“I wish money was able to buy happiness, at least one would have known who the happy ones are”
“This too shall pass”
I want a cow, no no a boat, no papa a rocket. Make up your mind son said Ram, how about a tricycle, you always wanted one. Yes papa I want a red color tricycle! Ram kept the phone with a smile on his face.
It was a damp & cold day of December 1974. Ram was visiting Calcutta (back then it was still Calcutta) for some office work. In 1974 most of the work demanded people to travel as there was no video conferencing or internet. The best way to share information was by meeting people in person. Ram being a legal expert needed to travel to share his opinions and advice on legal matters relating to the Bihar State Electricity Board. He was through with his work and had an evening to shop for a red tricycle before boarding his train, back home to Lal Kothi at Mithapur, Patna.
At around 5 pm Ram checked out with his luggage from the office guest house at Camac street (Ram was a Govt. employee and was in an elite group of people who could use the Ashok Stambh stamp), hired a cab (in 1974 one was not allowed to travel in a bus with luggage) and went straight to Burrabazar. Also called as Bara Bazar or Barobazar in Bengali, it started as a yarn & textile market and went on to become the commercial nucleus of Kolkata and one of the largest wholesale markets in India.
Ram headed for the biggest toy shop in the area, looked for a red tricycle which could be ridden by a kid of 2 yrs. and purchased it. He didn’t bargain. My reader such is the love of a father that he wants to do the best for his children with no compromises.
By 7 Ram was out on the road with an ear to ear smile, his luggage, the red tricycle and a ticket for the Delhi express. He called for a taxi.
Taxiwala – saab Howrah bridge pe bahot lamba jam hai (there is a terrible traffic jam at Howrah Bridge)
Kitne baje ki train hai aapki (what time is your train?)
Ram – Howrah – Delhi Express, 9:00 pm
Taxiwala – chaliye koshish karte hain (let’s try)
Ram sat in the taxi with his mind visualising the child’s excitement to see the red tricycle. He was yanked out of his thoughts by a loud horn.
Ram – Kya hua (what happened)
Taxiwala – adhe ghante se atke hua hai jam mein (we have been stuck for half an hour)
Ram looked at his analogue HMT watch, it was 8:00. The jam didn’t seem to ease; he had no option but to walk the remaining one and half kms to the Howrah terminal. On a jam packed road Ram was navigating with his briefcase in one hand, the red tricycle in another and office files in a bag slung over shoulder. He crossed over to the pedestrian side of the bridge only to be pushed in a sea of human traffic. Ram looked at his watch again; it was 8:30, now one km was to be covered in 30 mins.
Juggling with the luggage he rushed through the evening mass of a crowd, half pushing, half running towards the Howrah Terminal and all along frantically searching for a porter. There was no porter available, with 10 minutes remaining Ram started to run towards platform no. 11. As per his experience the train was usually on time and came on the outer platform. His eyes lit up to see the train at the platform but then he saw the guard flagging off. Ram was 20 steps away when the train started to move, he summoned his tiring energy one last time and ran towards the Delhi Express, by then the train had started to crawl, he was near the last bogie. He threw in the luggage and jumped on board. Finally he was in the train. This seemed to be a day for uncalled events as a TT stood right before him.
TT (speaking in Bengali) – টিকেট দয়া করে (ticket please)
Ram – আমি প্রথম শ্রেণীর একটি রিজার্ভ করা আছে (I have a reservation in first class)
TT – আমার আপনার টিকেট দেখান যে জানি না (I don’t know that show me your ticket)
As Ram started to take out his ticket the TT saw the tricycle
TT – আপনি ত্রিচাকার গাড়ী জন্য দিতে হবে (you will have to pay for the tricycle)
Ram – কি জন্য প্রদান (pay for what)
TT – একটি লটবহর হিসাবে ত্রিচাকার গাড়ী নিতে (to take the tricycle as a luggage)
Ram was getting irritated, ticket for tricycle! For no reason the train started slowing down, may be someone had pulled the emergency brake. Ram looked out; the train hadn’t crossed the platform. Once gain Ram threw his luggage but this time out on the platform, jumped off the train, gathered the tricycle & luggage and started running towards the first class compartment. After four bogies he finally entered the first class. The train, stationed till then started to move.
Exhausted he sat on the first berth available only to be bothered by the TT.
TT (first class was serviced by sophisticated English speaking TTs) – ticket please
Ram (handing over the ticket) – here you are
TT – you are on the wrong berth allow me to show your coupe
The TT helped Ram with the tricycle but didn’t ask for any tax. Ram looked out, by now the train had caught speed.
At 7:30 am, 10 hrs. after he got into the train, Ram was at the Patna Junction. This time he did get a porter.
Porter – kis side se chale malik (which side do you wish to get off sir)
Ram – Mahabir Mandir Side (my reader for all the devotees of Lord Ram there is a huge, super imposing, beautiful Hanuman Temple right outside Patna Junction)
Ram thought he can finally look forward to meeting his son, but the final curtain had yet to come down.
While coming out of the Junction he was once again stopped by a TT.
TT – iska ticket (ticket for this please)
Ram – kis baat ka ticket (ticket for what)
TT – tricycle ka (for the tricycle)
Ram waived at the porter to continue moving forward and used his legal judgment to avoid the harassment. Out near the Mahabir Temple he paid the porter and caught a rickshaw for his home, The Lal Kothi.
His son was playing in the garden within the inner compound of Lal Kothi. He heard the tring tring of the rickshaw saw his father and ran toward Ram. Seeing dad with the tricycle he started to jump and shout with joy. With tiny hands and legs he rode the red tricycle.
Ram looked at him and knew he will remember this moment for the rest of his life.
It’s my passion…I meant swimming.
Am hydrophobic. Period! It’s not something which grew overnight but comes from a person who almost drowned not once but thrice. First when I was about 5…luckily was clinging to mom as people pulled her out of a deep trench……courtesy some Govt. construction in Ranchi.
Then in 10th a cocky not wise version of me decided to jump in Ganga (yes I grew up in Patna) with 4 friends all of whom knew swimming minus me believing that Ma Ganga loves her children…God was that actually me? Moronic!
The safest bet was swimming pool. I mean what could go wrong. A lot! I jumped at the deeper end if the pool which happened to be 13 ft. It was a party and how hard I tried to convince people that I was actually drowning……most people were logically dead and couldn’t differentiate between an act and actual situation.
By now water had occupied the same fear status as ghosts under the bed.
Finally Pune was where I learnt swimming and can swim almost all the styles. Phew…learnt from an ex-Navy and National Swimming champion. Wanted to make sure I get it right.
Of all the twists and turns in life I finally landed in Mumbai. There was this Sher – e – Punjab Gymkhana of the ferociously proud Punjabis…and trust me the race has evolved in such a manner that every third girl is Preeto (even I was friends with one Preeto before she moved to Kaneda). Never call out this name loudly in a Gymkhana for a million darjis will ask for a zillion explanations of which Preeto are you calling to and you better have the person in sight.
Now I am 5.10ft by which is 2 – 3 inches more than the average Indian height of 5.7 – 8 and by no means puny. However once in water I feel dwarfed. Sometimes I sit at the bottom of the pool (yeah can hold breath) and just stare at these gentle giants. The scene is very similar to a program in Animal planet where they show Elephants swimming in water, its magnificent, how effortlessly they swim. Their body just floats the movements are slowed down as if watching a Hindi movie kissing scene in slow motion with oversized caps. It’s peaceful……gulp gulp gulp running out of breathe, need to surface. We have dual vocal chords what a waste …we could have used dual breathing.
Going underwater in a pool full of Sardars isn’t risk free for when I surfaced three sardars lets call them papaji 1, papaji 2 and papaji 3 jumped one after another ewwww it looked more like a gorilla attack with water splashing all around. I moved to a corner. Papaji 1 even tried a reassuring smile while Papaji 2 went to do pull-ups with the jumping board. So much aggression I felt he is possessed. Papaji no 3 wanted to just flex his muscle and kept jumping, I lost count after 10. Try looking at a fully bearded sardar from the front…they look more like walrus especially with the splashing and sound.
Next to the pool there a small soapbox often used for playing housie. A bunch of “village housewives” will gather who can’t stop talking about their car, house, darji, kids, bangles the list is endless.
After finishing a couple of laps I head for the restaurant Saanj ka Chulah which has red tables and the religious music of Daler Mehndi. The food is okay but tandoori and rum rules. One begins to drift in the “spirit fullness” and think about life, friends, home. Something is wrong a kid on the next table is making faces (where do such kids come from?) while the younger one starts to howl. Am yanked out of the blissful state and decide to leave. No one else seems to be bothered guess it’s a part of their everyday life.