Slices of Life

I was on an official sojourn to a picturesque rural place in the locale of Nilgiris.   I have come in the place of a cash teller who has availed leave for a week.   The journey had been quite strenuous,  for the travel was on a ghat section which had lot of hairpin bends.  Normally people who visit here spend a lot of time and money for their vacation but thanks to the management as it paid all kinds of allowances for my stay.   I observed that the village folk were innocent and honest by nature and were also plain speaking.   The branch was located in strange settings with lot of up and downs.   The building was low set whereas the ground in the  front was sloping up.   The climate was very  chill even in the afternoon.   The locals were either peasants, tea estate workers or coolies, and people who are engaged in small time agriculture.   Most of the time it appeared that they were idling.   There is liquor shop in the neighbourhood where people visit from the morning itself.   I had a feeling that the people were always in delirium and I was told that the womenfolk also drink after their toils from work and retire to bed.    I observed that they eat some big sized boiled rice with some spicy concoction and boiled eggs and raw onion.  They are friendly and amenable by nature.
Here unlike urban branch offices we have to fill up all the forms, withdrawal slips etc. and they affix the thumb impression.    Most of them did not write even if they know.    One customer came in the morning and wanted to draw money.   I helped him out and finally after making the cash payment he was still hanging around.    When I looked at him he said that he would order tea for me.   I thanked him and said no.    I said that the bank was paying salary for doing the job.    Most of them were of the mindset that they should do something in return when their work was over.
The manager was a good old friend of mine and we used to indulge in discussion about the current day politics and cinema and various other matters when there were no customer dealings to kill time.   He was very happy on my arrival.   We have worked together before.    He was a native of Kerala, and because of the remote place and lack of basic amenities he has not shifted his family.   He was alone there and he used to often say he leads a life worse than life prisoner.   He euphemistically said that has committed some unpardonable crime in his previous birth, for which he is undergoing punishment.   God forsaken place for him, but was a paradise for me as I will be back in my hometown in a couple of days.It was very nice to feel the snowy clouds passing through engulfing me into a void of whiteness.   It delightful to watch beautiful coloured flowers of infinite varieties.
I had  my single lens reflex (SLR) camera with macro lens and was camera trigger happy.   My manager was very self conscious that I should not get bored.   He once even remarked about it.   I said I am fine and quite enjoying my stay.   After the office hours we did not know what to do.   We had food and we were talking about our past reminiscences and happenings, and he finally dozed off.    I could not get good sleep because of the the change of atmosphere and climatic chillness.   I got up very early in the morning and after sometime he got up and we both had our breakfast,  headed towards the office for the days work.   Opposite our branch was a sandy slope and some half a dozen people were sitting and having their morning chat.   One in the group has purchased a local newspaper and was reading aloud.   Others were listening.   There was interruptions in between, contradictions, arguments etc.  This was a routine happening everyday.    Since nobody turned up in the morning I came out of the branch to see what was going on.   One person in the group come to me and started to talk.   I could guess that he wanted to ask about something but was hesitant.   He came very near to me so that other people cannot hear anything.   He asked, “Sir is my money safe in the bank?   I have noticed every Friday your manager takes away all the cash that was deposited during the week somewhere, maybe he is taking home.    What is he doing with all the money?   If I want  money will I get it back?”   I assured him that his money was very safe in the bank and that manager was keeping the money in a bigger safe for his safety.   We follow certain norms of keeping low balances of cash which if I explain he will not understand.   I explained in the way he could understand.   When I later told about this incident. “There are many rumours and news spread about me in this village”.  he said and laughed off.    As far as I could observe people there,  some were skeptic and some had total confidence.Then a guy came and he wanted to open a savings account with us.   We helped him filling up the application.   We required a photo for identification in our records which we asked him to bring.   He said that he would bring the next day.   End of the day we closed the office and came back to the room.   We played cards, and chess for some time.   The only other entertainment was the radio.   I had brought a focal press book on ‘People Photography’ which I read for sometime and slept.The following morning I went to office as usual.   There wasn’t anybody and the office was deserted for quite some time.   Then the first visitor came who wanted to open a new account the day before.  He had brought a big bag and from it took out a big framed family photo.  With his index finger he pointed us where he was standing.   I was a bit surprised and amused.
“You look so young and cheerful”. Manager said.
“It was taken some ten years back just after my marriage.”  Customer said.

“Thank you very much for bringing this and showing us.   I want one like this.” he said showing another specimen of a duly filled card.
“I will give next week sir as I have to take one from the studio which is far away in the township.”
“We’ll open the account and you can operate but dont’ forget to submit the photo.”
Manager said and closed the matter .
He said to me, “Here we have to explain everything in detail and make them understand.   One should have lot of patience to deal with them.”    Then the routine work went on for sometime.   The tea boy came to asked whether we wanted tea.   He was in a very playful and joyful mood.   He was happy to break the news.  “Indira Gandhi has been assassinated sir.   Some people in the tea shop were talking Sir,  that she has been killed by her own security staff.”   We were shocked hearing the news.   Immediately we got it confirmed through radio news.   Both of us were discussing about the various conspiracy theories about the incident leading us nowhere with the then available news inputs.   The tea boy came back to collect money.    He was then also laughing, jumping and telling the same  thing.   I caught him over the shoulder and talked him what was so happy to feel about.   My manager called me and said in a schoolboy english.
“Leave him man he doesn’t know anything.   I am relieving you now.   Many of the buses leaving the hill station would have been cancelled.   Pack off and go home.   Along with this I am giving a copy of the relieving order marked to Regional Office.  Kindly post it tomorrow.   I’ll be visiting my native place in the course of next week.  “I’ll call you bye.”
“Will he do like this if she had been his mother?”   I asked him.   He patted my back and beckoned me to leave without time loss.    All this happened rapidly and he was in no mood to talk.    I shook hands said bye and left.

I rushed to the room where we were staying, changed my pant to jeans, had my warm clothing on with my cap and sports shoe.   My shoulder bag was heavy due to the camera gears.   I left to find that all the buses were cancelled and I was walking and beconing to every passer by with my thumbs up for a lift, but no one stopped.   I had to depend on cargo lorries or vans to hop in and go.   One lorry came and when I waved my hand it went far ahead and stopped as though with lot of deliberation.   The driver waved hands.   I ran and got into the lorry.   The cleaner boy seated near the driver moved a little and gave space for me to sit.   I closed the door.   The lorry moved forward.    I just peeped out.    A tea picking women and her little child were coming.   She was carrying a big collecting basket in one side.   Both of them waved hands at me.   I also waved hands bidding goodbye till they receded away from sight.   I turned and settled myself.   The driver and cleaner boy gave some customary talks.   I could easily guess that both of them have drunk like fish and were in high delirium.   The driver was going on talking looking at me with no concentration at the road.   I realised that I had taken a wrong decision of alighting this lorry.    I have heard about frequent fatal accidents in this hilly route.   I asked the driver to stop so that I can get down.  He understood me and said,” Don’t worry friend I will safely land you in the plains.”    The situation has become inevitable.   I did not prey god,  for I pretty well knew that god was not a fool sitting somewhere to sanction my prayers.   I have read  about ‘Near death experiences.’   Invariably all the subjects who were interviewed have said that they had a feeling of traversing at a high velocity speed in a dark tunnel towards a bright white void of oblivion.   Some people have also expressed that they saw apparitions of their dead relatives.   At the moment the lorry would nosedive and somersault causing grave injuries and metamorphose into a high speed travel to the unknown white oblivion.   All these thoughts came fleeting in infinitesimal moments of time…Did he land me safe in  the plains?  …yes he did land me safe in the plains and that is why I am blogging this slice of life to you.

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Comments

  1. sriram srinivasan says:

    gud to read bro..keep writing.with luv sri

  2. very nice…
    the narrating style impressed me…
    the description of events (which had happened 2 decades ago)by you
    quite appreciable…………..
    must be complimented for your memory re-calling…………..

  3. G. Sivaraman says:

    Hi Bharat It was nice to read the blog. I could recall the incident you told me long back.

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