A rain-kissed morning. As the sun winked over the shoulders of speeding clouds., school was inescapable and life, therefore, intolerable Sailing down Seventh Cross came “five-star” tarkari guy on his bicycle, his lusty hawking of “carrot! beans! alugadde, cabbage , seemay badnekai…………..! announcing the arrival of the only vegetable-shop-on-wheels who ever came to the street.
Mother always acknowledged this “costly” vegetable vendor’s arrival with mixed feelings. He charged way too much, and wasn’t past playing tricks with the weighing too. But who wanted to trudge to the Jayanagar Complex, only to argue with a dozen of his kind who terrorize ? Just as well be fleeced in the comfort of one’s home.
By this time, a few Seventh Cross maamis , thoughts very similar to mother’s jostling in their minds ( mobile eyebrows that looked like a pair of tiny snakes dancing off into the vermilion sunset, can be revealing ) would emerge from their front doors, demanding to be told what outrageous price the fellow was naming for the luscious tomatoes and brinjals.
The tarkari guy, apparently preoccupied with arranging the already perfect pyramids of vegetables in his much-used cane basket, would then begin his little performance, calling out, ” Come and get it! Veggies that Rajkumar- Bharati eat! Worth every paisa. Momentarily diverting the women from such mundane matters as vegetable prices
This was the guy Rajkumar-Bharati bought veggies from ! That was the secret of their success?!
No sooner than the little performance ended, even though there was no ting-tong that comes at end of Binaca toothpaste ad on Vividhbharathi, the eyebrows arched in surprise and amusement would curl back into disapproving frowns, and someone would imperiously tell the guy to get on with business.
Little boys and girls who imagined this to be the best time to wangle a day at home from impervious moms, by tugging at their pallus, ( thus proving multi-tasking is an embedded feature in moms), a maama whose wife was away at her parents’ to come back with a little bundle of joy anytime soon, the retired grandfather out for his morning walk, often figured in this picture of old Bangalore idyll.
Realising soon enough that he was not getting too far in trying to win friends and influence people, when one of the maamis acidly queried,”why bother to come here? Rajkumar-Bharati didn’t buy your veggies today? Are these leftovers? “, he would pretend that the ladies were driving a hard bargain, and bring the transaction to a mutually satisfactory conclusion.
Rajkumar-Bharati sold vegetables to Seventh Cross maamis for several months, when suddenly, Bharathi married Vishnuvardhan, who must have disapproved of his new’s wife’s moonlighting job. Anyway, the cycling vegetable-man came calling less often before disappearing altogether . Other non-cycling vendors gave the maamis multiple choices and competitive prices, and the careers of Rajkumar and Vishnuvardhan the rising star were tracked through more dependable, and literate sources.
The theatres near our home were Nanda and Shanti (Poonam and the Jayangar Complex were still shaping up in blueprint). We watched a few of their movies. Bhakta Kumbara, Kalla-Kulla, Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu. Vishnu and Dwarakeesh clowning around in Kalla-Kulla wasn’t really a great movie, but we had great fun at the time. Mother was teased endless with the song, “Amma endare yeno harushavu……” which my brothers ( Subri-Bunty, counted among notable spoof musical directors working in pairs ) rewrote as “Amma endare………yeno thondare!
Nanda and Shanti have been bulldozed off Bangalore’s map. The dependable and familiar have fallen to the tyranny of change. We used to cross the road from Usha Periamma’s to catch the night-show at Shanti, but now there is a median, between the new building where Shanti once stood, and shell of the house where Usha Periamma lived. There are traffic jams, schools and colleges, and giant monuments to Bangalore’s new identity as IT city. It can even turn into a tinder box that can spark a violent riot.
A bar- restaurant owner decided to name his brand new venture on South End Road “Kargil”. Someone didn’t like the idea, and flung one stone and there was a merry riot, and one’s man’s dream lay vandalised in a matter of a few hours. Its another story that Kargil Bar and Restaurant still stands today ( at least, it did, three months back), though folks who don’t know about it might miss it altogether. Like Platform Nine and Three Quarters, only those who need it can spot it.
Still, there is a lot to be said for Change. It is diverting for little old ladies (mothers, aunts, Ms-i-L, grandmoms and their friends excluded, so as not offend them) to have Cable TV, absorbed in the fortunes of the families that inhabit SoapTown. Keeps them from getting into a tizzy over the real people they live with.
Grandma@dingding.com are very happening these days, and Facebook might soon have to add some sepia-tinted features. Harini and Paati are now friends; Sweetex wants to adopt a Grandma. Help Sweetex by donating a Grandma. Sponsor Grandpa’s visit to his lonesome pal in The Old Age Home. The possibilities for Facebook tripling its membership are immense.
The in-between generation’s dilemma will now be: Should I buy my F-I-L a laptop, or should we go for the third TV? You could arrive home to anything from a grand fight between the elder and the younger (generations) over laptops and playstations. Once they could have just stepped out into the park for a stroll, and to play, respectively. But today, trying to cross the road in imitation of the chicken can prove hazardous. Either way, there is every chance that the TV is all yours, if you care to be blown away with blow-by-blow account of some sleazy crime, or worse, minute details of political high drama that ends in a damp squib because the rebels didn’t get their wish, or you have a taste for bizzare soaps in which dead people whose antim sanskar has been performed in a dedicated episode, return with new faces and fortunes, twisting the story until it is grotesque enough to traumatise you, and you need to go into rehab.
Work from home, and you could have the best of everything- just buy diapers of both kinds, and that’s the senior and junior citizens taken care of. No pollution, no road rage, no fuming over protest marches that interfere with your plans, and best of all no deadlines to kill you.
Of course, it is tragic that the kids are never going to have our kind of “Those were the days.”
To remember the little uncertainties and unsettling happenings in the age of innocence. Father’s little joke that helped to remember the theatres that we passed while going from Banashankari to Malleswaram in the BTS Route No. 14 (yup ,the same one which had Rajnikanth as conductor) is irrelevant now. But we can still laugh remembering it, though I must tell you we had no one to visit in Malleswaram , but merely loved riding from terminus to terminus. It was the longest known bus route in Bangalore then, To get back to Father’s joke, as the conductor( may be it was Rajnikanth in his Shivaji Rao Gaekwad avatar, or may be it wasn’t) called out “tickets?! tickets?! , one lady said “Nanda” and got her ticket. Another took one for Shanti, and a third wanted to get off at Uma. The fourth lade, held out the money, announced, “Alamelu”!
Humour doesn’t do bus any more. Bus is where an “argument” between two commuters can morph into a fight. And a rude word suddenly reminds the conductor-driver duo that they can simply pull over, and launch a “snap strike”. It is the vehicle of choice for those who believe setting them on fire can bring the Government to its knees, or mourn the death of a Rajkumar or Vishnuvardhan. Ironical that a bus conductor in Bangalore went on to become a Superstar in a neighbouring State, and buses were vandalised because he said something that offended people here.
PS: I wonder if Rajnikanth ever found out where Alamelu wanted to get off.