Most of the time I am a proud and possessive Bangalorean, but sometimes I wished I had a “native village” to “hail from” like most of my best friends , where they were taken by their parents, and the father officiated at the annual temple festival, and the villagers treated them like royalty, and everyone was invited to the feast. It must have been like the boar-eating banquet that always marks the end of an Asterix-Obelix adventure, Cacophonix included.
My best friend, Ani hails from Ammallidoddi. As you head Mysore-wards, you need to take a left somewhere in the vicinity of Channapatna, , and follow the signposts to reach it. The same road leads to Kabbalamma temple, the holy place for those who have bought a new set of wheels, especially newly minted autorickshaws that have made this devi a cult on the mean streets of Bangalore.
She is nothing to do with the Kabbalah cult that has ardent followers in celebrities like Madonna, Britney Spears, Jeff Goldblum, Ashton Kutcher, Guy Ritchie, David and Victoria Beckham, and Elizabeth Taylor. Kabbalamma has an awesome mystic mesmerism of her own, as I discovered when Ani and I went , driven by Basha , to bribe her, that she may forever protect Ani’s brand new Santro from accidents and ward off the evil eye of ill-intentioned people.
Now, Ani’s sense of direction is legendary for being non-existent, and she clearly doesn’t come GPS-embedded. Basha who once nursed a grand delusion that a great career as a genius car mechanic awaited him in the near future, has stopped using his GPS ever since I bragged about my own keen sense of direction- I may not know the right way, but I am always the first to discover that we are lost, and also find ways to un-lose us.
Ani-mated conversation between best friends in the rear led to everyone not paying attention to the scenery ambling past ( the road was bad, and we couldn’t whizz) and so it took us a while to realise that while we went to Kabbalamma’s via the Kanakapura Road, and the return journey took us in a different direction.
When I suddenly spotted the signpost which said Ammallidoddi we realised we were going where we have not gone before. Dear old Ani, for whom this wasn’t the first visit to Kabbalamma, is blessedly never disoriented, thanks to the non-existent sense of direction, was however, puzzled, flummoxed, befuddled . Flashbacks from Ammalli had never impinged on her trips to Kabbalamma before this. Was Kabbalamma trying to convey something here?
We decided to press on, and followed in the wake of the dust raised by a bus that was tilting dangerously to the left , resembling a giant centipede with some broken limbs thanks to the dozens of arms and legs swinging out form the windows and the doors. The centipede, though agonised by multiple fractures on multiple limbs, obviously had been here, done this, ad nauseum- it was just doing its day job.
I quickly deduced that we were going to emerge on Mysore Road. Basha grinned triumphantly as if he had engineered this course correction single-handedly, while Ani still bemused, began babbling about the familiar landmarks that suddenly began to blast in (or is it out?) from the past.
Ammalli has become my vicarious native village, I know enough about its denizens to pass off as a genuine Ammallian. I feel an inexplicable ownership towards one particular denizen, whom I have never seen.
Iskanta is part of the Ammallidoddi fable that we constructed around a single episode which defines Ani’s tenuous bond with her native village. On one of the family’s mandatory visits to Ammalli, Iskanta, emboldened by the fact that he was safe inside his home, put his pugnacious nose to the tiny window, and shouted rather rudely as Ani and her sister Mangala walked past.
It was unadulterated country-bumpkin-takes-revenge-on city-slicker- cousins. And it was priceless.”Anita…. Pinita………..poo!! (the last was said in Kannada, and I’d rather not soil this blog with earthy outpourings, and as long as the meaning is conveyed………..) assaulted their ears like the sharp, defiant report of an autorickshaw backfiring without any provocation at all.
Ani and Sis were livid. With little to do until it was time to go home, the sisters spent the next three hours working out a plan for an apt comeback.. On their way back , they were pleased to see their unsuspecting prey sitting on the jagli of his house, but he scurried back inside on sighting them. His truculent face reappeared at the window, and obviously having expended all his creativity three hours ago, merely repeated the same battle cry.
As the two girls came abreast of the window, they chorused: Iskanta kantad meley …………!!! (Translated– something-something……… on Iskanta’s neck) and marched on, and soon were in splits, laughing till tears rolled down their eyes, stopping only when Father roundly scolded them.
We have replayed this one scores of times, and “sitting on Iskanta’s neck” has long been a part of the Best Friends’ Lexicon. Iskanta no longer lives in Ammalli, and not even Ani’s cousin Raja knows what became of him. So, one lazy langorous afternoon, we created a fable around the further adventures of Iskanta.
Since we associate him with the Ceramic Bus (thanks Antony Bourdain) we have given Iskanta an outstanding career in the manufacture of custom-made designer ceramic buses.
Oh! and he now calls himself Iskant Amali, and probably has a show of his own on Travel & Living. If Iskant Amali turns up on Facebook, I deny everything, on account of any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental and unintentional.
Also I am keeping my fingers crossed, and since I am not in the country anymore, I urge Ani to talk Basha into making another trip to Kabbalamma, and enlist her help in warding off the evil eye that Iskant Amali could cast this way.
On the other hand, he may not turn up at all- who wants respond when the REAL author of Anita……..Pinita…… is asked to stand up?
Kabbalamma’s restraining orders on Iskanta will keep, for now.