Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A trip back

"Kahaan jaana hai, sahab?" (Where do you want to go, Sir?)
I told him, and waited for what would be my madeleine.
"Achchee baat hai!" (this can never be translated effectively. It could range from "Sure will" to "Okee-doks")
What it definitely means, is that you are definitely in Hyderabad and that knowledge makes you want to soften your eyes and take in a deep breath which fills your heart with the warm tehzeeb of Hyderabad and your lips with a smile (and such a figure of speech is known as a zeugma). Hyderabad still holds fond memories and the area where I lived was still developing (although all the IT companies had setup shop out there). To return occasionally to watch it more "developed" was a pleasure, like watching your kid return from boarding school and honestly exclaiming, "My, look at you. You have grown so much since I last saw you."
This time my trip was bound to be hectic and hence, I decided to enjoy the early morning trip to my house from the station for that was all I might have to enjoy over the weekend.
The streets were still dark and a match struck, startled me to look closely in that direction. Stray cigarette stubs went alit punctuating the morning air like fireflies. The chill in the air was noticeable and I hugged myself.A strange journey...
"Bangalore ka train tha, sahab?" (Was it the train from Bangalore?)
"Haan." (Yes)
"Half return lete hain is timeko." (We charge 1.5 times the fare)
"Half return to bilkul nahin denge. Gaadi rokna hai to roklo." (No way am I going to pay that. You may stop the auto if you want to.)
"Nahin sahab. Aapse nahin lenge." (No, sir. Won't take that amount form you.)
We were silent for a while. I ran memories like slides through my head, projecting the past on to the streets which were still yawning and stretching under the flow from behind the buildings. Hyderabad sure changes fast.
"Aap Bangalore ke hain?" (Are you from Bangalore?)
"Nahin." (No)
"Hyderabad ke hain?" (Are you from Hyderabad?)
I nearly said yes, but recalled my wonderful origin. I wondered whether I should explain the whole thing to him, and settled for a simpler answer.
"Haanji." (Yes)
"To aap rehte yahaan aur kaam wahan karte hain?" (So you stay out here and work out there?)
"Aisehi kuch samaj lijiye." (Something like that)
I looked outside, watching familiar building bathed in the bluish grey of the morning. Gandhiji sat still with his back arching forward and the paper-boys were busy pushing pamphlets into several papers. I unconsciously started humming "Ye daulat bhi le lo. Ye shauharat bhi le lo."
"Bangalore mein meter ka minimum kitna hai sahab?" ("What is the minimum charge on the meter in Bangalore?)
I didn't want them to feel bad nor end up paying more out of guilt.
"Dus rupaye." (Ten Rupees. Actually it is 12)
"Kyaa sahab. Par Bangalore mein bahut kharcha hota hai, naa?" (But Bangalore is costlier, right?)
"Haan." (Yes)
"To kyaa khaate hain?" (So what do they eat?)
Now, how on earth could I know? Probably the usual rice and dal and buttermilk. I took a minute to answer which he mistook for disinterest. He was a lanky boy who was bouncing all over the expanse of his seat. He cut around corners quickly and kept wiping above his upper lip often. He had tonsured his head recently and now he could pass himself off as cousin to a hedgehog. A few more familiar corners passed before he spoke up.
"Yahaan pe injineer log bhi auto chalate hain." (Out here even engineers drive autorickshaws)
"Sahi mein?" (Really?)
He seemed to think that this topic would interest me. Actually, I really liked the guy already, but I liked the onrush of sepia images more as I looked around the place. It wasn't very long ago that I had been in here, but memories are just that... :-)
"Haan sahab. Sarey B.Sc. or injineer log aaj kal auto chalate hain. Din ka aaraam se 400-500 kama letey hain." (Yes, Sir. All the B.Sc. and engineer folks drive autorickshaws. They comfortably earn about 400 to 500 a day)
We continued talking about the cost of various parts of the auto and he kept pointing out to so many parts and appended numbers to their description. A few temples rushed past my peripheral vision and I wonder whether the gods had woken up. The sky was brightening itself and I could see further down the road as well as on the sides.
I reached my house bracketed in by several new constructions as well as offices (supposedly of Google and IBM coming in. Nothing sure. A 5* hotel is in the offing too. I will miss the cool, neem-laced breeze that washed my house from all sides). When I stepped out and handed him the exact change, he touched the money to his handlebar and raised it to his forehead. "Boney!" I thought. Then he smiled at me and said, "Teekh hai sahab. Mein chalta hoon." (That's it, Sir. I shall take leave.)
"Ji zaroor. Khuda haafiz." (Sure. May god be with you.)
He gave me a quizzical look and spotted the tilak mark on my forehead. It only served to confuse him further. Then he bent down to yank the crowbar and hesitated.
"Sahab?" (Sir?)
"Haan?" (Yes?)
"Bangalore mein auto driver log kyaa khaatey hongey?" (What do auto drivers in Bangalore eat?)
"Khushi se jo milta hai. Waise to dal-roti-chawal hi hoga." (Whatever they get happily. Most likely it would be lentils-breads-rice)
"Bye bye, sahab", he said and smiled as he yanked the auto back to life.
"Bye", said I as I swung my bag over my back.


  1. Venture out to more distant lands, Eroteme, and your travel stories will put - hmmmmmmm - Pico Iyer to shame. I swear.
    Nice guy - the auto driver.
    Nice city - Hyderabad
    Nice blog - Like a Feather

  2. Anonymous4:58 PM

    Yes,Google and IBM are going to have their offices very near to your house:) i have been there recently, Ayyo,if only you stayed here for long:( chalo koi nahi,hojatha hain kabhi kabhi.
    Yehaan ke hawa mein ek khushboo hain jo yaad dilathi hain un lamho ko jo ,aaj ek yaad bankar rehgayi hain.
    Hyderabad mast hain saab,aisa shehar, aise log kahin aur nahi milthe:) fir kab ayenge aap humare shehar mein?
    aur jab bhi ayenge humne jaroor yaad keejiyega:)

    I am not able to comment in non blogger beta blogs,so sticking to anon comments.


  3. Dear P,
    :-) Glad you liked this...

    Dear Anon-N,
    Huzoor, aap chaahe aur hum inqaar karen? Aisa bhi kabhi ho sakta hai? Is baar tauheen maaf kar dijiyega. Agle baar se, banda aapka ghulaam. :-) What is with this Blogger Beta stuff? Anyway, thanks for stopping by...

    Dear B,
    Long time no see. Welcome back. Glad you liked the post...

  4. Finally I found time to get back here and read :-)

    My trip to Hyderabad this time is wrought with bad memmories. Things I'd keep to myself and take to the grave. Maybe not. Maybe some time in the future write about it. But yes, I liked the scenic beauty of the place. There was so little time and so much to do, and I was in not in a state of mind to admire the place. I will not be going there again.

    So, Chennai tamil? When I was in Cuddalore I picked up 'dhe' - vaa dhe, podhe, yennadhe ... dropped it as soon as I left boarding school. Madurai, is the city I remember fondly. Though I will not settle there, it taught me Thamizh, the way it should be spoken. And lots more.

    What I liked best about what you've written is that I can now say with some pride to certain people that there are people in this world who do speak with the auto drivers using 'ji' and its good. I was chastised for being 'good' - My hindi (which is mainly text book and mostly flawed) has just this saving grace that I never use - thum - its always aap - and now I realize its - Urdu!!! Anyways, I always believe in the dignity of labour and in giving respect ... so, its a good feeling knowing there are few more out there who are as nice as u were to a lowly (i dont prefer that word - but it emphasizes some stupid point) auto driver.

  5. Dear L,
    Aap is really not Urdu. It is Hindi but is not used in common parlance. I learnt Hindi (and some Urdu) in Lucknow and hence stuck to the ways of talking that one would find there. Even children are addressed as "aap" and "I" am referred to as "hum" :-)