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Archive for June, 2018

GrandparentsThe day before my grandfather, 85, died of massive heart attack, he had this conversation with my grandmother — which she treasured for many years later. They were sitting down for a cozy chat in the living room after tea, when my grandfather looked at her and said, “You know I have cause to be eternally grateful to my father. He left me the most valuable thing he could possibly have!”

(Now a little backstory — so that my readers appreciate the poignancy of the moment: My grandfather – Dr Ernest Jesudan Chandran Job had many siblings. And his father G V Job — in his own progressive way — felt that his four daughters might have more need for his property later in life than his sons. So he divided up all his property among his girls and gave his boys nothing more than a solid education. Being the headmaster of the Chengalpat Government Higher Secondary School, Kancheepuram distict he, of course, ensured that all his progeny excelled in academics)

So my grandmother recalling this asked, “But how come you haven’t told me about this in all these years? Is it a piece of land or house? Where is it?”

My grandfather replied, “The most valuable thing my father gave me is sitting right here — in front of me.”

And my grandmother’s eyes would mist every time she retold this tale. To be in love is magical enough, but to be in love with the same person for a lifetime is the stuff of legends!

(The memories of their love and loyalty to each other over their 50 years of marriage washed over me as I cleaned and sorted out my grandfather’s papers today. Nestled among his many Army papers, Naval orders, mark certificates of children and grandchildren — was the testament to their love story — their wedding certificate, dated May 26, 1950)

Wedding certificate

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KotagiriBeing now a regular on the Bangalore-Ooty-Coonoor trips, the driver cautioned me this Saturday to get to the main bus stand by 6 PM. I knew the seriousness of his warning as if the KSRTC bus KA05 F1111 didn’t reach the checkpost by 9 PM we’d be grounded for the whole night and wouldn’t be able to cross the reserve forests till 6 AM the next day.

But as luck could have it I missed the 4.10 PM connecting bus from Kotagiri to Ooty because of an idiot sedan driver — who caused a road block not having the good sense not to attempt a U-turn in a road less than 8 feet in width. I waited one whole hour for the 5.10 PM bus hoping I’d make it. The bus came and the driver started taking the notorious hair-pin bends with dexterity and as much as speed as could be considered prudent on a treacherous mountain stretch with muddy, skiddable banks and steep slopes. By 5.45 PM we were still 5 km from Ooty and the calls started coming in.

The KSRTC driver was impatient. At one point he lost it and wanted to talk to my conductor. One talked solely in kannada and The other solely in Tamil and yet they understood each other. The TN SETC conductor told him we were crossing Doddabetta and it would take us 20 more mins to reach the main stand. Meanwhile my plight had been communicated to all other passengers by the ones near me. As the driver took each bend, passengers kept urging him on – it became a matter of general concern like the world cup footfall final – that I should reach my goal.

Urged on by the crowd, the driver did his best as we crossed tea factory. By now it was 6 PM, more frantic calls from the KSRTC crew – with them threatening to leave. The SETC driver fully aware of the 9 PM looming deadline for him — realised i cant make it to the Ooty main bus stand in time — and offered to set me down at Charing Cross for me to take a rick to Finger Post.

By now the entire bus was giving me directions. “Get off at Charing Cross. Get into the first auto. Don’t bargain with him.” “It’s an emergency. Pay him Rs 50, Rs 100 or Rs 150. Just do it.” Conductor chipped in – “Do you have the money or do you need it?”. Was stumped at the question and the hidden offer of help. Assured him I had sufficient cash. I was given more instructions by all around, urged to wear my bag and stand near the exit door. Even as my KSRTC driver made more calls.

Charing Cross arrived. Got down and sprinted across the square to the cheers and exhortations of all my bus passenger friends. As I negotiated and my auto took off turned back to see the driver, conductor and all wave at me. I waved back – wishing it was socially acceptable to wave kisses in goodbye as I was overwhelmed with gratitude.

Meanwhile the KSRTC driver and conductor got back to incessant calls. Pissed with me they demanded to speak to my auto guy. They kept threatening to leave as my auto driver tried his best to cover the distance of 1.3 km in 10 mins. Suddenly traffic held us up on the narrow roads – 2 mins gone.

More calls. More desperate pleas on my end. Finally even as traffic doesn’t clear, I spot a white bus 300 metres ahead. Something tells me it’s mine. I shove Rs 130 into my auto driver’s hand even as he weakly hollers after me that he wanted only Rs 100.

I sprinted ahead – faster than I ever did in school. And banged my hands on the bus even as I kept running ahead. Got in. The driver, conductor and everyone were glaring at me. The conductor gave me a rare dressing down – gave me a worse scolding than even my school principal Ms Nalini Wilson when she wanted to see “Rachel Chitra in the assembly room after prayers.”

I tried to live down my ignominy….after a few hours we made it past the checkpost by 8.35 PM with time to spare. I snuggled up and as I settled down to sleep, the memory of the SETC bus passengers, conductor and driver waving came back – and it warmed me. That people will help. Not knowing why or who. But they will. #kotagiritales

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