people who live on daily wages or like those in farming or some small scale business. The bus makes some stops where people board on. A huge guy in red shirt breaks his way to the back and finds that a seat in our section is empty. Comes and stands next to me; signs me to move so that he can sit. My guess is he won’t fit in the two seater but somehow crushes me and sits. I am squeezed and luggage on my lap; the phone rings – kinda of that lame tatadocomo ad. G helpless herself manages to sit with her luggage.

The road to Podhili has only granite factories, some farm lands and few buildings. I and G start thinking and having a conversation how different life here should be. It cannot be compared to a metro life of course but still people do living.

A group of guru like people in saffron enters. One on them was sitting in the seat back; he was fascinated by the camera, accidently we got a picture of him which was quite good one.

By now the red shirt guy is not happy about some call he gets and starts talking in a tough tone to guy on the other end. The only problem is when he moves his arm my chest experiences a surgery. We look through that leaking half broken window - the green and people in the road. G still tries to catch up with the sleep she left in the Volvo; so she tries to close her eyes. I don’t think she slept but was just resting her eyes for the rest of the journey. A junction arrives, a lot of people seem to get down or getting ready to get down; just to make sure we don’t miss the stop. I ask the conductor and he says this is not the stop but its nearing. So we take the luggage and stand near the door. The stop arrives and we get down; lost again, we were wondering if we could take an auto to Darsi from Podhili. An auto stops, the guy in the front seat who was driving was looking like a kid, I bet that guy does not hold a license. Anyways we start our conversation he didn’t understand what we said and we did not understand what he said; so back to square one. There was a road opposite to where we got down and some people where telling we will get bus from the other side. I and G start walking, an auto passes us with high music; I believe that one was for G. A little walk later we get a doubt so G suggests we enquire some shop guys. There was this cement shop where we go and tell Darsi bus, he immediately screams and another guys runs to road and stops a bus which was passing by. Ok – so we understood that the bus goes to Darsi, we thank them and dash to board the bus. This bus was in a better health than the earlier one.

In both the buses, one thing that I observed was that only G is the only ‘Girl’. Again here we get some seat in the back row. All of sudden lot of mobiles starts playing music; I smile at G saying those are for you. I guess all the men wanted to impress G. Few kilometers and then a bunch of students jump board the bus. G takes a sneak peak of one of the guy’s books and was mentioning he was in 8th standard. Nice observation G! Those guys did not have uniforms; well I guess it is because the school was not having those practices; but I was happy that there was a school at least. Life should be quite different for youngsters there and no wonder why people prefer living in an urban environment with better education and style of life. Students are people with young blood so it was obvious that the guys were chit chatting with girls. I asked if G was comfortable because she was in the corner of the seat. She nods with a goofy face. We take the invitation card to find out which Mahal was it. One of the girls standing beside us sees it and suggests something. Of course we did not understand but G insisted I thank her. So with a broad smile I thank that student. Then it’s the conductors turn, she tells something again and drops at a junction of Darsi.

We were in the heart of Darsi. Quite a small one. Looking around; G suggests we ask some shop people who will know English. There was this ‘Bakary’ which had its name in English. With hope I enter the shop, there were couple of guys who were already buying something. I ask them about this Mahal showing the card and then to our relief we found they are from the guy’s side. He makes a phone call and assures that we will have a car to pick us up. We wait for a while, by now G losses patience and asks me to find out if we can take an auto. I can’t blame her because it was quite a journey and we needed to refresh and rest. Thankfully a car comes; I think it was Maruthi Alto with the A and her fiancée photo on it. And it was her fiancée who was driving it! So we get acquainted and board the car. R (her fiancée) starts the conversation and we kind of were going in the same road the bus came. We realized that it the stay place was in the very beginning of Darsi. R was quite a driver, well of course there no traffic police and no signals or rules of any sort. So R drives us to the stay and assures that the place will be good; that assuring part was because we were not quite sure if there were any hotels in place like Darsi. R gets the key for the guest house and drives us to it. The place is like gated community, later in some part of journey I was told that it was real estate venture, where the dealers takes care of the road inside that gated area.

The guest house was quite neat, it was full furnished house. The person who was maintaining it knows Hindi – that was a relief for G and me. It was located in middle of fields a few more trees around and you can call it as a farm house. Though the place is mostly like a village the house was not like that. The house had a big hall attached to it was the dining area. There was this ‘Restricted’ kind of sign on the kitchen door; I guess no one really wants to know what gets done there. And there were two other big rooms. I was gonna share it with other two guys who were on their way and G gets a separate room. The room was quite neat with sofa, what looked like a queen size bed, tv and other regular stuffs you find in a bed room. Okay now the question - where is the bathroom? Well, there was a cupboard and when you open the middle door you won’t find a closet rather you will find another door which leads to the bathroom. I felt it’s a neat way to hide the bathroom (why hide a bathroom? I don’t know). R leaves, telling us to get refreshed and then we can go for breakfast. By now the time was around 10ish. An hour passes and both of us get ready for breakfast. Even before we called, one of R’s friend M arrives to take us to their home for breakfast.

M drives to R’s house. It’s a brand new house which had its house warming function quite recently. House is flooded with people, we had this alien feeling across us. G is kind of wants to get introduced to some of them, but people were busy with the arrangements. We had breakfast served by R’s sister. Pongal and vada with Chuttney and sambar, it was a good treat for us after a tiring journey. Parallely there was pooja happening in the hall which was crowded with people. After breakfast we walk our way out through them and get a ride back to the room. Darsi had a very nice weather when we were there and it had started raining by the time we were going back. The roads are ok, you don’t see much of cars there but of course a lot of two wheelers and tractors. I cannot recollect if I saw any bullock carts, I wonder.

Back at guest house, we watch two episodes of friends in G’s iPad and the house keeper offers us tea. We decided to take some rest before lunch and the grand finale. Meanwhile the other two guys L and A where on their way to Ongole; they were coming from Chennai and preferred a morning train rather than arriving early and waiting the whole day. The room was good, except that it was stale. Guess there were no guests in that guest house for a while. I get this mild headache feeling because of it. Around 1.30 in the noon there is a knock on my room door; it was M and he suggested that we leave for lunch. G is still in her room, sleeping tight; I give her a wakeup call and she comes out of the room sleep walking. Both of us were in middle of deep sleep and really didn’t want to lunch that early but hey what can we say. I mean, those people amidst their busy schedule were kind enough to take care of us. So off we go to the same house. We see people having lunch outside the house in a large leaf disposal plate, but we were called inside to have it. Felt like we were treated special. we go in there and they start serving lunch. Honestly we were not quite hungry at that time and didn’t have the appetite for a such a treat. G was selective on her food and refrained from some of the stuffs; not that she doesn’t like it but she didn’t want to take too much as we were travelling back in the very night. I on the other hand try to taste as much as I can. It was one of the times were your body really wont support what you want to do - I had this severe toothache because of my wisdom teeth. I instruct G to eat slow so that I will not be an aloof. After lunch is done we wait for our ride, the bridegroom comes out and gives us company. We start to talk about how I know A and where me and G are placed in Bangalore rite now. R has most of his friends in Bangalore, but we couldn’t hitchhike with them because they were having a bigger plan of going to tirupathi to attend another function and then drive to Darsi.

A never gave much information about R. But what I found about him made me quite delighted. He was a good looking, tall and gentle guy; with respect for others. Felt happy for A and I pictured that they will be making a good couple. We figured out that this house was also a part of real estate venture; it had concrete roads and houses in a row. Later we were told that it was all R’s relations who were living in that place. I guess it should be nice to have relations around which will make every home happier and problems lighter. By now our ride arrives, we hop in to the car and few meters passed and G asks for her mobile. Damn! I don’t have it. You see G has this really large mobile with loaded features; the only thing missing was a rocket launcher in it. Since it’s huge to carry around I took the ownership of taking it and carrying it in my jeans. Well after lunch I missed it and G sparks up and starts fuming with words but we were not that far from the house and so one of R’s relation goes and gets the mobile and saves me from getting harassed by G. I forgot my mobile charger when I started my journey so R lends the charger to me. Both my and G’s mobile were running out of battery and so we really needed to charge it for the rest of the trip.

We reach our guest house, by now the sky was clear and we thought we could take some nice pics of the place. And so our photography skill kicks in, didn’t work much though. Anyways we take some pics and head back in. The guys from Chennai – L and A is on route to Darsi and asks for some landmark where they can get down so that they can directly reach the guest house. I ask the house keeper for some landmark and he directs that there is a HP petrol bunk opposite to this Guest house entrance and they can get down there. Unfortunately the guys kept their eyes open only for HP petrol bunk and in reality it was not a HP petrol bunk rather it was an IBP, so they miss it and get down in the heart of Darsi. They then end up calling R to get a ride to the guest house. Back at guest house we thought of continuing the friend’s episode but the video was not playing for some reason. Frankly G was not happy about it and wanted to kill sometime. So we try some games on the iPad which I enjoyed but G like most of the girls didn’t have the thing for games. So we chit-chat for some time and by now the house keeper offers for pepsi. It gets a little sultry by now and the hall as well was a little stale but we did find it better than the rooms. Also there was no power in the house which implied we cannot charge our mobiles, there was an invertor in house but only supplied few of the switches.

G decides to hit the bed for a while, so off she goes. I hear some voice outside my room and it was L and A. L during commuting messages G for directions and he used to refer Ongole as OwnGoal; what is surprising is L was in Ongole for three years during his childhood. I guess he had a lot of Goals and wanted to imply wherever possible.

L and A refreshes, by now all of us plan to get ready for the wedding and the plan was to get a ride to the mahal by 6.15 or so. After decking up we impatiently wait for the ride to mahal. L and A are in traditional dothi and I was in a shirt and jeans. G was wearing this salwar that she borrowed (stole) from her sister. All of us were in hall sitting and watching tv. We are chatting about the various Bollywood movies and stars; the feel was quite different. A was like, this is how life should be you have a big hall sit and watch tv with family chit-chat some rubbish and have a lot humor. In reality that does not happen in many houses; people have their own priorities and take family for granted. Ok enough philosophy – back to our impatient waiting. Of all the four G was the one very impatient, but that is sensible she has been waiting the whole day to spend some quality time with the bride. Our ride arrives by 7.15 and we all rush to the car. The mahal is in the other end Darsi and get this - there is only one mahal in Darsi which originally was a rice mill and was converted into mahal recently.

So we see this big board of A and R along with some text in telugu placed outside the mahal. L and A plans to take a pic of it and publish it in the bulletin board of the company. We enter the mahal and see both A and R in the dais; waving our hands to her we find a spot to sit. If my memory is correct the muhurtham was around 7.45 pm and they were waaayy behind schedule. In a telugu marriage you can easily find out if it was the climax. Because during the time the guy ties mangal sutra the gal and the guy both will be in some white cloth, like the guy will be in white shirt and the gal will be in white saree.

There were some rituals going on and after a while they send both to their respective dressing rooms, the pandit gives a timeout of 15mins (everyone knows that it is never gonna happen in 15mins). I wanted G to go and help A but I did not know how she will take it; but then G gets up and leaves to the room saying that she will spend some time with A and help her out. We were just observing the crowd and the hall. The dais was decorated quite well, I like the setting. To our disappointment there were no birds in the marriage, I mean come on we were in a telugu marriage atleast there had to be one or two but NO. To my knowledge G was the only girl (she was the only girl in the bus as well if you remember; seriously, people are hiding in some place).

A travelled from her place to Darsi in the pre bridal form and so there was no chance for the photographer prior to this. So he asks R to join in A’s dressing room to get pics of them together . G gets lucky and gets some snap of herself along with A and A’s mom.

There is a famous quote which goes ‘A friend is a gift you give yourself’. L is close friend of the bride; he did skip one of his cousin marriage just to attend this wedding on that day. He was writing a note on a gift, I was quizzed and asked him what is the gift. He showed me the pen he was using to write. A pen! You are gifting her pen? It seems some time back A told him that she always wanted a ‘fountain pen’ and so he got one; for her D-Day. People express their feelings in different ways and gift is one of the best ways. It does not matter how big or small it is all that matter is the heart that gives it. A wish for a pen during a casual conversation was in the back of his head all this time! They sure did have a quite a friendship which is worth envying. I am not very close to L but again I couldn’t control my expressions on this event. L looks at me and with a smile in the corner says ‘Hey I finished it cheap’

The clock is ticking – I and G had a bus scheduled by 11.30 pm from Ongole so we had to start quite early. We planned to leave the mahal by 9 so that we get enough time to reach it. I give a call to G and we decide to have dinner and leave. When I was in the mahal I was wondering where the entire crowd was, guess what the 3/4 th of the crowd was in dining hall. I tell G to go back to A’s room and will call her when we get place for dinner. It’s a village so there were people standing behind those who were already having dinner and would literally grab the chair after that person is done. This is something which is not going to work for us. Finally I and G just grab an ice – cream with fruit and have it. Well it’s just for formality honestly; when you go for a marriage it is required that you eat there else it means you are disrespecting the guys and girls family.

The worst part of the trip is after all of this we never got to see them get married and I never got a chance to take a pic along with the bride and bridegroom. Should have never planned it this way but we didn’t have a choice because A was not sure of everything as well and in a marriage you cannot expect everything to go according to plan – not in a Indian wedding. I felt quite sad, it’s A ! she is getting married and I did not wait to see it nor got a chance for a picture. Hope the video guy took some recording of me.

Well it was time to leave and M spoke with the driver of the car to drop us to Podhili from there we will get a bus to Ongole. While in car I get a message from L saying we just missed the climax by minutes. We were like damn. I used to comment A saying it will be an out of world experience to see her in bridal form and yes it was and they were a perfect couple. G by now in her gaudy salwar was quite uncomfortable with all the ornaments so she starts removing. That big screen mobile came quite handy with its torch kind of feature. The cab driver drops us at Podhili bus stand. We wait for a while and get into a bus this seems to be a ‘delux’ bus. G points at a person carrying a baby, I am pretty sure it was an infant not older than a month. The cry of the baby reminded me of what I went thru when my wife had delivered a little guy.

We get the front most seat in that delux bus. There is no seat in front of G and there is this one guy who was sitting in front of me with a weird cloth on his head and push backed the seat real back. I managed to sit with my luggage and G was holding the handle of that guy’s seat in fear that if there is a sudden jerk she will fly through the front window. We have some conversations and by now we are in Ongole.

The bus stand was in quite a mess, the rain, the litter, the smell and the ambience everything added to a total disaster. G was covering herself most of the time to escape the smell around.

I quite don’t understand how those people manage to run shops over there. It seriously requires some attention. We were not hungry but still chewed on some biscuits and a pepsi. A piece of advice here is – in a bus stand thronged with people if you see a chair completely empty don’t go there. The reason is it could be either having some unwanted stains or could be near a really smelly area. Well this is where we sat, right in the way of toilets. OMG the toilets were one horrible place; even the thought of it makes me sick. G was quite uncomfortable with all of this and to add on she was in her salwar which was not meant for travelling. We try to make ourselves place in some other chair and now we get to watch tv with all those local advertisement. It was 11.15 and still there was no sign of bus. I try to find out from enquiry and some other office room and everyone is saying the same word which I think mean ‘it will come’. Around 11.45 the bus come we board it and I kind of had a homely feeling. Both of us were tired and we go to sleep in around 20 mins. When we wake up we were somewhere in Bangalore.

The journey ends here for both of us. On a whole it was a good trip with lot of new experiences. And A is married.