Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Early mornings and love

A lonely bus stand in a little town. It is about 4am, when the dawn is just planning to arrive. It was a request stop for the bus that just passed; except for the woman who got off, the stand seems empty. It is cold and dark everywhere except for one solitary point of brightness. This glow comes from a chai stall run by another woman, maybe in her late fifties. There is a rickshaw next to that stall, the passenger rushes to it only to discover that like the stand, it too is empty.

'Do you want the rickshaw?' calls the chai-walli. 'Wait, I will wake him.' She bustles over to a figure sleeping in the shadows, bends over, lays a hand on his shoulder and wakes the driver. He is instantly semi-awake and takes the passenger to her destination.

A simple incident that would have ended there, had I not heard their story.

They were in love once. Then something happened-maybe parental pressure, maybe a fight that looks minor in retrospect but was a dealbreaker then- but she married someone else. He did not. After many years, she found herself a widow, and began the chai stall to make ends meet. They both chose the night shift- he watching over her safety and livelihood, and she over his.

It is not a poor substitute. Think of the utter pleasure there is in sharing a space with the one you love. Those long nights with the two of them together must be full of a companionable peace. And it is pleasurable to work knowing that the one you love is next to you, that he has chosen to be there so that he can watch out for you. And how wonderful it is to know that you can help him too, that you can keep an eye out for passengers.

And of course, there is the actual waking up. It is not for nothing that I prize my mornings with Mian. It is splendid, true, to slowly wake up next to your love..but there is also something to be said for waking him or her up. She too must enjoy it- to bustle up to the sleeping one, to lean over him, inhale the warm and sleepy child-like smell, lay a caring hand on his shoulder and know that rather than an alarm clock, he is waking up to her voice. And for the one being woken up too- what better thing to wake up to than the voice and face of your sweetheart. And then to set off on work knowing that you will return to a cup of chai, to the exchange of a few quiet words.

No, not a poor substitute at all

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A landmark in the village

There isn't one. Of the conventional type atleast. And that led to this story.
I finally went up and opened me a local savings account- step 1 towards establishing one's residence and all.
But the thing is that the banks now insist on delivering their documents to your home. And that had me worried. My address is just short of the Mark Twain style- instead of 'god knows where', mine says 'Chatola'.
'The post man won't know who I am' I fretted to Mian 'And no one will be able to help him, because while people know my face, they don't know my name.'
'Don't worry', he soothed me 'Everyone knows everyone here. The mail will reach just fine. Trust me.'
And of course I trust him. Utterly, and absolutely.
But you see, that is such an important letter..

And so when Shona and I had gone up to Mukteshwar to get the passbook, I stopped to introduce myself to the postman.
'Hello, I am Chicu. I just opened an account, and I was not sure if you know where I live or who I am, so I thought I'd come up and say hello'
He looked up at me and down at Shona  and beamed sunnily.
' I know you!' he said. 'You live with Shona-Bhaloo! Mian lives with her too!'

' Ah. Yes' I said. 'That's us. The ones who live with Shona-Bhaloo'

There are landmarks in the village- they just happen to be furry and charming.