Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Hyderabad ! - Where Cinema meets Chaos: Part 1 - The Journey

It was a long awaited trip to Hyderabad. The common excuse was to see Junior Reddy, but on hindsight, i guess that was just one of the excuses. We have been wanting this break for quite some time and i guess Reddy Junior was just the excuse to convince us that this trip was necessary!

Friday evening saw us arrive at the bus stand on time to get the volvo bus to hyderabad. As usual, planning was last minute and train tickets in India, where population grows faster than the train speed, are scarce and rare. Expecially when u plan as late as what we did! :) We were lucky to get the bus tickets actually. There we were - Me in a well worn Jeans and a t shirt with my usual backpack, the slim Reddy - the proud dad, Mrs and Mr. Iyer, the family - also known as Ganesh and Latha. Mrs. Iyer had wanted the volvo trip - she had apparently heard a lot about the same and had wanted to try one of the same.

Our last bus trip to Andhra land was quite some time back on a time line, but down memory lane, it was still quite vivid. We were on a crowded bus, stifling around with a tv screen showing a wild telugu movie and the speakers blaring the sound track, even when it was quite late at night. The matter of fact was, none of them except for us seemed to mind that, rather, most of them, i still think, enjoyed it.

Waking up from the flash back with a snap, i turned to Reddy and asked him if this being a volvo bus would make any difference and would they restrain from playing a movie or playing songs on the speaker. Reddy, who was busy trying to settle down in the seats, looked at me with a smile on his lips and said that he couldn't be sure. The smile turned to laughter, when two seconds later, the speakers started giving out wonderful telugu music! But even his smile curved into an agry frown when he realized that the driver or the cleaner liked one set of songs and two hours later, were still playing repeats of the same set !!! It was my turn to laugh, then! The Andhra buses do have some pretty wierd customs though. First, they distributed woolen rugs for all of us. They gave us one each, but to the Iyer family they gave only one and unapologetically mumbled that they were short of one and they have to adjust. ( When we saw them sleeping later that night, we realized wehre that one short had gone! :) ) And then they walked past the aisle handing us one bottle of 'Rama' packaged water. We were kind of apprehensive about ho much we would have to pay, when his voice rubbed it on us that it was on the house ( rather on the bus! :) ). So then, when that guy came again with trays of chips, we were more than happy to pick one packet for each of us, when with a smile, he anounced that it was fifteen bucks a packet. Promptly, we kept it back on the tray. I even arranged them the same way as it were before they were picked up!

The night wore on with a pleasent bus drive with only the repeated telugu songs to trance us. My friends say that i am extremely gifted guy for i can sleep, whenever and wherever i want. ( There are so many instances where i have displayed that talent - in sanskrit classes, in maths classes and in so many other classes :) ) ... Anyways, it wasn't long before i left the Reddy and Iyer to fend for conversation within themselves and dozed off to a nice and smooth sleep, the air conditioned sway of the volvo suspensions cradling me with a wonderful lullaby!

Was it the Rip Van Winkle who had slept for twenty years? When i was woken up later that night, i did really feel like that, but i guess it wasn't more than a couple of hours. It was a dark bus stand and those unrecognizable characters on the wall could have only meant one of the two things - that i was still sleepy or that we had already crossed into telugu desam! Although i was almost sure, it is the former than the latter, my friends convinced me that it is also the latter. And, they warned me, if i wanted any food, i had better go down, wash myself and help them open out those packets of grub! :)

Half an hour later, with sleep washed out of my eyes with splashes of Kinley water and lovely Tamarind rice filling my stomach warmly, i was ready to enter dream land again. The bus had started its journey from the bus stand, and i could see Reddy and Mr. Iyer looking at me with jealousy while i comfortably slid down, made myself comfortable and was about to snooze off. You know about the time just when u r about to sleep where any disturbances can really wake u the wild animal in you? It was when i was getting on to that, when Reddy or Mr. Iyer would poke me in my stomach to make me get up ! Sleep has it's ways, it seems! Couple of pokings later, i could not care less about those worrisome fingers and i started to daze back again. Am sure those guys also got bored of poking me and left me alone.

I apparently do a little bit of talking in between my sleep. Not the kind of rumbling mumbling, but apparently, i wake up, speak coherently to the guy next to me, but i wudn't remember anything of that the next day! Well, it seems that night i told Reddy that one of my slippers was missing and Reddy had pacified me saying we would look for it the next day morning (as, he told me, the law of inertia or whatever would make everything inside the bus move along with the bus - so we could still find the slipper in the morning in the bus itself! :) ) I had no clue of this conversation in the morning anyways and of course, i did have both my slippers right in place.

Morning saw me wake up to see two characters just short of white faces and hairs almost standing. I was sure that my snorings or my mid night conversations could not have caused such an extreme reaction, but as they, an elephant does not know his own strength, so i couldn't be sure !! :) Anyways, i delicately asked them which ghost made that effect on them. They looked at me and asked me to watch the driving for some time. Nothing could have prepared me for the next ten minutes. The driver, was either short sighted to see the vehicle in front of them only when they were close enough to be kissed or thought that the right side of the road is for overtaking and not for letting the on coming traffic to go! By the time the clock ticked ten minutes, he would have easily crashed on to couple of cars, couple of "Qualis"-es, and couple of people too. Ten minutes later, i was pale, white rather, had my hairs standing on edge and my knuckles white from holding on to the seat handle in front of me :) It was then that i realized that seeing my friends smiling face is actually blissful - especially when the other option is to look at head on collisions options every two minutes.

Somehow, i still belive, due to the simple fact that God could not have wanted my presence up there so soon ( he is a peace- loving soul!! :) ), we did stop at a road side Dhaba without any mishaps. The only thing that we dared to buy from there was a strip of paste and we did the rudimentary clean up and the rudimentary "downloads", before boarding the bus for the final lap of the road rash to Hyderabad. With taste of colgate shakthi in my mouth and with fear of the driver's shakthi in my eyes, i felt the the best thing to do was to close my eyes and doze to dreamland. And with the god given natural ability - provoking instant jealousy in my friends, i dozed into a nice sleep only to be woken up almost immedietely ( or so i thought ) by Reddy asking us to step out as we were nearing our destination.

Once down on terra firma, the tormenter who tortured us with telugu rap , hip hop and blues half of the ngiht and from early morning, helped us to take our bags out and demanded the money for his chai pani. Glad to have been out of the telugu song ridden atmosphere, we gladly parted with couple of tens and took our luggage and followed the leader of the pack.

Stretching a little, with my backpack securely on my back, i looked around to see a sunny street with traffic starting to ply the roads and... Rocks. I could see rocks everywhere. Roads that go up and down over and above the sinusoidal curvature of the rock laden topography. And of course, as our luck would have it, we had to walk uphill to reach the apartment. A fifty meters up the hill road and two floors up in stairs, we finally opened the door to see smiling faces of my bhabhi and her household. With the custodial namaste and the custodial answers about the journey and weather, we couldn't stop ourselves from asking her to get the Junior out. After all, he was the reason we were there. After washing our hands and faces, we finally saw our first nephew. Covered with the baby clothes, with shrivelled skin, long arms and limbs and a slightly haired head, there lay the miracle of our lives. With eyes that were opening and closing, he took in the new faces all around him before he started his only means of communication. To cry! Oh the joy of seeing our first nephew. Everything the junior did was news to us. Hey there, he moved his head sideways, and there, he looked at me, there there there, see the way he has his arms at the side of his face ? everything - Anything !!! :)

There was only smell strong enough to take us away from the baby - the smell of freshly cooked puries.. And ont he table our accommodation arrangements were discussed. We were to be there for three days... But then, that's another story altogether!! :)

The days would continue, so will the narrative !! :)